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Gym-N-Eat Crickets: A protein-packed snack from your own backyard

Based in Ames, Gym-N-Eats Crickets makes sustainable alternative protein snacks from farm-raised crickets.

AMES, Iowa — There are plenty of protein-based snacks out there for anyone in search of healthy options. One Iowa business owner is making noise, literally, with the main ingredient in her creations: crickets.

Shelby Smith, who calls herself the Mother of Crickets, is a former D-1 women's basketball player from Ames who began looking for a healthy alternative to corn and soybean products on her family's farm. After some research, she stumbled upon a woman who raised crickets for human consumption.

"And then 10 days later, I bought 10,000 crickets," Smith said.

She started selling different flavors of cricket products at Ames farmers markets in 2018. Smith says she wasn't sure how many people would like them, but she ended up selling every single cricket she raised in the middle of Central Iowa.

Thus, Gym-N-Eat Crickets was born.

Crickets have many of the healthy qualities of plant-based products and lean meats. They can produce the same amounts of protein as beef, pork and chicken while using a fraction of land, water and feed, according to the Gym-N-Eat Crickets website.

"(Crickets) are 64% protein, so they're double the protein (and have) more iron than spinach, more calcium than milk," Smith explained. "They're a good source of vitamin B12. They have Omega-6, Omega-3 and nine essential amino acids in a bioavailable form of prebiotic fiber. At the end of the day, you're probably eating shrimp and lobster, so why not try these out?"

Smith's shop has dozens of cricket-based options to choose from. They range from potato-chip-like flavors of barbeque, dil pickle and buffalo ranch; granola bar chocolate and lemon flavors; and even a cricket cookie cookbook.

By raising every cricket that goes into each snack, Gym-N-Eat can ensure the proper consideration is taken with some ethical and efficient practices to minimize any environmental harm — on top of providing a tasty product of course.

"My whole goal is to have everyone's first cricket and be the most delicious cricket that they can have," Smith said.

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