By: Connor Doke, Sophia Harman-Heath & Veronica Groves
With today’s growing world population, it is becoming increasingly important to find renewable and sustainable sources and methods of producing our food. In this study, we compared the amount of calories per gram obtained from muffins made with cricket flour and regular flour (n=3). It was observed that there was a greater amount of Cal/gram (or Kcal/gram) for the cricket flour muffins than the regular muffins with mean Kcal/g of 0.063 Kcal/g and 0.045Kcal/g respectively. Using error bar analysis, it was found that the gap was -0.043 indicating that the groups were not significantly different. Since both muffins showed similar calorie count, using cricket flour may be an alternate source of energy and protein nutrients to traditional flour. This has important consequences since 18% of greenhouse gas emissions are a result of livestock and yet approximately one billion people go hungry as a consequence of lack of food.
The consumption of too little calories, or malnutrition, is one of the most important nutrition problems that the world is facing (Nestle, 2012) that affects more than one billion people worldwide (Nestle, 2012). Calories consumed from food are the source of energy that our bodies need to perform all of our daily tasks like breathing or circulating blood (Nestle, 2012) and not consuming enough calories can lead to serious problems like premature death and increased vulnerability to infectious diseases (Nestle, 2012).
Due to the increase in population growth there is becoming an increasing importance in finding new and environmentally sustainable ways to produce livestock to meet the growing demand (Annan, 2014). Traditional ways of raising livestock is responsible for 18% of all greenhouse gas emissions (Gordon, 2011) due to the methane gas that pigs and cows admit everyday which is even more than cars and trucks admit (Gordon, 2011). This is of great concern since the increase in greenhouse gas emissions is linked to the greenhouse effect which traps heat from the sun inside of our atmosphere and causes climate change (Climate Change Indicators in the United States). Traditional livestock also consume large amounts of water in order to survive. For example, cows drink twenty-five to fifty gallons of water (Gordon, 2011) whereas one in six people don’t have access to safe drinking water (Gordon, 2011). This has caused scientists to search for alternative food options that could meet this growing demand.
However, research has shown that insects could be a more environmentally viable option to replace traditional livestock as a source of protein and nutrients. This caused us to ask the questions; can insects be a viable caloric supplement to traditional livestock? Or to simplify, can cricket’s be incorporated into food for an extra source of calories? The earth is home to an abundance of insects which could translate to four hundred and forty to four thousand four hundred bugs per person which shows the possibility of abundant amounts of food (Van Huis, Takken-Kaminker, Blumenfeld-Schaap, Van Gurp, Dicke, 2014). They also consume less water than traditional livestock with some species, like mealworms, getting their water sources from their food which would help save water (Gordon, 2011). Edible insects were also found to produce fewer greenhouse gases according to Dutch scientists (Gordon 2011).
There is an estimated six billion species of insects varying in size and weight that inhabit the Earth with over nineteen hundred of them being edible (Van Huis, Takken-Kaminker, Blumenfeld-Schaap, Van Gurp, Dicke, 2014). The types of insects that are edible include beetles, hymentoptera, caterpillars, grasshoppers, locusts and crickets, all of which are sources of protein fat and fibre (Van Huis, Takken-Kaminker, Blumenfeld-Schaap, Van Gurp, Dicke, 2014). Insects already make up the diet of two billion people worldwide and are considered popular treats in countries like Mexico, Singapore and China (Van Huis, Takken-Kaminker, Blumenfeld-Schaap, Van Gurp, Dicke, 2014). In comparison to beef, the protein content of insects is between twenty and seventy-five percent whereas the protein content of beef is between forty to seventy-five percent which shows that insects are significant sources of protein since it’s greater than or equal to that of beef (Van Huis, Takken-Kaminker, Blumenfeld-Schaap, Van Gurp, Dicke, 2014). Insects are also a good source of several different vitamins depending on the insect. For example, mopane caterpillars are high in iron which is important for pregnant women and children since about 50% of pregnant women and 40% of preschool children in developing countries are anemic (Van Huis, Takken-Kaminker, Blumenfeld-Schaap, Van Gurp, Dicke, 2014). Fibre is also present in insect through their chitin.
Our research would help increase knowledge of edible insects as a food source since there is a stigma of disgust associated with the idea of eating insects in western societies (Annan, 2014). Education is the key to eliminating this stigma and introducing insects as a viable and environmentally sustainable food substitute and option. Our research would show that that crickets specifically could be a significant source of calories when incorporated into muffins in the form of cricket flour.
Our experimental hypothesis stated that if we replace flour with cricket flour there will be more calories per muffin than the muffins with regular flour and so, our prediction was that the cricket muffins would have more calories than the regular muffins.
Materials & Methods
This experiment was completed in two parts. Approximately one thousand European crickets, or Gryllotalpa gryllotalpa, were used in the making of 3 cups of cricket—Red Rose flour. Each individual was frozen, placed in a baking tray and baked at 400°C. Once completely dry, the crickets were removed from the oven and placed in a strainer, where they were shook, so as to remove the front legs and antennae. After being shook, they were placed in a blender and ground into fine powder. For the one cup of ground cricket flour that was produced, two cups of Red Rose All Purpose flour was added to make for a mix of both cricket and regular flour, resulting in a final ratio of 1:2.
The sample size used in this experiment was n = 3. Three batches of cricket muffins were made using the cricket—Red Rose flour mix, and three batches of control muffins were made using Red Rose All Purpose Flour. Each batch included three muffins each. The muffin recipe used for this experiment combined ½ cup of flour with ¼ cup of sugar, ¼ of one beaten egg, ½ teaspoon of baking powder, ¼ cup of milk, 2 ½ tablespoons of melted butter and finally, approximately ½ teaspoon of vanilla extract. Once removed from the oven, the muffins were placed in separate Ziplock bags and left out to dry for a week.
The second part of this experiment involved removing three small pieces from one of the three muffins per control or experimental group. Each piece of muffin came from the top, middle and bottom parts. In separate beakers, these pieces were placed in the oven at low heat to remove any leftover moisture. The mass of each piece was then recorded (Mi). A test tube with 10 mL of tap water was placed over an ethanol lighter and the temperature of the water was recorded (Ti). One by one, each piece of muffin was lit and burned underneath the 10 mL test tube. Once the piece of muffin would no longer burn burn, its mass was recorded (Mf) as well as the final temperature of the water (Tf). The following equation was used to calculate the results:
Q = mc∆t (1)
where Q is the energy released by the muffin (J), m is the mass of the water (g) and ∆t is the difference in water temperature (°C).
The statistical methods used to analyze the results in this experiment were descriptive and inferential statistics.
As demonstrated in figure 1, the control group of muffins without cricket flour had a lower mean Kcal/g than the experimental group with a mean of 0.045 Kcal/g whereas the experimental group had a mean of 0.063 Kcal/g. Although it may seem that these are quite different, the standard deviation for the experimental group was much greater than that of the control, the experimental group having a standard deviation of 0.035 and the control having one of 0.008.
Since the standard deviation for the experimental group was much larger, the standard error for both groups follow the same trend in that the standard error for the experimental group, 0.02, was much larger than that of the control group, 0.0047. Even though the two means are visibly different, the difference is not significant. After error bar analysis the gap error was found to be -0.043, this is not ≥2SE and is thus not significant.
Figure 1: The means of the experimental group’s mean Kcal/g compared to the control group’s mean Kcal/g. Also depicted are positive and negative error bars for both groups. (n=3)
Table 1. Summary of statistics for control and experimental groups including mean, standard deviation and standard error.
|Control group (Kcal/g)||Experimental group (Kcal/g)|
Although our results were found to be favorable in terms of the cricket flour muffins having a higher concentration of energy than the all purpose flour muffins—as shown in figure 1. of the results—based on our calculations, the results were not found to be statistically significant and therefore do not support the experimental hypothesis. Through error bar analysis the gap error was calculated to be -0.043, which is not greater than or equal to twice the standard error and therefore not significant.
Although our results were not found to be significant there are still a number of research projects that study insects as a viable source of energy and nutrients as stated in the introduction. Studies have shown that in fact, most insects contain more protein, iron and fibre than traditional meats consumed in western culture, such as beef, pork or chicken (Van Huis, Takken-Kaminker, Blumenfeld-Schaap, Van Gurp, Dicke, 2014). In the case of our experimental results, it should follow through that the calorie content of each cricket muffin goes hand in hand with the presence of important nutrients within each muffin, and furthermore this puts into question whether or not our experimental methods were truly efficient.
There are a number of variables that could play into the inefficiency of our experimental methods. For instance, lighting each piece of muffin on fire was found to be difficult, and after a while became very time consuming. Even when lit, the flame would only last for a very brief period of time, and within the time it would take to relight, the temperature of the water would have already decreased, having a severe impact on the results. This could have more to do with how moist each muffin was, and perhaps placing them in the oven for a greater amount of time, allowing for them to dry out even more, would have made them easier to burn.
Another plausible explanation as to why our experimental results do not follow through with our initial research, is that holding each flaming muffin underneath a test tube full of water does not guarantee a 100% effective transfer of energy from muffin to water, and it can be assumed that some if not most of the energy escaped into the surrounding environment.
To conclude, the experimental results do not follow through with our initial hypothesis of each cricket muffin containing more energy in Kcal/g than the regular all purpose flour muffins. Repeating this experiment again with more efficient methods would hopefully and presumably lead to more statistically significant results that match up with most of the research being done at this time.
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