Category Archives: Farming

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.

Edible Insect Farming and Processing Questionnaire

It is important that insect processors and consumer goods companies have information about where there insects come from. I put together a questionnaire to help facilitate a dialog between the insect supplier and customer. It will also serve as a record.

Here is a link to the Word doc: Edible Insect Farming and Processing Questionnaire

 

survey

Edible Insect Farming and Processing Questionnaire

Company

Facility locations

Name

Title

Date

General/Facility

  1. Describe the current Good Manufacturing Process (cGMP) used at the facility
  1. Describe the sanitation procedures
    1. Insect contact surfaces and equipment cleaning
    2. Environmental monitoring
  1. Are the insects clean and wholesome? Explain.
    1. Do they contain any external waste
  1. Are the insects raised specifically for human consumption
  1. What are the technical specifications of the product? Please attach a specification for each requested product.
    1. Protein content
    2. Size
    3. Microbiological
  1. Please attach a pictures of the finished good including packaging and labels
  1. Describe the facility security

Farming

  1. Describe the rearing process
    1. Do you rear insects yourself
  1. Describe the feed.
    1. Feed ingredients
  1. Describe the housing
    1. Size(volume) per housing unit
    2. Surface area per housing unit
    3. Number of crickets per housing unit
  1. Are the insect treated humanely. Explain.
    1. Access to food
    2. Access to water/moisture
    3. Freedom to exercise instinctual behaviors
    4. Cannibalism
    5. Monitoring frequency
  1. Describe how the insects are harvested
    1. How are live insects separated from the remains
    2. Slaughter process
  1. Describe the storage conditions
    1. Packaging
    2. Temperature

Processing

  1. Describe the further processing

 

Let me know if I missed any questions.

Natural Habitat Farming of Grasshoppers

There are grasshoppers everywhere in the Dallas-Fort Worth area of Texas. You see them during the day as they jump away from as you go about your business. And you hear them at night as they sing you to sleep. They thrive in the open plains and short grass.

Photo Jul 27, 3 09 29 PM

How can we capitalize on the fact that grasshoppers love it here?

The consensus is that harvesting insects from the wild is risky because we don’t know where they have been (As in the neighbor’s yard where they just sprayed fertilizer and pesticides). What if I go out into a state park and catch some tasty treats there? What if we farm grasshoppers in the ‘middle of nowhere’ Texas?

The Plan

  1. Buy, rent or borrow a large plot of prairie land away from other cultivated land.
  2. Select a grasshopper species that is already successful in that area. Differential Grasshopper?
  3. Foster shrubs and grasses that accommodate that species of grasshopper. Mow the perimeter to prevent inward or outward migration.Photo Jul 27, 2 52 38 PM
  4. Add the grasshopper to the field. You probably need to farm eggs/nymphs in a controlled setting like they do for crickets. I understand this can be difficult but it may be easier if the grasshoppers only live part of their life cycle in a man-made environment.
  5. Sit back and relax as the grasshoppers mature.
  6. Harvest by attaching nets to traditional farming tractors and sweep the plot in an inward spiral. They do this by hand in Asia.
  7. Freeze for storage.

Plan B:

Just go to a middle of nowhere field and harvest. Depending on the time of year there may be plenty to catch. Then send a sample out to a lab for analytical testing including heavy metals, pathogens and pesticide residue. The contamination issue is solved assuming the results come back negative for any bad stuff. Make huge profits with little work by selling the catch to restaurants or processors.

Plan C and more: This Mother Earth News article has great insight on grasshopper harvesting.

Key Points:

  • Farm insects in their natural habitat and climate.
  • Instead of controlling the entire farming operation, let grasshoppers be grasshoppers and ensure safety and wholesomeness of the product with post-harvest testing. Companies such as Certified Laboratories specialized in doing such safety analyses.
  • What insect thrive in your area?

Feed For Edible Insects

Livestock feed is especially important for insects. One of the reasons is that we consume the whole insect, including what is in their gut. Their gut can be purged by not feeding them for a few days before harvest. How effective this is varies species to species and I would say is probably not worth doing. I feel a better approach is use high quality feed. You can also gut load insects. It involves feeding insects particular nutrients right before harvest so when they are consumed, the contents of the gut are also ingested, providing additional nutrients. This practice is used when feeding crickets to lizards so they get all of the nutrients they need. I think this is not necessary for people because there will be getting other nutrients from other parts of their diet. An idea to explore is to add seasoning to the feed and see if the flavor is apparent. Cinnamon might pair well with the nutty flavor is some insects.

Another reason why feed is important is for sustainability. Sustainability is a core reason why we should be incorporating insects into our diets. Insect have a high feed conversion rate and low waste. In Thailand, high protein animal feed is used to raise insects according to a recent FAO document (http://www.fao.org/docrep/017/i3246e/i3246e.pdf). Feeding insects chicken defeats the purpose.

So what should we feed insects? I feel the best answer is an organic vegan diet. Let take a look at wax worm feed. The main components of wax worm feed that I have seen are honey, oats and glycerin. The glycerin is added to control water availability and texture. It would be better if there were formulations that don’t have glycerin. Honey can be replaced by high fructose corn syrup to lower costs. Maybe cane sugar syrup will be a suitable compromise. There is considerable flexibility in insect feed. As a consumer, you will ultimately decide what is in the insect feed. But please, no chicken.

I feel that producers need to be transparent about the feed they use to raise their insects. By doing this they can gain customer trust and customers will feel more comfortable consuming insects. Western culture feels eating insects is taboo. Educating consumers about what insects eat will help alleviate this issue. Open and honest communication with consumers and potential customers is the best way to gain acceptance and engagement with entomophagy.

Introduction

The practice of eating insects as food is know as entomaphagy (insect + to eat). 2 Billion people around the world regularly consume insects as part of their diets. There are two key benifits to consuming bugs. Insects are an excellent source of nutrition. Farm raised insects are environmentally friendly compared to traditional livestock.

Common insects as food are meal worms and crickets. There are hundreds of insects around the world but these are somewhat familiar and can be raised in the USA.

Most North Americans do not eat insects. Lets explore why and find out what we can do to incorporate insects into America’s diet.