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
Edible Insect Farming and Processing Questionnaire
- Describe the current Good Manufacturing Process (cGMP) used at the facility
- Describe the sanitation procedures
- Insect contact surfaces and equipment cleaning
- Environmental monitoring
- Are the insects clean and wholesome? Explain.
- Do they contain any external waste
- Are the insects raised specifically for human consumption
- What are the technical specifications of the product? Please attach a specification for each requested product.
- Protein content
- Please attach a pictures of the finished good including packaging and labels
- Describe the facility security
- Describe the rearing process
- Do you rear insects yourself
- Describe the feed.
- Feed ingredients
- Describe the housing
- Size(volume) per housing unit
- Surface area per housing unit
- Number of crickets per housing unit
- Are the insect treated humanely. Explain.
- Access to food
- Access to water/moisture
- Freedom to exercise instinctual behaviors
- Monitoring frequency
- Describe how the insects are harvested
- How are live insects separated from the remains
- Slaughter process
- Describe the storage conditions
- Describe the further processing
Let me know if I missed any questions.
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.
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?
- Buy, rent or borrow a large plot of prairie land away from other cultivated land.
- Select a grasshopper species that is already successful in that area. Differential Grasshopper?
- Foster shrubs and grasses that accommodate that species of grasshopper. Mow the perimeter to prevent inward or outward migration.
- 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.
- Sit back and relax as the grasshoppers mature.
- Harvest by attaching nets to traditional farming tractors and sweep the plot in an inward spiral. They do this by hand in Asia.
- Freeze for storage.
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.
- 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?
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.
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.