Cricket Crop: Iowa Farm Girl Starts Health Food Business With Secret Insect Ingredients

Food

STORY COUNTY, IOWA — Iowa farmers are known for growing corn and soybeans and raising cattle and hogs. But there’s a Story County woman has found a new commodity – in crickets. Shelby Smith says the idea came after her father challenged her to find a better way to earn an agricultural income.

“After we went through our first harvest in the fall of 2017 he really encouraged me to look at different niche markets. He said I didn’t need to fight the same market (as he has) for over 30 years,” says Smith, “Fast forward to January 1 of 2018 I sent both my parents an article about a woman raising crickets for human consumption and I said ‘Hey, I think I can do this.'”

Fast-forward another three years and you’ve got ‘Gym-N-Eat Crickets’ – Shelby’s new cricket-based health food business. She sells them fresh roasted or added to other nutritional items like snack bars. The bugs are raised, then frozen, broiled and seasoned. During the pandemic her social media presence helped her expand sales to all 50 states. She says folks just need to get past the idea of them being insects, because they taste great.

“The roasted crickets … taste like sunflower seeds or, you know the crumbs at the bottom of the chip bag,” says Smith, “Some people say is their favorite that’s what they taste like salty and crunchy airy and light.”

Gym-N-Eat Crickets are available online and in some health food stores. A major Iowa grocer will soon be carrying the products as well.

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