Category Archives: Edible-crickets

Cricket Protein: Untapped Potential of Insect ‘Meat’

 

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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.

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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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Crickets are new ‘in’ Food in Silicon Valley

CRICKETS-in California
Co-founder Andrew Brentano, of Berkeley, hold a container of roasted crickets at Tiny Farms in Oakland, Calif., on Thursday, Aug. 4, 2016. Tiny Farms breeds and raises crickets, which have become a trendy course of protein. The insects can be roasted and consumed as a snack or ground into “cricket flour” and baked into snacks like cookies or power bars. (Dan Honda/Bay Area News Group)

Crickets are the new ‘in’ food in Silicon Valley – and in a lot of other places. As Food Trade Trends reported in January, “the concept of eating insects, or being able to buy consumer products made from insects, is hardly new.” In fact, they have long been a staple for people in many countries.

One of the reasons for crickets’ popularity is that they are 70% protein. So when made into cookies and chips, as San Francisco-based Bitty Foods is doing, they make excellent snacks – as workers in start-ups around Silicon Valley are increasingly consuming them.

Proponents note the tiny, chirping bugs are high iron as well as protein, and they can serve as a sustainable alternative to beef or chicken.

Another west coast company focused on crickets is Tiny Farms, in San Leandro, California. It is breeding crickets for mass consumption, and New York-based Exo using them in protein bars. The products are showing up in Silicon Valley break rooms, and investors and entrepreneurs are paying close attention.

 

“I would say there’s a new  [insect-using company] that launches every six months, maybe even more frequently than that,” Exo co-founder Greg Sewitz said recently to The San Jose [California] Mercury News.

In addition to crickets, street vendors across Thailand offer everything from those critters to silk worms.

And in Mexico, fried grasshoppers, or chapulines, are a favorite.

Companies like Exo and Bitty are part of a larger trend of food startups that are replacing meat, gluten and dairy in everyday products. Investors have poured more than $500 million into companies such as plant-based imitation meat maker Impossible Foods of Redwood City and meal replacement Soylent, according to venture capital database CB Insights.

Impossible Foods has raised $183 million from big names including Bill Gates and Google Ventures, and Soylent raked in $21.5 million from backers including Andreessen Horowitz. Investment in these next-generation food startups is on track to hit record growth this year, CB Insights analyst Zoe Leavitt told the Mercury News.

Chocolate-covered insects and lollipops with bugs suspended in transparent, sugary candy have long been available as novelty items, but the crickets-as-protein movement began picking up steam in 2013 with a report by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

The report touted the nutritional benefits of insects and introduced them as a potential solution to a rapidly approaching problem: The world will house 9 billion people by 2050, forcing humans to nearly double their food production using a limited supply of land and water. Crickets need one-twelfth as much food as cattle and half as much as chickens to produce the same amount of protein. They require less water and space to farm, produce minimal amounts of greenhouse gases and can be fed organic waste, according to the report.

“Edible insects are one of the most sustainable forms of protein on the planet,” said Megan Miller, co-founder of San Francisco-based startup Bitty Foods.

But whether they can be used as a more environmentally friendly alternative to other meats will depend on how the insects are farmed and what they are fed. A report published last year by researchers with the University of California-Davis found more study is needed to evaluate the long-term potential of bugs as protein, and concluded “the potential for crickets to supplement the global supply of dietary protein appears to be more limited than has been recently suggested.”

Of the world’s 2,000 types of edible insects, crickets seem to be gaining the most traction in the U.S. They have a neutral flavor — “sort of nutty and toasty with a bit of earthiness,” Miller said — and aren’t as frightening as spiders or scorpions.

“Tech workers are generally the people who are most interested in new trends and in innovation,” Miller said. “I don’t think there’s any place else in the world where you have the intersection of foodies and innovation like you do in the Bay Area. So it’s the natural place to launch a slightly strange product.”

Many companies that make cricket snacks, including Bitty and Exo, get their bugs from Entomo Farms in Canada. But San Leandro’s Tiny Farms is ramping up its own small cricket farm with the hope of providing cricket connoisseurs with a local, low-cost alternative.

Tucked into a warehouse it shares with artists working on Burning Man projects, biotech firms, a 3-D printing company and a rabbit supply store, the Tiny Farms space is filled with the incessant chirping of millions of crickets crawling over pallets that resemble broken apart egg cartons. Co-founder and CEO Daniel Imrie-Situnayake hopes to have his bugs on the market by the end of September. His long-term goal is to make crickets a realistic protein option by reducing their price — a pound of cricket flour now costs about $20, he said.

“If a pound of beef cost $20, no one would eat burgers anymore,” Imrie-Situnayake said. “So we really need to get the price even lower.”

For the more daring, Tiny Farms also deep fries whole crickets, legs, antennae and all, and serves them with lime, salt and chili powder. The end result is a greasy morsel with a light, airy crunch and the earthy flavor of a pumpkin seed.

“They’re a really good bar snack,” Imrie-Situnayake said, “good with chips and guac.”