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Cricket Farmer Says Consumers Developing Taste For Insects
Could crickets be coming to a grocery store near you? Maybe, says Kevin Bachhuber, owner of Big Cricket Farms in Youngstown, Ohio. While most of the producers who raise crickets sell them for bait and animal feed, Bachhuber raises crickets for human food.
  With a flavor somewhere between cashews and corn, his food-grade crickets are sold to protein powder processors and restaurants. Bachhuber hopes to sell them whole to be eaten like the dry roasted crickets he ate during a month-long stay in Thailand in 2006. There they are served like pretzels at beachfront bars.
  “I got used to it being in my diet very quickly,” he says. Back in the states, the Wisconsin native realized no one in the U.S. was growing crickets for food, but there was demand for it in protein bars, with companies having to import the crickets.
  In April 2014, he started his “farm” in a 5,000 sq. ft. cinder block warehouse in Youngstown, Ohio. He chose that area because of reasonable rent and availability of workers.
  One disadvantage is the cost of winter heating, which means the operation scales back during the cold months.
  “Crickets do best at 80 to 90 degrees and 80 percent humidity in the beginning,” Bachhuber says.
  Female crickets lay 100 eggs a day for 2 or 3 weeks. Eggs start out the size of specks and after going through 7 molts, inch-long crickets are ready to harvest in about 5 weeks. The crickets are raised in bins and fed fresh fruits, veggies and grain similar to organic chicken feed. When it’s time for harvest, the crickets are chilled to dormancy similar to what wild crickets experience when the weather turns cold. Then they are flash frozen for shipment.
  “Just 2 lbs. of food and 1 gal. of water is all that it takes to raise a pound of crickets,” Bachhuber says. “Crickets have 1/3 of the fat and about as much protein as ground beef. A 1/4 cup serving has 50 calories and 6 g protein.”
  It takes about 1,000 crickets to make 1 lb., worth $25 to $30/lb. retail.
  Demand for organic crickets is strong and helps the profit margin for Bachhuber and his four employees as they figure out the most efficient ways to raise them.
  “I think it’s going to be a slow adoption from the ag side. Producing insects is a lot different from anything I’ve raised before,” Bachhuber says.
  The market is ahead of production.
  “We’re having a hard time keeping up with demand. We’re producing a fraction of what we could be selling,” Bachhuber says.
  Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Big Cricket Farms, P.O. Box 1742, Youngstown, Ohio 44501 (ph 608 345-4567; www.bigcricketfarms.com).

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2015 - Volume #39, Issue #1