Functional Properties of Protein and Chitin from Commercial Cricket Flour

2019-01-03T20:20:34Z (GMT) by Andrew J. Hirsch
The House Cricket (Acheta domesticus) is a promising alternative to traditional protein sources, as these insects produce over 12 times the mass of protein for a given mass of food/water when compared to cattle, while also producing lower amounts of greenhouse gases and NH3 emissions (Kim et al. 2017, Hanboonsong, Jamjanya and Durst 2013, Van Huis 2013). Additionally, previous studies have demonstrated significant emulsification and gelling properties of insect flours, such as from cricket, which has been attributed to the functional properties of the protein (Kim et al. 2017). Ground cricket flours contain significant quantities of both protein and fibrous polysaccharides, particularly chitin. Since chitin particles are also capable of preparing emulsions as a Pickering stabilizer, there remains a question on the relative role of the protein and chitin components in crickets for stabilizing emulsion products. Relative contributions of each component was identified by first isolating the water-soluble protein and water-insoluble chitin fractions from ground cricket flour and then determining their interfacial properties and stability of prepared oil-in-water emulsions. Dynamic interfacial tension measurements indicated significant surface activity of the protein fraction, while there was minimal evidence of significant surface pressure development in the presence of 5-10 μm chitin particles. 10 % (w/w) canola oil-in-water emulsions were prepared with 0.5-2% (w/w) of the water-soluble protein fraction and 5.29% (w/w) canola oil-in-water emulsions were prepared with 0.688% of the chitin fraction. Stability of the emulsions against creaming was between 75% and 90% for emulsions stabilized by the protein fraction over three weeks of storage and between 93% and 96% for emulsions stabilized by chitin over 24 hours of storage. Significant fractions of precipitate- and oil-layers found in chitin-stabilized dispersions was attributed to the presence of large chitin particles (79 μm volume weighted mean diameter) and inefficient adsorption to droplet interfaces during homogenization, respectively. Volume-weighted mean diameter of emulsified oil droplets remained at 17-24 μm among protein-stabilized (>1.5 wt%) emulsions over three weeks of storage but only 60 μm over 24 hours among chitin-stabilized emulsions. Light micrographs of emulsion droplets showed successful adsorption of chitin fractions to oil droplets in the emulsion layer, verifying their potential as Pickering stabilizers. These findings demonstrated that both water-soluble protein and chitin particles obtained from ground cricket flours are legitimate emulsion stabilizers, yet the chitin fraction is much less effective without a more intensive approach to reduce their particle size.