Don’t They Know That Crickets Fart Too?

Hey! Greenies! Taking good care of yourselves? Watching your diet? Exercising? Taking those probiotics to strengthen your gut biome and digestion? Well, cut it out! You’re part of the problem here.

Among the critters that metabolically produce CO2 are bacteria. As far as I can find out, every creature on Earth that has a mouth has a gut. And nearly every gut’s biome contains bacteria, some more densely populated or more varied than others. Those bacteria give off CO2 as part of simply living. That CO2 escapes the bacteria’s host’s body during the process of elimination, usually through an anal orifice.

Everything farts, though it might not have been noticed (heard, smelt, or seen wafting up from a bird’s hind end on a chilly morning) in some species yet. The animal is not the source of the excreted CO2; it’s the bacteria that live inside the animal. You, me, the cows, the crickets, all God’s creatures need to fart. Especially we humans, as we have more bacteria living inside each of us than there are dollars in our $30+ trillion national debt.

Yeast, while a sort of fungus and not a bacterium, also exudes CO2 as it goes through its lifecycle. Baking bread, fermenting grains into beer, bourbon, and other alcohols, and converting grape sugar into wine all release yeast-created CO2. You can tell a greenie is truly dedicated to reducing carbon emissions when he stops eating avocado with toast, comparing sips of microbrews, and relaxing with a boutique single malt or pinot noir after a long day.

Image: Cricket by neil.dalphin. Public domain.

By the way, bacteria that live in the seabed alone make up 10% to 30% of the Earth’s whole biomass. They are snuggled into the mud happily breaking down organic matter into its basic components and releasing carbon dioxide. Bacteria are the ultimate bio-digesters, disassembling all living matter as it dies and returns to its inert phase. We are stardust, and will eventually get back to the garden with the help of bacteria. They live in our compost piles, the duff of forests, and almost everywhere else on earth, including the wharf-side plants converting Northwest forestry byproducts into biodiesel and factories turning Midwestern corn into ethanol. And giving off the gas.

Too bad it’s just coming to light that the process of preparing the ground, growing and harvesting the corn, and producing the ethanol to mix with gasoline has a greater carbon footprint than just using the unadulterated fuel itself. But President Joe knows how to use a pen; he can cancel the ethanol program with a simple signature. Or can he?

Anyway, back to the crickets. Folks are getting spun up about consuming tiny exoskeletal creatures. I’m very much enjoying a lot of the memes saying, “You vill eat ze bugs.”

I’ve read quite a few alarming-sounding comments about this article, which reports on a new Canadian cricket farm that will turn out 10 metric tons (11,025 US tons) of crickets annually. Ten tons of crickets yield about six tons of protein. American adults consume on average about 100 grams of protein a day. That’s about a quarter pound of protein for roughly 259 million people; 57 million pounds or 28,500 tons a day of protein from all sources, meat and plant. This, plus what our children, pets, and livestock consume far exceeds any amount of cricket protein currently available or anticipated.

There’s no need to get exercised over 10 tons a year of crickets; that’s a measly 0.027 grams per person per year. That’s not even a supplement; not even enough to flavor the steak sauce. It’s just a teeny tiny niche market for adventurous eaters. It’s mostly just for pet food anyway. But it is a growing industry.

Now to the cows. As a country, we consume around 45.5 million tons of meat, 13.7 million tons of it beef, each year.

Beef cattle graze rangelands and pastureland, and enrich the soil as they go. Upfront infrastructure inputs include fence posts and wire, except on federal rangelands where often none is required. Other expenses include either gas-sipping ATVs or a few horses, saddles, and bridles for moving them. Taking them to market needs the one-time use of a truck and trailer. Crickets, on the other hand, require climate-controlled enclosed space and energy-heavy 24/7 HVAC operations from egg through carcass. No fresh air, sunlight, or free-ranging for them.

Total feed consumption, over the life of a beef animal from all sources, is about 25 lbs per pound of flesh produced. Pastured/ranged beef cattle that are finished on grain consume about 2.5 lbs of grain per lb of flesh. Grass-fed beef is becoming an increasingly popular choice and involves none of the steps involved in planting, fertilizing, watering, growing, harvesting, processing, or transporting grain for food. Crickets consume around 2 lbs of grain-based feed for every pound of cricket produced—not a significant difference from grain-finished beef, but quite a big one compared to the grass-fed.

And consider the relatively simple course of turning slaughtered beef into steaks, roasts, and hamburgers. Beef is handled, with hands, throughout the process. Crickets are washed clean, roasted, dried, chopped, and either powdered or emulsified depending on the desired product. Crickets are sometimes frozen before processing. Alternatively, they are roasted alive, ouch. Raw cricket powder sells for $40-$50 per lb.

Because I’ve written on this subject before, woke greenies should note that half of America’s Black farmers raise beef as their primary agricultural commodity. No other product even comes close. They do so on small farms/ranches of around 125 acres, on average. Beef ranching is also the gateway into farm life. More young and entry-level farmers engage in beef production than any other ag activity. Beef is also a small farm activity. One-third of all beef operations are carried out on less than 50 acres, and over half of all such farms have fewer than 50 cattle.

Before Americans jump, especially with taxpayer funds and supportive legislation, into slaughtering the beef industry just to raise up another living creature-based food let’s make sure we look at the whole cost to society as well as to the environment. Besides, crickets fart too.

Anony Mee is the nom de blog of a retired public servant.

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