Cricket Protein: Untapped Potential of Insect ‘Meat’

 

crickets-Forbes

Crickets inside Terreform ONE’s Cricket Shelter — FORBES

Let’s face it – Raising land animals and harvesting sea-based ones for protein is costly, and getting more so. It also involves morally questionable practices and, despite automation, is incredibly labor-intensive, involving tasks (and lifestyles) fewer people are willing to engage in.

For those and other reasons, alternate proteins are becoming increasingly popular. There’s been great growth in the plant-based protein area in the past couple of years. Similarly, insect-sourced protein – long a mainstay in the diets of millions – is being exploited in an assortment of new ways and places in recent years.

A UK based startup called SENS Foods is aiming, co-founded Radek Hŭsek told NewFood magazine for its April issue (p 38)-40), to make cricket protein cheaper than chicken. Their initial cricket farm, in Thailand – “which has a long and deep tradition of farming crickets,” New Food noted — has a production capacity of 14 (metric) tons, or tonnes, of crickets per month. (A metric ton, 1,000 kilograms, is 2,204.6 pounds.)

SENS’ farm, called Cricket Lab, is one of if not the largest cricket farms in the world. One of its greatest challenges, Hŭsek said, is having to compensate for the fact that, as he put it, “There has been exactly zero research on large scale cricket farming, while the costs are already competitive with animal protein.”

By comparision, he said, “Over 80 years of research on poultry farming has brought about a sharp decline in costs. This is where I see the potential for crickets.”

In February, 2017, I wrote a Brief for Fooddive.com noting that, “The U.S. Department of Agriculture awarded food startup Bugeater Foods with $100,000 to “find new ways to turn insects into safe, healthful staple food products that taste good,” according to Omaha World-Herald.

In November 2016, in another Fooddive.com brief, I noted that, as my headline said, “Insects can provide as many nutrients as beef, researchers say.” Here are a few highlights from that Brief:

  • Minerals are more available for absorption from eating insects like grasshoppers, mealworms and crickets than eating beef, according to a study done by a researcher at King’s College, London that was reported in Food Ingredients First.
  • “The study suggests that commonly consumed insect species could be an excellent source of bioavailable iron and could provide for an alternative strategy for increased mineral intake in the diets of humans,” researcher Yemisi Latunde-Dada told Food Ingredients First.
  • Researchers said now they want to look at which insects could help make a well-rounded meal, especially to ensure adequate iron consumption.

cricket_shelter--Forobes

The Terreform ONE Cricket Shelter — FORBES

A perfect example of good things coming in small packages, crickets are, it appears, likely to be showing up in an assortment of ways in food products. And not far into the future, either: In January of 2018, Forbes magazine billed these tiny insects as “the next big food source.”

Their article made some of the same points this one does. If you’re interested, you no doubt can find a good deal more on this topic via a google search.

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Bluetooth Technology Aids In-store Product Pushing

Do consumers need, when they go to the grocery store, more help than already is available from print coupons, downloadable coupons, window-poster ads, shelf extender ads, on-the-floor ads (for crying out loud!), and – less often these days – samplers hawking product samples in the deli, meat and produce section?

Retailers (and, bless ‘em!) manufacturers are always seeking to play their part in the ‘wait, there’s more!’ game popularized on late-night TV ads. The latest instore gambit, described in a New York Times article running to nearly 1600 words, is to reach out to unwitting (and even unwilling) shoppers through their smartphones.

Here’s how The Times leads into its article:

Imagine you are shopping in your favorite grocery store. As you approach the dairy aisle, you are sent a push notification in your phone: “10 percent off your favorite yogurt! Click here to redeem your coupon.” You considered buying yogurt on your last trip to the store, but you decided against it. How did your phone know?

Your smartphone was tracking you. The grocery store got your location data and paid a shadowy group of marketers to use that information to target you with ads. Recent reports have noted how companies use data gathered from cell towers, ambient Wi-Fi, and GPS. But the location data industry has a much more precise, and unobtrusive, tool: Bluetooth beacons.

These beacons are small, inobtrusive electronic devices that are hidden throughout the grocery store; an app on your phone that communicates with them informed the company not only that you had entered the building, but that you had lingered for two minutes in front of the low-fat Chobanis.

Bluetooth beacons, the article goes on to say, “are accurate within centimeters, using little energy, functioning like little lighthouses that emit one-way messages that can be detected by apps on your phone – even if the app is closed.

‘Living’ Version of ‘The Stalker Song’:                                      I’ll Be Watching You

All that’s bad enough, if you care a whit about your personal privacy, but The Times goes on to note that:

  • If your phone and a nearby beacon hookup, the computer on the other end of the beacon can be told what products you’ve walked by, and how long you’ve lingered in this or that department.
  • Foot traffic monitored by the beacon can reveal personal details such as your income and exercise habits; When paired with other information about you, companies can build a rich profile of who you are, where you are, and what you buy — all without your knowledge.
  • The app can be prompted to display ads for products you seem likely to buy.
  • It can send you a coupon after you leave, urging you to come back — a practice called “retargeting.”

Most people, The Times notes, “aren’t aware they are being watched with beacons, but the “beacosystem” tracks millions of people every day. Beacons are placed at or on airports, malls, subways, buses, taxis. sporting arenasgymshotelshospitalsmusic festivalscinemas and museums, and even on billboards.

The System Works Via A Phone App

In order to track you or trigger an action like a coupon or message to your phone, companies need you to install an app on your phone that will recognize the beacon in the store. Retailers (like Target and Walmart) that use Bluetooth beacons typically build tracking into their own apps. But retailers want to make sure most of their customers can be tracked — not just the ones that download their own particular app.

So a hidden industry of third-party location-marketing firms has proliferated in response. These companies take their beacon tracking code and bundle it into a toolkit developers can use.

The makers of many popular apps, such as those for news or weather updates, insert these toolkits into their apps. They might be paid by the beacon companies or receive other benefits, like detailed reports on their users.

That’s less than half what this article reveals. I urge you to read it to read it here.

 

Growing Number of Retailers Seeking Sales Growth with CBD Products

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This is a revised version of an article originally published here on June 13.

America’s largest traditional supermarket chain has crawled onto the CBD oil bandwagon, announcing this week that it will begin selling CBD products. These are items based on cannabidiol, a non-intoxicating portion of the hemp plant – best known as the source of marijuana. Kroger, whose store count is exceeded only by Walmart, plans to offer such cannabidiol products as lotions, creams, and oils in 945 of its 2,764 stores before the end of June, according to a company news release.

Supermarket News said the CBD products will be carried at stores in Kroger’s Atlanta, Cincinnati, Columbus, Michigan, Central, Louisville, Delta, Nashville, Mid-Atlantic, Roundy’s (Mariano’s and Pick ‘n Save), Dillons, King Soopers, Fry’s, Fred Meyer, QFC and Smith’s divisions.

Last month, The New York Post said it had learned that top executives at major chains such as Walmart and Target have been quietly meeting with makers of such CBD products as drinks, gummy bears, topical creams and oils. There are a surprising variety of products available that are infused with cannabidiol, or CBD, all of which have proven popular with the target market.

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While Walmart has not announced any plans to sell any CBD products in store, it has for some time quietly been selling – for delivery, not store pickup – “hemp oil,” another non-intoxicating derivative of the hemp plant.

Motley Fool Lists Nine Retailers Adding CBD Products To Shelves

Motley Fool article dated June 3, 2019, cited nine retailers now (or about to be) selling CBD products.

They include health and wellness retailers – CVS Health, Walgreens Boot Alliance, and Rite Aid – who collectively dominate the pharmacy sector outside of supermarkets.

The Fool said CVS Health plans to carry select CBD products — topicals — in roughly 800 of its stores, spanning eight states in March. Just days later, Walgreens Boots Alliance’s declared nearly 1,500 of its US stores would also offer CBD products. Most recently, Rite Aid joined the party, announcing plans to carry CBD products in two states (Washington and Oregon).

Considering that front-end sales for CVS Health, Walgreens, and Rite Aid tend to have very low margins, the introduction of CBD products may slightly boost margins, or at the very least improve foot traffic into their stores.

Beauty retailer Ulta Beauty is a fourth brand-name retailer carrying CBD products. In mid-March, Ulta announced plans to carry five skin-care products from Cannuka that blend CBD with manuka, a type of honey that’s sourced from bees that pollinate Manuka trees. Ulta is currently able to sell these skin-care focused CBD products in all but three states (Nebraska, South Dakota, and Idaho) where CBD laws remain very strict.

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The Fool said a fifth major wellness retailer where a consumer can pick up CBD products is GNC Holdings, which recently began selling a variety of CBD-infused topical creams of varying strengths. Known for supplying everything from performance supplements to health and beauty products, GNC’s entrance into the CBD product space was a logical move designed to appeal to the full spectrum of its customer base.

In addition to brand-name health and wellness retailers, four major apparel, accessory, and general retailers are now offering CBD products for sale. Among them are Designer Brands, Urban Outfitters, and Simon Property Group. The latter doesn’t directly sell CBD products, but as the largest mall operator in America, it is directly responsible for approving or denying what stores go into its malls. Recently, Simon Property Group and Green Growth Brands came to an agreement that allows Green Growth to open 108 shops in Simon’s malls this year to sell products containing CBD.

Let The Buyer Beware

Meanwhile, Healthline.com issued a warning that a product based on a hemp derivative, and its label may give the impression their benefits are broad-based, as CBD products are said to be, but consumers need to be careful what they buy.

That website noted recently that, “it’s easy for a brand to add hempseed oil to a product, adorn it with marijuana leaves, and highlight the word cannabis to make consumers think they’re receiving a CBD product that contains no actual CBD at all.”

Continuing, the Healthline author said: “So how can you tell what you’re purchasing? It’s pretty simple actually, check the ingredient list…

“Hemp seed oil will be listed as cannabis sativa seed oil. CBD will be listed as cannabidiol, full-spectrum hemp, hemp oil, PCR (phytocannabinoid rich) or PCR hemp extracts.”

The product Walmart sells is described as “Cold-Pressed, Unrefined Hemp Oil from non-GMO, Sustainably Farmed Canadian Hemp. 24 ounces.”

The CBD Products Market Is “The Wild West,” U. Penn Professor Says

Similarly, Dennis Thompson, a HealthDay reporter at WebMB.com, noted last month that, “CBD is being produced without any regulation, resulting in products that vary widely in quality,” citing Marcel Bonn-Miller, an adjunct assistant professor of psychology in psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.

“It really is the Wild West,” Bonn-Miller said. “Joe Bob who starts up a CBD company could say whatever the hell he wants on a label and sell it to people.”

There are two factors drawing supermarkets to add high-margin CBD products to their product mix. First, because right now, they offer uncommonly high margins. Secondly, they are viewed by an increasing number of consumers as a prescription-free way of obtaining a pain reliever. Their present high margins are likely to lessen as competition heats up. And while some may find oil or capsules containing oil offer some relief from pain, that could become a painful subject for retailers if the government, via the FDA, decides to require cannabidiol to be tested and meet efficacy standards.

It remains to be seen how the market will shake out in coming years, as more states are certain to join the list of those already allowing sales of marijuana in addition to the non-intoxicating CBD product lines.

UK Fear: Brexit Could ‘Force’ Chlorinated Chicken Imports From US

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TheConversation.com

“If and when Brexit happens, the UK may well be obliged to accept chlorinated poultry as part of any separate trade deal with the US. Agricultural exports are a priority for US negotiators – it would be difficult to make an exception for chicken.”

That quote, from a June 3 article in The Guardian, expresses a fear in more than a minority of UK citizens, including the  increasing number favoring generally recognized as safe-type (GRAS) rules being applied in the preparation of material – foodstuffs – intended for human consumption. And beyond that, there is, there as in the US, an increasing move amongst consumers for chickens and chicken products from birds raised in ways closer to what nature intended – without additives in their food, being given adequate room to move and ‘act like a chicken’, to be treated, ethically, like something more than an entity to transform grain into meat. (The same issues arise when cattle-raising is discussed – as they should be.)

Consumers might wonder, given enough information to do so, how the chemical chlorine – generally thought of as a substance for sanitizing swimming pools – could possible have anything to do with the raising or processing of chickens. And why, come to that, it’s use would be acceptable under the GRAS standards.

GRAS defines, in  Food and Drug Administration (FDA) parlance, “any substance that is intentionally added to food is a food additive, that is subject to premarket review and approval by FDA, unless the substance is generally recognized, among qualified experts, as having been adequately shown to be safe under the conditions of its intended use, or unless the use of the substance is otherwise excepted from the definition of a food additive.”

The Guardian article focuses on a practice, the washing of chicken with a fluid containing chlorine, that has been banned in the European Union for 22 years. While the practice is being used less and less in the US, it is still legal here.

The National Chicken Council in the United States estimates that chlorine is used in some rinses and sprays in only about 10% of processing plants in the U.S. Most of the chlorine that is used in the industry is used for cleaning and sanitizing processing equipment. However, according to the web site ChickenCheckin.com, “numerous studies and scientific research have confirmed that the use of chlorinated water to chill and clean chicken is safe and effective. Chlorine-washed chicken does not pose any human health concerns and it is not present in the final product.”

Industry practice would suggest it’s perfectly OK for laying chickens – egg producers – to spend the bulk of their lives standing in their own waste. That like most other commonalities of chicken and egg producing is little-known to and less thought-about by American consumers.

It’s worth considering that, while the US has elaborate, well-thought-out, generally ‘reasonable’ rules for how food is procured, processed, transported and stored at the point of sale, the US’s rules aren’t necessarily the ‘best,’ or acceptable to governments – and ultimately the citizens – of other countries.

A decreasing number of American families regularly consume chickens that are home-raised, fed on table scraps, never subject to government inspection, and are tasty as all get out. I often experienced chickens raised that way when I was a kid. Like today’s home-raised chickens, none of them ever got me sick – aside from the occasional belly ache from eating too much.

As recently as a few years ago, I occasionally (very much) enjoyed chickens that were field raised in very small quantities on farms I visited in Southern Virginia. Their taste, and waste/fat-to-meat makeup was ounces-per-pound above store-bought chickens.

One of those farms was Amish-run. It may still be raising and selling its own chickens, but I’ve moved from that area, and on several recent trips through there the ‘dressed chickens’ sign was missing.

Another chicken-raising operation was run by two partners, one of whom had a small farm. The other guy obtained the chicks, and they split the cost of raising them, as well as the modest profits from selling them – straight to customers, via the non-farmer’s home in a nearby city.

Sadly, they found that food (grain) cost too high to justify the small farmer’s investment in time and effort to bring the chicks to a meaty-enough-for-market state.

All their customers were private, bird-or-two at a time ones, and I’m sure others, like me, were sad to see them have to give up on growing the kind of birds that used to be commonplace: Birds that were, to the degree chickens can be, ‘happy as a hen’.

I still had that taste of ‘old fashioned’ chicken in mind when, during half a decade living in England, I was regularly disappointed with the birds one or another supermarket – or local butcher – offered. One reason was the still-common use of fish meal to feed them. Over time, of course, my taste buds ‘settled’ on the taste of local chicken.

But I seriously noticed a taste difference when I returned to the US, in 1976, and resumed eating birds grown in this country. I doubt, but have no idea, if they were chlorine-washed then. Probably not; But over the years – into and through the chlorinated chicken era – the flavor of supermarket birds here has slide down the taste scale. More’s the pity.

With Tariffs Promised on Mexican Goods, How Will Tomatoes Fare?

tomatoes--on_vine

Recent news reports have made it abundantly clear that US President Donald pays no regard, when considering tariffs on this and/or that from this and/or that country, to the potential impact on either US citizens in general or domestic producers using parts from those newly taxed countries.

Be clear: Tariffs are taxes – taxes too often paid, not by foreign countries or foreigners, but by American manufacturers and US consumers.

He was warned today (June 4) by members of his Republican party in Congress that they are seriously opposed to his plan to levy tariffs on all goods from Mexico “until the Mexican government stops the flow of migrants across the US’s southern border,” as The Times put it.

A good reason to suspect that if Mexican goods are hit with import tariffs by the US, their tomatoes – which “account for just over half of the U.S. tomato market,” according to the Florida Tomato Exchange – came two weeks ago (on May 22), when the trade groups representing Mexican and Florida tomato growers/marketers both issued statements concerning their future trade relationships.

First, a proposal from T=the Mexicans growers to the US Department of Commerce, which oversees imports, spoke first, proposing a renewal of the oddly-named “Tomato Suspension Agreement” based on such factors as:

[1] Mexican tomatoes are (already) imported at prices above those of US (particularly Florida’s, where the bulk of America’s commercial tomatoes are grown), and

[2] agreed proposals by Mexican growers and US border-area importers “enforce the arrival condition” of tomatoes moving north across the border, reducing the risk to importers of in-shipment damages and resultant disputes or costs.

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Mexican tomatoes in the field

But Both the Fresh Produce Association of the Americas’ (FPAA) President and the Florida Tomato Exchange’s (FTE) rejected Mexico’s proposals, contending, among other things, that the latter ‘dumps’ the fruit at unfairly low prices onto the American market.

In February, the US Commerce Secretary, Wilbur Ross, said that the United States would resume an anti-dumping investigation into Mexican tomatoes, withdrawing from a so-called suspension agreement that halted the anti-dumping case as long as Mexican producers sold their tomatoes above a pre-determined price. U.S. growers and lawmakers say that deal has failed.

Ross said in early February that the United States would resume an anti-dumping investigation into Mexican tomatoes, withdrawing from a so-called suspension agreement that halted the anti-dumping case as long as Mexican producers sold their tomatoes above a pre-determined price. U.S. growers and lawmakers say that deal has failed.

Last month, the US government – in the form of the Commerce Department – declared tariffs on tomatoes would go into effect this month (June). The Mexican Economy department said the country exports about $2 billion in tomatoes to the United States and supplies about half the tomatoes the U.S. consumes annually.

It said that many small- and medium-sized Mexican tomato exporters won’t be able to pay the deposits required to export. Tomatoes are Mexico’s largest agricultural export after beer and avocadoes, and tomato growing and harvesting provides about 400,000 jobs in Mexico.

But the deposits required to comply with the 17.5% U.S. tariff would amount to about $350 million, money that many Mexican producers don’t have.

The Commerce Department declaration, significantly, had no relationship with Trump’s since-then declaration he was aiming to boost the price of all Mexican imports.

Sadly, as noted above, how all this will play out, over the next few months, is anyone’s guess. But one thing is pretty sure: your home-made tomato sauce, salsa, and tomato salad, among other things, is about to cost you more. Probably well over 10-15% more, even if retailers eat some of the additional costs to them.

Walmart: ‘Big Chicken’ Pecks in Synch on Prices

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Whether or not there’s been “collusion” in the White House, a Walmart law suit contends there certainly has been amongst a sizable number of chicken producers in America.

America’s largest retail grocer has filed an antitrust suit in federal court against various U.S. poultry companies alleging a conspiracy to inflate chicken prices, Dairy Herd Management has reported.

Filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Arkansas, the suit alleges that more than a dozen major chicken companies “reached illegal agreements and restrained trade.”

The suit alleges that as early as 2008 through at least 2016, “Defendants’ restraint of trade was implemented primarily through two mechanisms. The first focused on coordinating their output and reducing the supply of broiler chickens into the market. The second focused on (among other things) manipulating price indices with respect to wholesale chicken prices.”

FRANCE-AGRICULTURE-BIRD-FLU

Companies named as defendants include: Pilgrim’s Pride, Koch Foods, JCG Foods, Koch Meat Co., various Sanderson Farms units, House of Raeford Farms, MAR- JAC Poultry, Perdue Farms and Perdue Foods, Wayne Farms, various O.K. Foods units, Peco Foods, Harrison Poultry, Foster Farms, Claxton Poultry Farms, various Mountaire Farms units Amick Farms, various Case Foods units and Agri Stats Inc.

Noticeable by their absence in the suit are Tyson Foods, Inc., George’s Inc., and Simmons Foods, Inc. All three companies were named as defendants in similar price fixing cases in Illinois.

An annual SEC filing from November 2018 indicates 17.3% of Tyson’s consolidated sales in 2018 were to Walmart.

Walmart’s lawsuit alleges, “the broiler producers’ coordinated output restriction scheme was successfully facilitated by, monitored and policed using reports purchased, at significant cost, from Defendant Agri Stats, Inc. Agri Stats collects detailed, proprietary data from all Defendants and others, including housing used, breed of chicks, average size, production, and breeder flock levels.”

Several lawsuits have been filed since 2016 alleging price-fixing by poultry companies. One defendant to an earlier lawsuit, Fieldale Farms, “agreed to pay $2.25 million to settle claims by a putative class of direct purchasers alleging that it participated in this conspiracy.” As a result, claims against Fieldale Farms were released.

So far, none of these lawsuits have been resolved, making it difficult to know what impact they may have on the industry. Conspiratorial activity and price fixing can be incredibly difficult to prove, and in today’s digital age, companies can communicate without a paper trail or sufficient evidence that they agreed to adjust their supplies.

While some food retailers are duking it out in the courtroom, Costco has taken matters into its own hands, GroceryDive reports. That retailer is building its own chicken supply chain, “which will provide it complete control and the ability to provide consumers with a high level of transparency in its production practices,” the website says.

The challenge with bringing poultry production in-house, however, means Costco must now run an entire agribusiness within its retail business.

Their new supply system is projected to save Costco 35 cents per bird, which adds up to $25 million annually. Considering that U.S. consumers are scarfing down nearly twice as much chicken as beef and pork, saving excess costs on poultry is a top priority for retailers.

While hardly novel, this kind of industry collusion is, well, despicable. It’s not as if any stage of the chicken production process – and various steps are involved – isn’t turning a reasonable profit.

In Virginia – as no doubt is the case elsewhere – Perdue uses small, family-operated farms for hen-raising. Some of those farmers are Amish or Mennonite, operating in fairly remote rural areas where property prices are, pardon the pun, dirt cheap.

So, in at least a few known instances, are their power costs: Perdue farmers in some southern Virginia counties are serviced by an electric cooperative run,  with prices approved, by its members.

That entity’s overheads are, like other utility’s, proportionate to its customer base – meaning, in this instance, ‘modest’ compared to its larger supplier cousins.

Over the years, a few, scattered industry reports have noted that farmer contracts such as Perdue – a quite large corporation – are quick to squeeze their farmers and slow to share with them if profits turn up.

Walmart, in going after Perdue and its giant compatriots, is looking out for the little guy: In part due to increasing price pressure from the Aldis and Lidls of this world, Walmart is very consciously curbing price increases and cutting consumer costs as often as it can.

Its attack on ‘Big Chicken’ (don’t you love that epithet!!) is a big ‘peck’ in that direction!