Black Soldier Fly Larvae – Tasting Notes

Black Soldier Fly Larvae are a leading insect for feed applications. If you have ever seen a chicken eat BSFL, you will know why, the love it! No one seems to be targeting the use of BSFL for food. Let’s answer the question on what they taste like.

EnviroFlight kindly provided samples for evaluation. Please note that their production system is designed for feed applications and not food.

Black Soldier Fly Larvae – Dried, Wholeimg_0009

Aroma – pungent, strong earthy, fishy. In my opinion, the aroma is not very appetizing. In some respects, similar to dry roasted cricket powder. BSLF is fishy vs shrimp-like and is stronger.

Flavor – earthy, chocolate-like, malty, the fish flavor perception is very low, mildly sweet. The taste is a lot better than the aroma.

Texture – the dried whole BSFL have a very soft texture. They mostly dissolve upon chewing. The texture was not chalky.

Black Soldier Fly Larvae – Oil, Crude

The flavor had more pronounced chocolate/malty flavors. The fat was solid at room temperature. When warmed slightly to melt, the color is slightly yellow.

Defatted, milled Black Soldier Fly Meal (much of the fat is removed by mechanic press prior to milling)img_0011

Aroma and flavor was similar to the dried whole BSFL. The dried whole tasted slightly better as the fat portion was not removed. The texture was not chalky.

The powder did not dissolve well in water.

Can BSFL be used as a food ingredient?

The strong aroma and flavor pose challenges for using BSFL as a food ingredient. The preferred culinary use would be to cook fresh (not dried) BSFL. The flavor of fresh is likely a lot milder and more palatable. Businesses harvesting BSFL are also focused on feed applications but that could change.

There are techniques to reduce flavor that can be applied to dried product. Solvent extraction using ethanol or hexane should work. Another is super-critical carbon dioxide extraction. It would be interesting to try these on cricket powder too.

Grasshopper Wild Harvesting Using a Net

Grasshoppers are commonly consumed in Mexico and regions of Africa. However, they are hard to come by in the States. (Unless, you live next to some tall grass and its the right season. Being in Texas, there are plenty of grasshoppers to go around.)

Lets get right to the interesting stuff… what did I catch and what did it taste like!

5 different grasshopper species.

From Phone 308 From Phone 306 From Phone 309 From Phone 304 From Phone 305

Preparation: The insects were frozen then rinsed. They were cooked in butter/oil until they changed color and held for an additional 2 minutes.

After cooking:

From Phone 318 From Phone 314From Phone 315 From Phone 317 From Phone 316

Flavor

The flavors were very mild. They have a brothy flavor that is sort of like vegetable broth but non-descript. They didn’t taste like any particular protein or vegetable. The closest flavor I can think of is seaweed with a little bit of asparagus. I tried just 3 of the varieties and they were all similar in flavor.

The textures were pleasant. The exoskeletons broke down upon mastication. They were pretty dry; not a meaty texture.

How and where the insects were harvested:
Choice of Net

There are two main types of nets used by entomologists (Texas A&M video on nets). The aerial net and the sweep net… I choose the somewhat DIY way. I picked up a heavy duty leaf rake for pool cleaning and the local department store. The big advantage, it turns out, was the 8 foot pole!

insect grasshopper net pool entomophagy

It worked well as is. Once a grasshopper was in the net I just grabbed it and put it into the jar. I could only catch one at a time this way. Im thinking about cutting open the bottom of the net and adding netting from a mesh laundry bag. It would make it more difficult for them to jump back out (yes, this happened a few times).

Location

From Phone 296

I found a nice patch of uncultivated lane ‘behind a gas station’. The grass varied in density, type and height. The best spots were where the grass was dense and near a ravine. I knew I found a good spot because they were pretty loud.

Season

I set out in the early afternoon on a hot Texas day in August.  I probably should have waited until the evening as they are less active when the temperature drops. My understanding is that they are less active in cooler temperatures. The large ones can fly up to 20 feet making them really difficult to catch.

What I learned from the Eat Insects Detroit conference

Eat Insects Detroit was the first conference in North America solely dedicated to edible insects. It was held at Wayne State University from May 20-28, 2016.

Consumer Perception:

Improving consumer perception is a huge area of focus.

Only about 30% of the people polled in North America were willing to try edible insects. I took away 2 main hurdles.       stats

Consumer perception is that insects are not safe to eat. They largely associate insect with pests. The general public is not aware of how insect are farmed, processed and used as food. The lack of knowledge leads to the consumers feeling that the products are unsafe. They also don’t know that humans have been eating insects for thousands of years. How can this obstacle be address? Little Herds and educational groups are doing a great job educating people about the benefits of eating insects. A key message for consumers is that insects are just like any other food we eat.

The other hurdle I would like to mention is taste. One study (I don’t believe it is published yet) reported that people did not want to eat insect because they taste bad, even though they never have tried them. Insects do have their own unique flavor that people may be unaccustomed to. Who can people trust? Chefs are a great resource for the industry. People would be relatively more comfortable eating insects at a local restaurant that they have been at before and enjoyed their food. Chefs know how to make food taste great. Startups should get chefs involved with their product development to ensure the flavors are balanced and have just the right amount of seasoning.  The #1 deciding factor for why people choose what to eat is taste. If it doesn’t taste delicious, people won’t want to eat it.

Special thanks to ‘The Bug Chef’ David George Gordon for years of excellent work with edible insects.bug chef

‘Insect Cuisine’ as an alternative to ‘Edible Insects‘ was presented by Kiah Brasch. “‘Edible insect’ sounds like they are just barley acceptable as food”. I think ‘insect cuisine’ is great for consumer facing communications. #InsectCuisine!

Regulations

Featured speaker, Ricardo Carvajal, provided an overview of the regulatory frame work in the US. He had a post on his blog from 2013 that really jumped out at the industry. Move Over, Cricket! Lickets: Edible Insects are On the March

His advice was to work with in the current regulatory frame work. More regulations are not needed and should not be wanted.IMG_0919

Ricardo referenced the definition for food from the Food Drug and Cosmetic Act (Title 21 sec. 321(f))

The term “food” means (1) articles used for food or drink for man or other animals

The must be a “reasonable certainty of no harm” according to Ricardo. I searched the Food Drug and Cosmetic Act and did not find this phrase. What it does relate to is the definition for adulterated food in sec. 402.

‘A food shall be deemed to be adulterated… If it bears or contains any poisonous or deleterious substance which may render it injurious to health’

My assessment is that the phrase “reasonable certainty of no harm” is a succinct interpretation of the law.

I felt a collective sigh of relief from the attendee’s after the presentation. There was a general consensus that we don’t need edible insect specific regulations in the US.

Incredible Foods: Sal de CricketIMG_0940

I was signed up as a vendor with Incredible Foods! It was a lot of fun having a booth at the expo. I received a lot of positive feedback on Sal de Cricket. The concept was well liked and everyone loved the flavor. I had samples of seasoned beer cup and also on tortilla chips.

Thank you every one who organized, presented and attended. It was really great meeting everyone.

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Food Safety – Message to Consumers

Food safety is a key concern when consumers make food choices. Most westerners are unfamiliar with how insects are used as food which casts doubt on their safety. Here are some key points of discussion.

  1. Insects are harvested and processed just like any other food.
    •  The insects are harvested specifically for human consumption
    • They are free from filth and extraneous material.
    • They are handled and processed using Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs) and in compliance with food laws.
  2. People have been consuming insects as food for thousands of years.
    • Insects have been an important part of our evolutionary diet.
    • Today, insects provide necessary protein in some native diets.
    • In certain places, insects are considered a delicacy.
  3. Over 2 billion people consume insects on a regular basis.

Some other thoughts…

Not all insects being consumed are farm raised. Imported products and even domestic insects are sometimes wild harvested. So a blanket statement saying that the insects we are distributing/promoting are all farm raised would not be accurate. Imported products are also more difficult to audit due to geographical and language barriers. Id love to hear more thoughts on how insects are being demonstrated to be wholesome and what documentation is available to support that.