Category Archives: insect-based edibles

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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Thai Company Marketing Cricket-Based Pasta

cricketpastapackage

The concept of eating insects, or being able to buy consumer products made from insects, is hardly new. What is new – relatively new, anyway – is the exceptionally wide range of bug-based products in the U.S., the U.K., Australia, the Far East and elsewhere.

One of the latest players in this growing field is Thailand-based Bugsolutely, whose first product, Cricket Pasta, was launched late last year – mere months after this company was founded.

With crickets being 70% protein, that necessary dietary ingredient is, of course, a significant portion of Cricket Pasta’s volume. The company’s web site stresses, though, that this pasta also contains goodly amounts of calcium, iron, vitamin B12 and Omega 3 oil.

From a food production perspective, crickets are an excellent protein source because they require very little water. Not by coincidence, this and the fact they can be easily raised, in a ‘farm-like-way, makes crickets an excellent food source for creatures other than humans that humans, for whatever reason, keep and sustain as a ‘hobby’. (Such creatures include birds, fish and even other insects, many of which have, in captivity, been fed mealworms. However, “In recent times ( [the] past twenty years) the Common House Cricket has slowly emerged as a much better feeder insect since it is more digestible, easier to gutload and dust with nutrients and is more readily acceptable than the harder skinned mealworm,” says the Chameleon News website. (Who’d have imagined such a site would exist?)

Who, indeed, would have imagined that the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations would produce, close to three years ago, a report entitled “Edible Insects: Future Prospects for Food and Feed Security?”

Well, not only did the FAO generate such a report, it has since been the inspiration for such unlikely studies as one at the School of Visual Arts in New York City where, Popular Science magazine reported last May, students Lucy Knops and Julie Plevin soberly set about coming up, in 2013, with something they called Critter Bitters, combining alcohol of several sorts – Bourbon, vodka, and neutral grain spirits – with carefully preserved remains of once-thriving crickets, then macerating the combinations – they did similar studies with other bugs, too – long enough for the latter to absorb and integrate the essence, as it were, of the former. The result? Something some people might take a fancy to drinking.

“The case needs to be made to consumers that eating insects is not only good for their health, it is good for the planet,” Knops and Plevin wrote in a paper on their project. They figured that while cricket-based bitters might not solve the food problem, the product could help overcome a psychological one.

“People are more open to trying new things when there are cocktails involved,” Plevin says.

People also seem inclined, and have been for eons, to try eating insects when they are slathered in chocolate. And why not? Both have nutritional value and can be said to be good for you – in appropriate doses, of course.

Fortune Magazine last August had a feature article that declared, “Insect eating is common in 80% of the world’s countries – but not in the U.S. or Europe. Now several entrepreneurs are working to bring the edible insect market to the U.S. and Europe.”

That article went on to note that an array or restaurants, including Toloache in New York City and Typhoon in Santa Monica CA, now offer assorted insect-based items on their menus – items such as grasshopper tacos (see 2nd column from right) and stir-fried silkworm pupae (right hand column, along with a selection of other insect-based offerings).

Entomarket.com offers a broad assortment of insect-based edibles, as does Amazon (and here).

Melanie Haiken reported in Forbes in July of 2014 how scientists and others involved in panel discussions at the Institute of Food Technologies meeting a month earlier declared that “insects are the food of the future.”

“Not only are they good for you,” she wrote, they’re a low-cost alternative to animal protein with far less impact on the environment.”

Ms Haiken went on:

“And we’re going to need new sources of protein,  because as time goes on there’s just not going to be enough meat to go around. Consider these startling stats:

  • 70 million: The number of people added to the planet’s population every year
  • 9 billion: The world population by 2050 as projected by current population growth rates
  • 70 percent: The percentage of agricultural land devoted to livestock production
  • 30 percent: The percentage of all the world’s land used to raise livestock

If you are really interested in this subject, as many people should be, that FAO report will be an eye-opener. It discusses, among other things, ‘farming’ insects, how available various ones are in several countries, examples of promising edible insect products for human consumption, and much, much more.