Four Quality Factors of Food

Quality Factors

Safety, convenience, taste and health are intrinsic quality factors that affect food choices. Let’s take a closer look at these factors and see how edible insects score.

Safety – Unglamorous but the most important factor. Safety hazard examples include pathogens (E. coli), heavy metals (mercury) and pesticide residues. If a food product doesn’t meet basic safety requirements, it won’t ever make it into your kitchen. When comparing food choices, safety is not a point of differentiation because most safety risks have been eliminated for the consumer by using good manufacturing practices and processing. Wild harvested insects are not recommended for consumption because there is a risk that they may have picked up pesticide residue along their travels.

Convenience – Often taken for granted, convenience varies widely.

Not convenient: dry chick peas

Convenient: canned chick peas

Very convenient: prepared hummus

When it comes to edible insects, processing live insects can be quite a handful for the chef. Raising your own insects takes devotion. Providing minimally processed and processed insects is a possible opportunity to gain further acceptance of edible insects

Taste – This is the space where most of the competition takes place. After all, taste is king. If someone doesn’t like the taste of a food, they are not going to eat it again. Taste is usually a tradeoff between other factors. Canned crickets are more convenient than frozen but the taste and texture is probably better in frozen crickets. Crickets are visually striking which does not earn them any points. People generally don’t like the idea of an insect looking back at you when you are about to eat it. Turning crickets into a flour is an excellent way to by-pass this issue. If poached or fried insects are being prepared… chop them up.

Health – Based on large food company behavior, health only has one category, nutrition. America’s food system is not doing an adequate job addressing socio-economic costs. Brands are quick to tell you how much fiber is in their product but they don’t tell you if it’s GMO fiber or if it’s highly processed fiber. It doesn’t help that individual consumers are not aware that their food choices also have far reaching environmental, social and economic influences. Health is why people should stop eating feed lot beef. Insects get 5 stars for health.

Are insects ready for the masses?

Even though people who practice entomophagy feel that insects are safe to eat, the average person may not be so confident. When communicating about edible insects, safety should be addressed by stating that insects, that are produced using GMPs, are safe to eat. Safety will probably become a non-issue as people become aware that insects are tasty and good for you. Taste and convenience is where our food system does an excellent job at creating craveable and easy to prepare food. Just about every store sells cold soda. There is tremendous opportunity for innovation in these area. Insects can be prepared in a variety of ways and different species offer unique tastes and textures. Literature often sites that insects taste excellent and are considered delicacies. We just have to find the right presentation for the American palate. For health, the preferred way to raise insects is through regional farming operations. We need to be mindful when sourcing insects so that they are not raised on chicken meal and preferably not sourced internationally. I think insects are ready.

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