By LARISA CASILLAS, KECI
BOZEMAN, Mont. (CIRCA via KECI) — A company in Bozeman, Montana, is introducing an alternative protein snack at local retailers with an unlikely ingredient — crickets.
Cowboy Cricket Farms has been making snacks and powders from the bugs since 2017. It's part of a sustainable farming and consumption movement in the state.
The company sells their "chocolate chirp cookie" cricket powder and whole-roasted "jumpers" online and at local retailers.
"Everybody that I tell about my job here immediately asks, 'Who is buying crickets?' Like, 'Who would want crickets?'" said Cowboy Cricket Farms kitchen manager Sadie Seidel, who's also a registered dietitian nutritionist.
"I see all of the orders that come through, and we ship to every state, we ship to different countries — to Russia, Canada, to Mexico," she added.
Seidel says the insects are high in protein, iron, omega-3 and other nutrients.
The company, owned by married couple Kathleen and James Rolin, is now experimenting with other flavors for their whole-roasted crickets like wasabi, mango-chipotle and cinnamon."
"To me, it's kind of like eating a sunflower seed," Seidel said. "A lot of the issue people have with just the thought of eating crickets is mental, so as soon as you get over the first cricket, you realize it's not so bad."
Cowboy Cricket Farms has trained locals to farm the insects for them, like The Cricket Ranch in Bozeman, where more than 5 million crickets are housed in a 1,800-square-foot facility.
Derek Kean, Cricket Ranch's founder, works as a part-time software engineer.
"I think one of the biggest reactions we get when we say we're a cricket farmer is why? Why crickets?" he said.
Kean says the work is labor-intensive but also rewarding for its sustainability.
"Per pound, crickets consume a lot less water than most other protein sources like cattle or pork, and part of that is that they're just tiny animals, but they're very dense in protein," he said.
Cricket Ranch is now one of three cricket farms in Bozeman, and one of six in the state.
Kean says the market for cricket farming is growing. Although he sells most of his crickets to Cowboy Crickets, he's also making fertilizer from the crickets, which he's selling to other farmers in the state.
"Nationwide, there are six big players in the human-grade cricket industry — all of them are completely sold out for the next two years," he said.