As with other nutraceutical ingredients, krill for instance, part of the market development history for a novel source is the discovery of new ways of harvesting raw material and/or processing or extracting the ingredients. Over time, the most efficient ways win out and some earlier methods fall by the wayside. The production of protein ingredients from crickets and other insects is still at this very early stage.
Dossey’s innovation is to grind the frozen insects first, before drying and heat treating to kill any microbes. Other producers take a different approach.
“Other producers roast the whole crickets first. It takes a lot of heat to roast the whole insect and dehydrate it, because their bodies are made to withstand heat and conserve moisture,” he said. “When I looked at the roasting times, I thought, this can’t be the way. With that much heat over that period of time you are getting a lot of nutrient degradation.”
While the bugs meant for human consumption are raised separately, the process hardly differs from the raising of crickets meant to feed lizards, Dossey said. A big advantage of crickets as an animal protein source is that, contrary to some people’s prejudices born of innate revulsion, crickets are actually a very clean animal, he said. It’s a big contrast to what you’d see in any livestock barn or poultry house.
“Their bodies aren’t in contact much with the ground. And their droppings are dry and don’t adhere, and tend to fall through the mesh in the bottom of the cage. We’ve never found salmonella or listeria in any of our plate counts with the incoming insects. Of course, there’s yeast and mold, but that’s everywhere on everything. In fact, most of the microbes we do find probably come from inside their bodies in their digestive tract as we use the whole insect,”
“The aroma is more mild, the texture is finer and the color is lighter,” Dossey said.
The protein portion of the ingredient— is highly competitive with other animal protein sources in terms of its quality—comes mostly from the animals’ muscle tissue. But the exoskeltons contribute a polysaccharide fraction that is similar to chitosan, for which various nutraceutical functions are claimed, including acting as a dietray fiber and/or blocking fat absorption. It’s too early to say what, if any, functions this polysaccharide portion in the cricket protein powder might have. Dossey said that’s a matter for further study.
Room for improvement
huge potential for insect proteins in the marketplace. The ingredient made with his process has a lot of formulation flexibility, he said, and there is a lot of room for improvement on the raw material side.
“The process of raising the insects is very simple and there has been almost no technological development.
Bugs are a good source of protein, higher than other animal products, and are more sustainable than larger animals. So, the idea of eating bugs, although foreign to Americans, could soon catch on, and Dossey wants to lead the way.