Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Cricket Crunch: MSU Dairy Store, Department of Entomology create new ice cream flavor

May 17, 2024
The MSU Dairy Store's new Cricket Crunch ice cream flavor, in collaboration with the Entomology Department, on May 16, 2024.
The MSU Dairy Store's new Cricket Crunch ice cream flavor, in collaboration with the Entomology Department, on May 16, 2024.

The Michigan State Dairy Store partnered with the MSU Department of Entomology for the Excellence in Insect Science Symposium, a two-day event that finishes on May 17, to create a new ice cream flavor that commemorates the department and the new symposium. 

The flavor is Cricket Crunch; it’s made up of vanilla ice cream with caramel swirls, chocolate-covered and caramel-covered crickets.

Cricket Crunch was first debuted to those who attended the symposium during an after-event banquet yesterday, which included over a dozen dishes that incorporated insects: pita chips with bug dust, ramen with scorpion and more.

The new ice cream flavor will be available for the public to sample at the Dairy Store starting May 18 for a limited time after the symposium ends.

“We’ve done lots of partnerships with other departments, but nothing quite like this,” MSU Dairy Store Business Administrative Manager Aaron Weiner said. 

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Though seemingly daunting, the crickets are “pretty well-covered” in chocolate and caramel and most “can’t really tell” that it’s crickets at first glance, according to Weiner. Though some may be wary of eating crickets, Weiner confirmed that the insects, which were first delivered to the Kellogg Center and then sent to the Dairy Store to incorporate them into the ice cream, are FDA-approved and have no danger associated with them.

“I think a lot of people will be grossed out, people don’t want to eat bugs generally, but it’s really different,” Weiner said. “There’s nothing dangerous, nobody can get sick, these bugs are coming from a certified source just like any other food ingredient that we would use.”

Hannah Burrack is the current chairperson in the Department of Entomology at MSU and is one of the people who organized the symposium, including creating Cricket Crunch. Burrack said the symposium is extremely important to those interested in entomology and those who are already in the field.

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“We’re focused on bringing people doing innovative research on insects and their related organisms together around the themes of climate resilience, STEM education and One Health,” Burrack said. “The reason we picked those themes is that there’s a bunch of grand challenges globally that we’re facing around each of those issues, and there are really innovative things that we can do related to its science to have an impact in those spaces.”

Burrack said part of the reason why the symposium is able to be so successful is because of insects in general; the field of insects can form communities made up of people with similar interests, both new and veterans of the field.

“Insects are the sorts of organisms that can just really open people’s wonder to science and to nature, so we want to bring people together who are working in those spaces, to learn from each other, build new collaborations, and then hopefully do really big things,” Burrack said. “We study small things and we work on small things, but we have really big ideas and we can have really big impacts.”

Joseph Yoon is an Edible Insect Ambassador at Brooklyn Bugs and was one of the few people who helped make Cricket Crunch come to fruition. He also helped organize and brainstorm the other dishes served at the banquet. Yoon said he was happy with how everything turned out and working together with Burrack and her colleagues was great, specifically when incorporating important issues into his work. 

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“It’s been really amazing to now work around the idea of food security and sustainability. It’s been an incredible source of inspiration and motivation for me,” Yoon said. “I feel so fortunate by the amount of support that we’ve received because of Hannah Burrack. We don’t always get this level of support, but MSU has given us so much enthusiastic support.”

One of the first people who tried Cricket Crunch at the banquet was an associate professor of entomology at the University of Nebraska, Doug Golick. He said the ice cream was “really good, actually.”

“This is one of those things that if someone didn’t tell you, you probably wouldn’t know there’s an insect in there,” Golick said.

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Golick said that cricket ice cream is actually a step in a long process of insects becoming more and more prevalent in everyday food, such as those that were available at the banquet.

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“Over the years, I think the insect food as a whole has gotten a lot more palatable,” Golick said. “I’ve had other insect food (at the banquet) and it tasted very good.”

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Stephanie Dole, a panelist speaker at the symposium, tried the cricket ice cream within minutes of it being served. She said that this was her second time trying insect ice cream, the other time being in Portland, Oregon a while ago. 

Dole said that the ice cream was “really good” and that the crickets make it “brittle, like having pecans in ice cream.”

She was also a huge fan of the other food that was provided, including the make-your-own ramen, though it threw her into a personal predicament.

“I just ate really good ramen (with scorpion),” Dole said. “I felt a little guilty because I have two at home and I might look at them a little funny when I get home, but I won’t eat them.”

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Overall, people at the banquet seemed pleased with the new ice cream flavor, an accomplishment that Yoon will take to heart. Though adding crickets to ice cream seemed ambitious, he thought it was a great addition.

“To have the chocolate-covered crickets and caramel-covered crickets is really the cricket on top,” Yoon said. “Other people say cherry on top, I like cricket on top.”

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