Shrimp is a popular food source all over the world. They are healthy due to their high calcium, omega-3, protein and they are deliciously easy to prepare. Shrimp has been America’s most popular seafood for many years; in 2014 the average amount of shrimp eaten per person annually was 1.8 kilos! Despite being one of the most common allergens, shrimp are considered a delicacy and are very much in demand worldwide.
So why do people love eating many-legged, large-eyed, trash-eating sea creatures but think crickets are disgusting?
Shrimp have more legs than insects: 5 pairs of walking legs, 5 pairs of swimming legs and 3 pairs of “arms” that they use to feed. They have hard exoskeleton and soft bodies just like insects. They also eat plankton and other ocean waste. While it is lobsters that are considered the cockroaches of the sea, shrimp can easily be compared to a variety of insects including crickets.
Research has shown that people who are allergic to shrimp/shellfish are also allergic to crickets and other insects. Crickets are an even better sources of protein and omega-3 than shrimp. They also have countless of other health benefits including being rich in iron, calcium (a great non-dairy source of calcium!), they are low in fat but have dietary fiber which is not common in the other animals eaten in the west.
The main difference:
Harvesting enough shrimp to feed our shrimp-crazed world has some devastating consequences on the planet. While eating insects is considered ecologically friendly, shrimp are either caught in the wild or farmed and both methods have their setbacks.
Farmed shrimp are often kept in coast side pools so that the tide can carry away the waste and refresh the water. This means that chemicals such as superphosphate, diesel, pesticides and antibiotics pollute the fresh water in the area. In addition to this, a 2014 estimate shows that 38% of the world’s mangroves were destroyed by shrimp farmers to create the ponds.
Catching wild shrimp on the other hand kills between 5 and 18 kilos of “bycatch” for every kilo of shrimp. Bycatch is basically unwanted species that get caught accidentally and includes sharks, sea turtles, star fish, rays and many more. Wild shrimp is also not inspected by the FDA, so the 162 varieties of bacteria (resistant to 10 different antibiotics) can end up on your plate.
How is farming or catching crickets better?
According to the Edible Bug Farm, “Insect farming uses a tiny fraction of the feed, water and land needed to raise traditional livestock such as cattle or pigs. Since bugs are not mammals, they are also much less likely to transfer diseases to us.”
Not only does farming crickets require few resources, but it also requires very little space. It is even possible to purchase desktop farms that are fed on kitchen scraps. Livin Farms has created a Hive that produces up to 500 grams of mealworms every two weeks.
Plus, insects reproduce at incredible rates and reach adulthood quickly, so it is easy to grow many insects in a short amount of time and keep repopulating it. Farming and catching insects can even have socio-cultural benefits in developing countries including providing jobs for women and the elderly.
A picture is worth a thousand words, so I’ll let these three infographics summarize the benefits of cricket farming and conclude why crickets are better than shrimp (and cows, pigs, chickens, etc.)