Category Archives: Product Development

Cricket Bacon Bits – Recipe

Most everyone loves the taste of bacon. Salty, savory with a hint of smoke. This version has less fat, more protein and is more sustainable.

Compared to traditional dry roasted crickets that are not seasoned, the addition of salt alone dramatically increases palatability. Brining prior to cooking can potentially improve texture and durability.

Cricket Sourcing

Buy crickets raised for food use (or raise your own). If pet feed crickets are selected, keep the crickets alive for a few days, feeding them food of your choice to purge their system.

In this case, I bought crickets from a nearby pet store. This was not the most cost consciousness choice as the crickets were 10 cents each. Also, buying at the pet store is not the best option as we don’t exactly know what they are being fed. I fed the crickets corn meal and a piece of fruit for a day prior to harvesting.

Harvesting

Transfer the live crickets to another container, weeding out the dead ones, then put them in the freezer.

Bacon Brine

This brine was loosely taken from some online recipes.

Mix the brine and cover frozen raw crickets. Refrigerate for 6 – 24 hrs.

55.5% Water

2% Salt

1.25% Sugar

0.25% Curing Salt

1 – 2 % Liquid Smoke (leave out if actually smoking)

40% Crickets, Raw Frozen, Rinsed

Cooking

Due to having a high surface area to volume ratio, this cooking method is similar to making jerky.

Drain the crickets and spread out in a single layer on a baking sheets.

Pre-heat oven. Bake for at 250F for 10 minutes. This step fully cooks the crickets. The internal temperature will get above 165F with in 10 minutes.

Set oven to 175F and dehydrate for 2 – 4 hour or until the crickets are dry and crunchy/crumbly.

Store in a tightly sealed container at room temperature.

Recommended Use

Cobb Salad traditionally calls for crumbled bacon. Cricket bacon bits will be a great substitute.

Tasting Notes

This version of cricket bacon has a similar appearance and texture compared to dry roasted crickets.

The flavor is very mild and brothy with very minimal cricket-flavor. This batch was not very smoky in flavor. The palatability is dramatically improved with a salty and slightly sweet taste.

Recommendations for recipe changes

Adjust the temperature and time of the dehydration step to result in a more chewy cricket. If the crickets still have moisture, they may not be shelf stable.

Cook with a source of fat to achieve a more bacon like mouthfeel (bacon has a lot of fat).

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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.

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.

Cricket Powder Tasting Notes

Akketa and Cricket Flours were fresh samples and had the most flavor. The flavor and aroma were characteristic of cricket flour. Crustacean/shrimp-like, nutty, beany. All Things Bugs cricket powder was distinct having a mild flavor that was somewhat malty. The sample I have from World Ento is about a year and a half old and was mild in flavor; the flavor profile is characteristic and no other defects.

Samples of cricket powder were evaluated strait up and in water.

Akketta Cricket Flour (Aspire US)      IMG_0460

  • Strong aroma; Crustacean/shrimp-like, cooked beans (legumes like soybean or peas), Earthy
  • Strong flavor; Characteristic crickets flavor, crustacean/shrimp-like, soy nuts, nutty, cooked beans, roasted, earthy, roasted
  • Brown in color and slightly lumpy (likely due to being vacuum packaged)
  • Some coarse particulates visible
  • Recently purchased via direct online
  • Farmed and processed by Aketta in Austin, TX

Cricket Flours Cricket FlourIMG_0458IMG_0457

  • Medium strength aroma; Crustacean/shrimp-like, Fishy, cooked beans (legumes like soybean or peas), Earthy
  • Strong flavor; Characteristic crickets flavor, crustacean/shrimp-like, cooked beans, roasted, earthy, nutty, roasted
  • Dark brown in color
  • Some coarse particulates visible
  • Recently purchased via direct online
  • Crickets are raised in North America
  • Based out of Portland, OR
  • Species- Gryllodes sigillatus


All Things Bugs Milled Cricket PowderIMG_0459 IMG_0455

  • Low aroma; Crustacean/shrimp-like, malty
  • Mild flavor; Crustacean, malty, cooked beans, cocoa,
  • Pale off-white/Taupe in color, very fine powder
  • Chalky texture (The other samples were slightly gritty)
  • Cloudy in solutions (The other samples had particulates sink and float)
  • Sample from August last year (its about 5 months old or more). Opened and stored in ambient conditions.
  • Product of USA
  • Based out of Athens, GA
  • Species – Acheta domesticus

World Ento Pure Cricket PowderIMG_0454

  • Low aroma; Crustacean/shrimp-like, cooked beans (legumes like soybean or peas), Earthy
  • Mild flavor; Characteristic crickets flavor
  • Light brown color
  • Particulates visible
  • Sample is about 18 months old. Opened and stored in ambient conditions.

IMG_0461 2

 

Production Costs for 1 Bottle Of Cricket Worcestershire

Ive broken down the production cost into 3 parts – Food Ingredients, Packaging Costs and Overhead.

I have not executed yet so I might be off on my estimates. The overhead cost is modeled on producing 200 bottles using a commercial kitchen. Im overestimating the time is will take to produce 200 bottles which is really driving up the cost.

Packaging $ Per Bottle
Packaging – bottle 0.33
Packaging – cap/reducer/wrap 0.13
Packaging – label 0.25
Total Packaging Cost 0.71
Food Costs $/lb Usage Extended cost $/lb
Worcestershire Ingredients 2.00 50.0% 1.00
Cricket Broth 1.80 50.0% 0.90
Cricket Worcestershire 1.90
95% Yield 2.00
Labor/Overhead Staff # $/hr bottles/hr $/bottle
Facility Rental 100.00
Labor 2 30.00
Through put 50
Total Overhead Cost 2.60
Total Costs $/Per bottle (5 oz)
Cricket Worcestershire 0.63
Packaging Cost 0.71
Labor/overhead 2.60
Production cost per bottle 3.94

There are a few other costs that need to be taken account for. Im concerned with distribution costs. Who will fulfill orders via direct online sale and how much will it cost to do so?