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American Journal of Biochemistry and Biotechnology
Year: 2009  |  Volume: 5  |  Issue: 4  |  Page No.: 210 - 220

The Black Cutworm as a Potential Human Food

A.E. Ghaly    

Abstract: Problem statement: The black cutworms (Agrotis ipsilon) were grown in an artificial medium to evaluate their potential as a human food. Approach: The culture was started from moths and the life cycle and culture structure were evaluated. There was an initial adjustment period of 3 days during which the growth of the larvae was very slow. The size of the larvae increased reaching maximum weight and length after 23 days and then declined as the larvae entered the pupation stage. For an efficient production system, the larvae should be harvested after 21 days. The moisture content of the medium may present an important management problem for commercial production. Results: A system in which the eggs are separated from the adults and hatched in separate cages would alleviate the danger of losing the new larvae due to fungal disease. The high moisture content of the larvae (60%) could also cause handling and storage problems. Drying and grinding the larvae would reduce them to easily manageable forms and would improve their marketability as novel food. The moisture, ash, carbohydrate, protein and fat contents were, 13.4, 12.1, 7.5, 53.1 and 13.9% (dry basis), respectively. The larval time index (time to produced one gram) was 3.20 d g-1 weight. Considering the fact that a female moth produces 1200 eggs, the population time index is 3.90 min g-1 weight. Because the larvae seem to be a promising source of protein for human consumption, further research is required to evaluate their growth characteristics on low substrates. Conclusion: The research should also evaluate the quality of larval protein (amino acid profile) and other nutritional values such as vitamins and minerals. The effects of environmental parameters, such as temperature, relative humidity and CO2 and heat production on food consumption and protein yield, should also be investigated. This information will aid in the design of an optimal production system of insect protein.

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