Gut Health Gurus Blog

Sustainable Cricket Protein for Gut Health

Sustainable Cricket Protein for Gut Health

If you live in a western culture chances are that the concept of eating insects is very foreign to you. Only something you would see on the discovery channel. BUT humans have been eating insects for thousands of years and they are our answer to a more sustainable protein source. I had the pleasure of speaking with Dr. Jarrod Goldin. He is a chiropractor and an entrepreneur that is working on an exciting business with his brothers called “Entomo Farms.” He has a Bachelors of Science and a Doctorate Degree in chiropractic care. He has been working in the health and wellness field for 22 years. He is an avid reader of business, climate change, and looking at what difference we can make along the way. Read on to learn about how crickets have more nutritional value than what you may think, how they are sustainably raised, and how they can be a great resource to improve gut health.

We talked with Dr Zach Bush MD prior to this and he blew our minds in terms of how little time we have due to the environmental devastation to our planet and the loss of species that is happening right now. Most of this is along the lines of excess meat consumption, deforestation, and carbon getting into the atmosphere. This is such a timely conversation that we are having because the products that you developed, using insect proteins, could go a long way in addressing some of the concerns that we have in terms of environmental devastation.-Kriben Govender

Why Did You Get Interested In Insect Proteins? 

In 2013, the United Nations and the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) put out a paper called “edible insects, future prospects for food and feed security.” Around the same time, there was a company on a show called Shark Tank. This is where people come and pitch their ideas and investors choose to invest or not. A smart guy named Mark Cuban invested in this company that was making energy bars out of crickets. It was an entirely new business. My brothers had been raising insects for the reptile and the bait trade. When that paper and the show came out and given their background, I called my brothers up right away, I figured that this was the opportunity we had been looking for to start a business together. 5 years later we are moving ahead.

insect protein and gut health

What is The History of Insect Consumption? 

There is a book by Julie Lesnik that answered that question about the anthropology of eating insects around the world. In short, in every warm climate such as the Americas, Africa, and the far east, there are cultures eating insects. A large percentage of the world's population has always eaten insects and science has begun to show why. It is also showing what benefits these insects have.

Humans have been consuming insects for a very long time. When you talk to people these days it seems as if the general public’s first reaction is YUCK. Even if you suggest it could be beneficial to the planet to reduce our meat consumption.-Kriben Govender

How Does Your Business Break Through The Stigma For People Finding Insects a Stretch To Consume? 

There are different types of consumers. Some people are looking at food, looking at the data surrounding that food and the impact that data would have on their longevity. Let’s assume that everything is delicious. There is a food group on the left and one on the right.

The stuff on the left will:

-Help you live longer

-Diminish diabetes

-Diminish obesity

-it will have a lot of great health outcomes

-It’s delicious

-More sustainable

The food on the right:

-Is equally delicious

-Causes diabetes

-Causes obesity

-Causes heart disease

-Has a lot of negative health outcomes associated with it

-Less sustainable 

Then you can make your choice….Some people buy food like they buy cars. They are more interested in the car’s safety record than whether someone will think they look hot and sexy in that car. Those are the kinds of consumers we are looking at. The ones that make the lifestyle of healthiness and sustainability an important quota in their consideration. The same way people look at a gym. They think of the value of a membership and the value of exercise as it relates to their longevity and the quality of their longevity. Or they drive right by and buy a big hamburger somewhere. There are different kinds of people looking for different kinds of data.

We have a hurdle to overcome for people to understand that an insect powder isn't much different than shrimp, crab, or mussels. When we do testing on the crickets compared to other meat products they are much cleaner and much less gross!

Another analogy I like to use is: Pretend that the only liquid on the planet is a soft drink. One day these hippie guys went onto a mountain and they discovered a stream of weird stuff called water. Once they brought it back to the people and had it analyzed they found out that it was incredibly pure. When they started experimenting with it they found a lot of great outcomes. That it wouldn't just be for the poor, it would be for anyone that wanted to improve what they put in their bodies. It would be a no brainer for people to drink more water and less soft drink. Perhaps insects are to food as to what water is to beverages. 

In terms of sustainability, there is a lot of work going on in developing lab grown meats. I'd much rather steer towards something from nature rather than going towards something in grown a tube.-Kriben Govender

We also work with a couple of companies that use our cricket protein in dog treats. Purina launched an amazing dog food under a brand called RootLab. Other companies are also looking to do more with cricket protein for the pet food industry. Most pets like dogs and cats are natural foragers anyway!

You will see food trends, something like keto, and then it translates into pet foods. People feel good about having a keto diet and then they want to introduce the benefits to their pets as well.-Kriben Govender


What Are You Seeing in Terms of Protein Content of the Cricket Proteins? 

Most westerners probably get enough protein daily. What they don't get enough of is prebiotic fibre. We are learning the relationship between prebiotic fibre, the gut microbiota, and probiotics. It turns out that the fibre, Chitin in the cricket powder, may be the healthiest form of fibre on the PLANET.  A study out of the University of Wisconsin by a woman named Valerie Stout, Is the first study of its kind to give objective evidence to support that statement. 

Another study was done looking at 5 micronutrients: iron, magnesium, copper, zinc, and manganese. They found that not only were the concentrations higher in insects vs meats but also they were far more bioavailable. The body absorbs them at a much higher rate of efficiency! If you are looking for bang for your buck and you understand that input in equals some kind of output equation in terms of healthiness, longevity, functionality, then it's a no brainer. The data says this stuff is super good for you. 

I am fascinated by the impacts of the Chitin which is almost akin to the type of fibre that is found in the exoskeleton of the actual cricket.--Kriben Govender

What Are The Impacts of Chitin on Bifidobacteria?

We know that fibre has an impact on the gut microbiome and we know that refined sugars feed the bad microbes that then cascades into more issues. Healthy prebiotic fibre does the opposite. Most of the root vegetables we used to farm like yacon root, were loaded with fibre, but we don't farm them anymore. Think of this: whales that eat krill eat them because of the chitin fibre and that impacts their immune systems through the gut microbiome. The same goes for us and other animals. We notice changes when you feed chicken insects. The survival rates are better, the growth rates are better, and they are healthier. 

We know that the same is true for humans. A LARGE part of human disease originates from an unhealthy gut microbiome. This is in part because there is not enough healthy fibre. With diseases like Alzheimers and Parkinsons, there is evidence to suggest that they start in the gut microbiome. The next health revolution is going to be around fibre, the impact as a prebiotic, and the gut microbiome. We need to keep the probiotics but I don't think the whole solution is taking probiotics in a pill form. If you can keep the healthy bacteria growing naturally in the gut by consistently feeding it healthy probiotics and prebiotics it will go a long way in improving health outcomes. We need a mix of prebiotics and probiotics.

Bifidobacteria is an important peacekeeping group of bacteria. If you are born naturally then you inherit them from your mother during the birthing process. This bacteria is fed from breast milk provided by your mother. For someone like myself, you may already be at a disadvantage with this bacteria. I have low levels of bifidobacteria because I was born prematurely. I was born 4 weeks early and I have seen the lack of Bifidobacteria by testing my gut bacteria through THIS stool test . I know I need to implement strategies in order to boost these levels. I have seen substantial boosts in my level of bifidobacteria using prebiotic fibre. I am excited to start investigating cricket protein and then start to measure the impact through fecal analysis to the effect that cricket protein has on the different species of bifidobacteria in my gut. The importance of fibre is starting to move into the mainstream space. People are starting to understand its purpose-Kriben Govender

What Do Crickets Eat? 

Crickets will eat anything. Cardboard, wrappers, ANYTHING. You need to ask the person that you are buying the cricket powder from what they ate. We feed our crickets a high end, non GMO, and organic grain recipe for our organic SKU. We have a conventional SKU where we cannot make those guarantees but it is a grain diet as well. The grains we use are mostly soy, corn, and alfalfa. We hope that in the future we can take post-consumer waste, that is consistent in its nutrient profile, and dehydrate it to use it as feed. The big difference from a sustainability perspective is the conversation ratio of those grains from feed to food. Meat only converts at 10% where our conversation ratio is 50% but we will end up getting it closer to 75%. 

I am a big believer in you are what you eat but I am also starting to realize that you are “what you eat ate”. And you are also inheriting the impact of the environment that the animal or the insect was exposed to. -Kriben Govender

What has our cost been from eating animals, like chicken or fish, that should be eating insects but are not? Then we are eating those animals and wondering why we aren't feeling the best we can be. If we feed them insects what will happen to the nutritional value? From what we saw it would be very enhanced.

Whatever you feed the animal has a huge impact on the end result. Recently, I was at a farmers market and I bought chicken. This chicken tasted like fish. When I asked the farmer what he fed the chicken he said fish. This resulted in the chicken tasting more like fish than chicken. I also buy eggs called Bullfrog Eggs. The lady that harvests these eggs lets the chickens forage wildly. They are eating insects. Those are the best quality eggs I have ever had. What you feed these animals or insects matters -Kriben Govender

protein and insects

How Do We Get Started With Cricket Protein? 

Cricket powder looks like fine brown sugar and can go into anything! I have it in my shakes every morning instead of whey protein and the difference in my gut and my bowel movements is tremendous. My energy levels have been great. You can bake it, add it to muffins, banana bread, add it to chilli or soup, sprinkle it on berries. If you add it to something in the morning and then a little to something in the afternoon and evening, then you will get a lot of protein and fibre. 

Cricket protein is also very high in B12. It has 45 micrograms per 100 grams which is 30x higher than meat! Only oysters can come close to it. Many people, especially women, are iron and B12 deficient. Iron deficiency (anemia), is the number 1 nutritive health issue declared by the W.H.O in the world. That is why this isn't just cricket protein, it's cricket food. Protein is 60% part of it but the other 40% may be even more valuable. Start with a powder or protein bar then add it to other dishes as you go on. The taste is a neutral earthy taste so it is easy to incorporate. 

Vegetarians and Cricket Protein 

Veganism is a huge health trend and perhaps someone that is wanting to reduce meat consumption would be open to the idea of cricket protein, from a sustainability and vitamin standpoint. -Kriben Govender

This may be an option for vegetarians. You are a vegetarian for mainly 4 different reasons:

  1. Animal Welfare
  2. Health
  3. Environmental
  4. (Religion)

The crickets, the way we grow them, check off all of those boxes. They are sustainable, they are healthy, and I don't think any animal can be grown in a more wonderful way. strong>We harvest them just days before they would die anyway. They live out a full life cycle. They have access to all of the food and water that they would like and the kill cycle has very little psychological response. As far as having to kill an animal in order to survive, it ticks a lot of those boxes for people who are caring and warm towards that conversation. We use CO2 gas to kill them. The future of this step will be microwaving. The studies show now that one zap with a microwave is enough and there is no stress response. They don't even know that they died. It is a humane process.

Does the Fibre in Cricket Protein Cause Gas or Bloating?

This problem has never come up and I have never experienced it myself. People that are using it daily haven't seen it either.

This would be great for people that are sensitive in the bowels and also for people that are following a FODMAP style diet. FODMAP eliminates legumes and a lot of different things that cause bloating and gas production..-Kriben Govender

sunlight and crickets

What Type of Light Do the Crickets Need?

We grow them in chicken barns that have a lot of windows. There is access to natural and artificial light. But you have to remember that crickets like to burrow. They like to hide in the dark because they like to feel protected and safe. So even though there is a lot of natural light in the building, they tend to hide the cardboard condos that we raise them in.

They have as much light as they need. Living in Canada and seeing the effects of S.A.D where there is so little daylight and people have to supplement with vitamin D, I understand the relationship to how I feel and how much sun I am exposed to. 

It is hard to convince people in Australia that sunlight is important because we have a high rate of skin cancer but light has been becoming increasingly important. Light has a big impact on longevity and health -Kriben Govender

How Many Varieties of Crickets Are There? 

There are about 2000 species of edible insects! We are just scratching the surface with edible crickets. There are multiple different species of crickets and when you feed them the same food they have slightly different nutritional profiles at the end. We harvest all of our crickets at the end of their life cycle. 

What About Mealworms As a Sustainable Protein Source?

We also produce mealworms. They are different than crickets because they have a larval stage and a beetle stage. A cricket just comes out of an egg and develops into an adult cricket. Mealworms are fantastic as a sustainable protein source. They have a slightly different texture when they are powdered. They look like a little dehydrated piece of brown rice. They have mostly the same benefits but there hasn't been enough research done on them as there has been on crickets. 

How Did the Idea of Sustainability Come to the Forefront of your Business? 

Both of my brothers went to University when the idea of environmental studies was brand new. It was the beginning of the sustainability movement and the impact we are having. We were also raised by parents that taught us to care. My choice to go towards a sustainable type of medicine takes a different approach as well. We were raised in a culture where caring, awareness, and giving a shit was important. The value we try to live by “is don't be an asshole and leave the planet in a better place than you found it.” If you can just do those two things you have probably done something good in your life.

I can't think of one food that ticks all the boxes that crickets do. -Kriben Govender

Insects are in everything we eat. They are allowed to be sold because there is already an allowance of insects in our foods. If we didn't allow insects in our food then 90% of what's in the grocery store would have to be removed. When they harvest grains, insects get caught up in that. They say the average human eats 10 grams of insects a year! Part of the reason why we have eaten insects was because it is much easier to roll over a log and eat a grub than it is to hunt a deer. It was all about energy efficiency in the old days. 

Cricket protein may just be the protein from the past that will help us throughout the future. It has great health benefits such as being high in B12, protein, and fibre to help our gut health. Crickets are grown and harvested humanely. There are not many products that give you such great benefits while also being so sustainable. Make sure to get your cricket protein HERE and give it a shot. Share your recipes on our facebook page and connect with other like-minded people HERE!

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