Researchers determine nutritional properties of protein in cricket, locust and silkworm pupae insect powders — ScienceDaily

As the population grows to a projected 10 billion by 2050 and the total land mass remains constant, traditional animal husbandry may become a less viable method of food production.

Animal husbandry has traditionally fulfilled human dietary requirements for protein, but insects may serve as a substitute for direct human consumption in the future.

Jacek Jaczynski, professor of food science and muscle food safety at West Virginia University’s Davis School of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design, Young Luck Park, professor of entomology, and Kristin Matak, professor of animal sciences and nutrition, identify nutrients and functionalities. The protein properties of cricket, locust and silkworm powders, thus laying the foundation for the development of efficient protein isolation techniques.

Their findings were published in LWT.

“We have a patent for the protein isolation procedure,” Jaczynski said. “We use our patented technology to isolate protein and then also learn about the properties of the isolate protein and how it can be used in food for human consumption.”

According to Jaczynski, protein isolate is a process that allows protein to be purified and concentrated from different sources.

“For example, milk contains water, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and various proteins such as casein and whey,” Jaczynski says. “Whey protein can be selectively isolate by means of various isolates, which remove water, fat, carbohydrates, etc. This process results in either whey protein isolate or purified and concentrated protein.”

Whey protein isolate is a very common food additive that results in, for example, foods with a protein booster. In the Jaczynski, Park, and Matak project, they isolated a protein such as muscle protein from insects.

Jaczynski and Matak said that as the population grows, there should be an alternative protein option available.

“I think in general, we have a pretty good handle on carbs, but protein is always behind us,” Jaczynski said. “That’s why we target protein from those alternative sources like insects in the hope of contributing to reducing hunger, malnutrition, and challenging societal issues.”

“Global demand for sustainable sources of protein has led to a shift from traditional sources like meat to other sources that have otherwise been overlooked,” Mattaxid said. “Edible insects and insect meal are promising as alternatives to meat because they are rich in protein and contain all the essential amino acids.”

To make eating insects more attractive, researchers suggest turning the bug into a powder. This method is similar to the way humans process gains in flour to make them more edible.

Essentially, insect powders are dried, powdered insects that are similar to grain flour or powders derived from plants.

Although insecticide powders are a simple and convenient processing method for increasing shelf life, the original composition likely limits their applications in food products, which could lead to lower consumer acceptance, according to Jaczynski, Park and Matak.

Park said insect powders are currently available commercially and can be found in granola bars, tofu and burgers.

The practice of eating terrestrial insects is widely accepted in most parts of the world. However, in Western cultures, insect bites are viewed in a negative light.

Despite this, most edible terrestrial insects seem cleaner than crabs, lobsters, and shrimp, because they feed on fresh plants and wood rather than carrion.

Jaczynski said that 80% of the world’s population already consumes insects, and Western cultures make up 20% that do not.

“It’s a minority that doesn’t eat insects,” Jaczynski said. “As the population grows, we’ll have to feed everyone. I’m not saying insects will replace our farm animals, but it’s another alternative that seems more sustainable than what we’re currently doing.”

For example, insect protein can be harvested much faster than a cow or pig and would require less use of land and water as well. Insects also have a short lifespan, reproduce quickly, and require little habitat and simple nutritional requirements.

According to Jaczynski and Park, the insect harvest cycle is generally 45 days, which is much shorter than the four to 36 months for traditional farm animals.

It has been shown that a certain type of locust produces the same proteins found in pigs and cows called actin and myosin.

There are more than 2,000 species of insects that have been identified as safe for human consumption, Park said, but some species have been more commonly explored than others.

“Algal worms and crickets are common because they are so easy to mass produce,” Park said. “So when we produce insects as human food and animal feed, it should be very easy to mass-produce them, otherwise it just doesn’t justify the cost.”

Park added that in some Asian countries, people consume the remains of silkworms from cocoons because of their high nutritional value.

In their study, Jaczynski, Park, and Matak found that protein can be efficiently isolated from insects using pH solubility and sedimentation, resulting in isolates of high nutritional quality and functional.

Proteins, such as sugar and salt, dissolve in water. However, the solubility of a protein depends on the pH of the solution in which the protein is present.

“Depending on the pH of the protein solution, protein solubility can be turned on or off, like a light switch, so that the protein can either dissolve or precipitate (insoluble),” Jaczynski said.

Precipitation is the opposite of melting. When protein dissolves in a solution, it visually disappears from that solution, just like sugar or salt, while when protein precipitates, it reappears visually, according to Jaczynski.

“For insects, our goal is to selectively extract these nutrients, such as proteins and lipids,” Jaczynski said.

Jaczynski continued: “The grain has been around for a long time, and it has been perfectly accepted by the entire population.” “Why not use insects of the same species at a high level as a source of nutrients? We have to find a way to extract and isolate high-quality nutrients and develop prototypes that are well in line with our taste.”

This study was joined by Emily Brogan, a former MSc student in animal sciences and nutrition.

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