Would You Like Fries With Your Insect Burger, Ma’am?

A trip to a supermarket is a rare luxury in a pandemic lockdown, but were I to cruise the aisles with my basket today I’d probably come away with a healthy pile of fruit and veg, a bit of meat and fish, and maybe some cheese. My shopping basket in 2031 though might have a few extras, and perhaps surprisingly some of them might be derived from insects. That’s a future made a little closer, by EU scientists declaring that farmed insect products are safe for humans and animals to eat.

Global map showing meat consumption in 2013
Is meat consumption at this level sustainable? Our World In Data, CC BY 3.0.

We humans, like some of our fellow great ape cousins, are omnivores. We can eat anything, even if we might not always want to eat some things twice. As such, the diets of individual populations would in the past have varied hugely depending on the conditions that existed wherever they lived, giving us the ability to spread to almost anywhere on the planet — and we have.

Over the past few hundred years this need to subsist only on foods locally available has been marginalized by advances in agriculture. For those of us in developed countries, any foodstuff that takes our fancy can be ours for a trivial effort. This has meant an explosion of meat consumption as what was once a luxury food has become affordable to the masses, and in turn a corresponding agricultural expansion to meet demand that has placed intolerable stresses on ecosystems and is contributing significantly to global warming. It’s very clear that a mass conversion to veganism is unlikely to take place, so could farmed insects be the answer to our cravings for meat protein? It’s likely to be a tough sell to consumers, but it’s a subject that bears more examination.

Your Tasty, Nutritious, And Wriggy Friend!

Mealworms in bran
Mealworms thrive on a diet of bran. Richard Chambers, (CC BY-SA 3.0).

Before any reader imagines chowing down on a creepy-crawly, it’s worth pointing out that the insects in question are likely not to be winged and legged adults staring back at would-be diners. Instead this is a story of an alternative protein source. These would almost certainly be larvae, the earlier stage in an insect lifecycle, dried and processed into other foodstuffs. So we may eventually eat a hamburger made from insect protein, for example.

The species most often named as a candidate is the mealworm, a beetle larva that is particularly easy to breed and which can be fed on readily available by-products of the cereal industry such as wheat bran. They are so straightforward to farm that it can be done at home, but even when scaled up to a commercial size facility they take up a fraction of the land and water resources required to farm the equivalent volume of livestock protein.

Don’t Get EU Scientists Started

The research paper from the EU scientists presents a detailed analysis of dried mealworm larvae, both whole and ground to a powder. For a non-food-scientist it’s an eye-opener how much detail they go into when doing this work, but as consumers it’s important for us to know that levels of bacteria, toxic heavy metals, or other poisonous compounds are kept in check. After a detailed examination of the farming procedure, they conclude that properly treated mealworm products fed on appropriate food that doesn’t contain any such nasties present no risks when eaten. Of the batches they tested, some had as high as 58.9% protein and 27.6% fat, with the majority of the rest being dietary fibre in the form of chitin. Anecdotal evidence from the online research for this piece suggests they have a pleasant flavour, described by some as slightly nutty.

I grew up surrounded by farmland on a heavy clay soil that had traditionally been dairy land but which transitioned over the 1970s and 1980s to arable with the introduction of more efficient soil management tillage techniques. Today it grows acres and acres of cereal crops, but they are by and large not destined for your plate. Instead huge swathes of countryside provide the feed for indoor livestock rearing operations, a vast quantity of land produces a surprisingly small quantity of foodstuff. Growing up in a British farming community as I did I enjoy eating good-quality meat, but it’s a view I’ve progressively arrived at over the years that farming it in this way is by no means the most efficient way to make food from land, nor is it the most environmentally friendly. I’d prefer to eat smaller quantities of higher-standard beef than expect daily to eat beef that has been intensively farmed in this manner. The prospect of farmed insect protein fed on the by-products from food crops grown on that land is thus one that can only be a positive step, and I welcome the EU move as an early step in our making that change. The question is, who will be first to pop a bug-burger in their shopping basket?

167 thoughts on “Would You Like Fries With Your Insect Burger, Ma’am?

    1. Most people don’t like to think about the 1lbs to 2lbs in insect parts they already unknowingly eat every year.
      It is also best not to google Cochineal Scale dye if you like red sweets…
      I would never ask a deli butcher for frozen meat stories… ;-)

      1. We have Cochineal here on the cacti in my yard at 2000m in NM. They are pretty tough considering how far south into Mexico they also live. The history of it is a great read.

        1. Grubs are cleaner, and better for you…. If you eat ground beef chances are you regularity injest the critters already. Note, there is also suggestions eating human prions drives you insane just like mad-cow disease.

          Have you considered a Dormouse-Fattening Jar of Ancient Rome?
          A sesame seed and honey glazed BBQ rat is likely very nutritious…

      2. I did already try some fried insects in asia. It was not bad, but in comparison to a good piece of meat, e.g. a steak I for sure know what to prefer :)
        But where or when should we eat up to a kilogram of insects unknowingly? Not really believable.

    2. Vegans: We made meat from plants! You can’t tell the difference from cow-meat and it solves the climate & ethical issues with meat consumption! It’ll be cheaper too once we stop subsidizing animal products with our tax dollars.

      Meat-Eaters: What if we ate bugs?

        1. Yup, I was just reading earlier, that organic, ethically sourced, sustainably sourced etc, usually means zero or near zero pesticide use, so the produce is crawling, and not a whole lot is eliminated in processing.

        1. Agreed. I have tried every plant based protein replacement for a beef patty and I have yet to find one that I can equate to cow-meat in flavor, that is, unless I add a significant amount of BBQ sauce, but at that point I could be eating old boot leather and wouldn’t taste anything but BBQ sauce.

        2. While not a vegetarian, I’ve tried a few veggie patties, made some burgers at home and was pleasantly surprised. It was tastier than cheap meat patties and I felt better afterwards than after a traditional meat burger. If the taste stays the same or improves AND the prices come down, I’m all for it.

          1. While I agree with the first part, I think fast-food chains cannot get enough meat for the burgers. At least not the kind of meat we usually associate with burgers.

  1. I wouldn’t mind eating insect protein if the price is right… i can’t really afford a proper piece of meat anyway.

    But surely the headline should be “Do you want FLIES with your insect burger”

    1. Nice pun :-D

      I don’t consider a burger a proper piece of meat anyway. Depending on where you get it, I’m dubious of the quality of the meat it contains anyway (isn’t that the original point of ground meet?). I’ve been impressed by the non-meat alternatives like the impossible burger, beyond meat burger, and a few lesser-known brands that I’ve tried. I’d be open to trying burgers that incorporate insect protein powder.

      Regarding cost, intuitively I would thing meal worm protein would be less costly to produce for a multitude of reasons: faster growth cycles, less transportation and processing costs, etc.

      1. It’s not easy to find these non-meat alternatives here in Europe unfortunately, though my local supermarket has recently started offering a few products from Beyond Meat (mainly the burger). I wouldn’t mistake them for real meat, but I like the taste nonetheless and I could definitely see myself replacing most, if not all, of the meat I consume (which is not a lot in the first place) with these products. The only issues are diversity, price, and availability : only 1 brand and 2 products, only in this supermarket, and almost as expensive as high-quality meat. Hopefully this will progressively become cheaper and more widespread. In any case, I think I prefer eating these kind of plant-based alternatives than insect-based ones, but time will tell.
        There is also the idea of lab-grown meat that was so hyped about a few years back, promising “real” meat for a fraction of the ecological cost and without killing actual animals. I wonder if it will end up being a thing.

        1. Over here in Sweden, our domestic burger chain, Max Burgers AB, have done a pretty good job in terms of adopting plant-based patties. While the price is nothing to sniff at – it’s about the cost of a small side of fries to have a meat-free patty – I have to admit that the result is pretty compelling.

          Texture-wise it’s pretty close – something more akin to a patty made from ground chicken than ground beef – but as far as the flavor goes it’s pretty well on the mark. It makes sense in that regard, since most of the flavor that goes into a beef patty is a result of the seasonings, the filler materials, and the cooking method. Everyone’s friend, the Maillard Reaction, is critical for a good steak or other cut of meat, but at the end of the day the majority of a burger’s flavor comes from the condiments, the toppings, the seasonings, the cooking method, and only distantly the reaction of heat against meat protein.

          That is, to be honest, why I think efforts like this are completely misguided.

          I enjoy a good cut of proper meat as much as the next omnivore, but even aside from the stated taste characteristics of these ground-mealworm patties, it seems a bit nutty. If it’s protein content that people are after, then there’s no end of plant protein that can be processed directly into plant-based burger patties. If it’s flavor that people are after, then as I said, Max Burgers practically have it nailed already.

          Focusing on processing insect larvae into meat-adjunct products is, as I see it, simply inserting a middle-man (middle-bug?) into the process that nobody wants and nobody needs. It exponentially increases the “ick” factor from the consumer standpoint, while giving no practical dietary benefits over something made almost purely from a clever blend of actual plant products.

          Based on the flavor profiles reported in the article, it’s clear that nobody’s going to be fooled when eating a mealworm burger versus a real burger, so if that’s the case, why even bother? If a person already knows that they’re not eating capital-M *Meat*, then why the gyrations to try to pivot into insects? Are these EU scientists really that hard up for funding, or having their names on a published white paper? The whole thing seems a bit pointless when plant-based patties have increased in quality by leaps and bounds over the past 15-20 years.

          1. I think the key point here is that its using a by-product that would otherwise be discarded to produce additional food.

            “fed on readily available by-products of the cereal industry””

            The less you discard the better. I am interested in “off the grid”/”self sufficient” living. Being able to easily produce high amount of food on a small space sounds like a dream to me.

        2. Depends on where you are in Europe I reckon. In Manchester (UK) there seems to be a lot of meat-style vegan products around and the major supermarket chains are stocking them. There’s more of it in the city centre stores then it starts getting rarer as you head further out.

        3. In Germany, the meat alternatives are to be found at the usual chain suspects. There’s “Beyond Meat”, “No meat just burger” and some chains have started testing out their own production. But, as you say, the prices are quite high.

          They are mostly to be found in the frozen goods isle.

          Maybe I don’t understand the process right, but I feel that I have to cook frozen meat thouroughly to avoid food intoxication, but don’t worry so much about the substitutes. I place almost zero-trust into pre-ground meat, knowing how it’s usually made.

      2. Back in the dark ages, when I was a student, there were dried textured soy protein meal mixes that were a) very cheap, about a third the price of doing it with ground beef. b) actual mouth feel and taste was not that different to ground beef c) fairly convenient, it was like the meat and sauce part of chili, bolognese or curry, had to add some bits and pieces, simmer for ~20 mins, cook the side… Anyway, never have I found any soy protein as good again. I don’t know if maybe they were using yeast extract flavorings, or fermented soy and the ultravegans crapped on the brand or what. So it’s frustrating, knowing that textured veggie proteins can be the equal of meat, and can be significantly cheaper than meat, but in recent times just finding a useable approximation of ground beef is damn hard at any price.

        I would probably try burger-ised, bologne-fied, or hotdog-ificated insect protein, but too much squick factor for just pan fried worms or something.

        1. My main complaint against meat substitutes like soy protein is that you can’t really cook with them. It’s already half-cooked in a sense. Real ground beef can be mixed with spices into a dough and turned into meatballs, or kebab, or hamburger patties, etc. as well as making chili or pasta bolognese and those types of food. You can make a meat loaf, or squeeze it into sausages… whereas the soy crumbs will only ever be soy crumbs.

          1. Nah, that didn’t convince me. For the price of one patty you can buy a pound of ground beef, and the “meat” itself tastes vaguely like pea soup. The patties come in frozen to keep them from disintegrating – once they’re thawed they tend to come apart.

            And the list of ingredients is harrowing: cellulose, methyl cellulose, gum arabic, coconut oil… the meat texture or “fiber” is basically made by mixing what amounts to cardboard and gum to a protein extract, and the blood is emulated with some beet root juice.

            But at least I won’t be constipated eating it. E461 is also used as a laxative.

          2. I have seen multiple attempts at ground “beef” made by extruding pea protein extract with some coloring agents and fibers added in, but they all behaved like dry play-doh and tasted bitter – exactly like boiled out fried pea soup.

            I guess some people can’t taste the bitterness of it, kinda like how some people don’t mind the artificial sweeteners in Pepsi Max, or they bury it with spices so it doesn’t matter.

          3. > and the list of ingredients is harrowing

            You do know literally everything is made of chemicals, yes? And seriously, you list *cellulose* as a problem? Have you not eaten a single plant in your life? Or are you really just trolling?

          4. >You do know literally everything is made of chemicals, yes?

            Seriously? Oh, I had no idea! Thank you so much! How can I ever repay you! Do you want my firstborn son?

            > And seriously, you list *cellulose* as a problem?

            Cellulose and methyl cellulose is not FOOD to humans – and in this case it’s just artificial fillers, the same as adding chalk to water and pretending it’s milk. That’s the problem. Go chew on grass if you want to eat cellulose.

          5. The idea of mixing in modified wood fiber to emulate meat is reminiscent of the Haitian “mud cake”, which is literally dirt baked with salt and margarine to emulate food, so people could fill their bellies and stave off hunger in the lack of funds to buy actual food.

            At least soylent green was food. In the actual future, people will eat the box with the cereals because they can’t afford or aren’t allowed real meat.

    2. I hear that. I recently noticed I’d become almost vegan just because it was cheaper. Tofu and almond milk are cheaper than beef or pork and cow milk, and take a lot longer to spoil.

      I get chicken now and then, and ground beef when it’s on clearance, but steak is a thing of the past. Who wants to spend $20+ on a single cut of meat?

      1. I forgot to add something I always try to share with people: Combining meat and tofu is a great way to stretch it.

        I like to grill tofu alongside hamburgers and put cooked patties on top of the tofu slices while I do the next batch, which infuses the tofu with a nice beefy-fatty flavor. I’ve oven roasted chicken thighs on top of sliced tofu with a bit of broth in the bottom of the pan. The resulting tofu tastes just like chicken, despite the more consistent texture. A bit like processed chicken patties, but better.

        1. Meat Stretchers: For casserole, soup, stew, goulash type things, and possibly pie fillings too, I find chickpeas or black eyed peas are a good substitute for half the chicken in a recipe. Or for pork or beef recipes, kidney beans, navy beans or pinto beans. Red lentils also work well in something that simmers a while as they’ll all but disappear into the broth and thicken it up. You can do as the Mexicans do with pinto beans and mash them up for burrito or taco fillings, blending with a bit of beef if you want.

      2. Well seafood is one of the more expensive meats unless one is in a good location.* But the alternatives kind of solve one of the more vexing problems of the real thing and that’s perishability. Right now in these pandemic times if one wants the real deal that’s basically mask, and social distancing.

        *Natural source or fish farm.

        1. I’d be curious to see if mealworms raised on seaweed would take on a fishy/shrimpy flavour. Now that you mentioned seafood.

          Just rehydrating seaweed to add to ramen noodle soups makes it take on a seafood smell and taste.

          I’d be curious to know if feeding the mealworm larvae this stuff makes it fishier/shrimpier?

      3. Depends on where you live. In Czech republic and in Slovakia meat (non ground) is extremely cheap. I can get 3 chicken hindquarters (local, not Polish or Chinese jokes) for 5-6 euros. There are also cheeper variants of course. With rice it’s the cheepest food you can get.
        Whereas that vegan stuff is either unobtainable or priced much heigher than high quality beef per gram so it’s practically reserved just for hipsters working in IT :D
        (But we are weird countries where also cheepest beer in a restaurant is usually much cheeper than water.)

        1. Re “weired country”: You make some of the best beer and have 0.0 promille regulation for driving :-( Not nice. Alcohol free beer has something in common with the foodstuff discussed here – meatfree “meat”.

  2. One of my local fast food chains have a plant based “meat” product that one can optionally request for in any of their meals without extra cost. It is not really the exact same taste as meat. The texture is a bit different as well, though one that I personally like more…

    Though, less meat heavy diets can be had in general to be fair.
    Supplementing a meal with a good salad can improve the meal in general.

    And a sallad obviously doesn’t have to be roughly chopped mixed vegetables. One can do far more than that with vegetables and bring for much better tastes than some people might at first expect.

  3. Lots of people will be grossed out, but that’s just learned bias. I find it interesting the Instructable you link to, talks about feeding the mealworms to a breeding pair of Guinea Pigs and eating the offspring as meat. Another thing that would many people wouldn’t ever think of eating, but is very common in some places.

    Personally, I’ll stick with being a vegan.

    1. Whoa, I didn’t read that far into the instructable.

      I think you’re right about the learned bias. I’m happy to see a scholarly study that looks at the whole process and concludes they are safe. It’s an eww factor that I think gives people pause. Sure, our art of this one isn’t helping that (amazing work form Joe Kim though!) but I think the vast majority of people would opt for powdered and not whole.

    2. >Lots of people will be grossed out, but that’s just learned bias.

      I was going to mention this. Last year I was part of a science festival event which included a stand about insect protein, and they had some cookies made with cricket flour. It sounds unpleasant, but when you actually tasted them there was definitely a nutty flavour to it, but it wasn’t off-putting, and a lot of people agreed that they were quite nice.

      In contrast, I also know a lot of people who work on the biology of animal parasites, and have told me stories about going to the abbatoir to get samples. Apparently it varies by which farm brings in animals on a given day, but some of the batches of animals are just riddled with intestinal worms or liver flukes (this is considered a good day for the parasitology gang). This sort of thing hadn’t ever really occurred to me before, and I think the fact that we’re so divorced from animal agriculture means we’re totally ignorant of the less appealing parts of it.

      Then again, I asked one of the parasitologists once if having to squeeze out animal intestines in search of parasites put them off meat, and oddly they said no, they always left the abbatoir with a craving for bacon. So obviously some people really aren’t put off by the dirty details.

      1. I once stopped at an emu kiosk at a County Fair.
        They had samples of emu meat to taste.
        Unfortunately(?), all I tasted was the spices they had mixed in to it.

        So, when trying “new” foods, I wonder how much of “something else” is added to disguise the real flavo[u]r.

        1. In many cases meat from exotics is too expensive so it’s stretched with additives. A local hot dog place offers rattlesnake, reindeer, elk, quail, but they’re all stretched/diluted 50% with ground pork, because the pork industry is heavily subsidized through massive tax incentives for farmers whose grain output goes to pig feed, and has huge economy of scale because people have figured out how to grow chickens in boxes and pigs in just slightly more than boxes. You can’t do that with emu or rattlesnakes (yet.) The result is a lot more looking if you want to find actual exotics.

        2. I guess if they’re spicing it that heavily it’s not naturally all that palatable. A few years ago there were several ostrich farms popping up in my area and they were promoting that, very tasty.

          1. Every 5 years (Since 3 decades ago) there seems to be buzz about ostrich, healthier than beef, tastier than beef, more sustainable than beef, even cheaper than beef, but I have yet to come across it in supermarkets.

            In Northern Canada some while ago, they were going to try farmed reindeer, but the beef lobby got it killed.

          2. I did a project in South Africa a couple of decades ago and at one point went to a backyard barbecue thrown by one of the local guys and he cooked a single ostrich drumstick, slowly turning on a rotisserie over his grill.

            Two feet long. Right out of The Flintstones.

            Oddly, I remember it as “doesn’t taste like chicken”.

            If I recall correctly, it was more red-meat-ish, or at least much less like chicken/turkey/duck dark meat than I expected.

            As I understood it, it was pretty rare to actually _eat_ ostrich.

            Ostrich was common on farms, but was grown for leather, the meat was a by-product. Apparently it wasn’t economical to get a pound of meat out of an ostrich, which you had to feed for two years to get to size, when you could get that same pound out of a chicken that took 9 weeks to grow for market.

            More topically, on the same trip I had a dish like pasta alfredo, but made with toasted mealworms of some sort. Apparently a local delicacy.

            They were good.

            OK, the first one was a challenge, but they were nutty and buttery, and you really didn’t get “bug” out of them when they were breaded and cooked. Really, not much different than if the pasta had been served with, say, shrimp scampi.

        3. Kangroo is readily available here and is great – VERY lean. While its on our coat of arms (like the emu) I believe we are the only country to eat all the animals depicted on our coat of arms. Talking about conditioning My wife just wont eat it, she just considers it as dog food

          1. Well we can eat everything on the coat of arms of Ontario, the coat of arms for Canada is a little problematic, but catch us the one on the right and we’ll have a go.

      2. There’s a reason why fish always has to be cooked or frozen (yes, even raw sashimi has to be frozen for a period and thawed before you get to eat it) – have to kill off all those yummy parasites!

  4. I prefer to use a Chicken to farther process the insect protein to a more usable form. Sort of like how a pig turns an apple (essentially garbage) into Bacon. Ok, you have to be a Jim Gaffigan fan to get that last one.

    That said, Lightlife & Hillary’s both make some acceptable “vegan” sausages & burgers. The sausages are petty good if sliced and fried in coconut oil, and then have some BBQ sauce added.

    My wife also tried a candy bar made from cricket flour. That’s now off her bucket list.

    1. You get more higher quality protein by feeding a ton of soybeans to chicken than eating the soy yourself.

      That’s because with chicken meat you have about 60-70% protein, and the feed conversion ratio for chicken farming is around of 1.6:1, so for a ton of soy you get about 800 lbs of chicken meat protein, while the soy itself contains only around 400 lbs of protein.

      1. I’d like to see how fish would fall into the chart. One the surface that sounds funny, but some people have fish farms that supply restaurants.

        It also nice to know that chicken (and eggs) are lower on the list for water consumption. Technically I eat more turkey than chicken, though i suspect it would be similar.

  5. It has been mentioned by science that diabetes didn’t exist until agrarian societies did. Too much plant intake apparently. OTOH, there are societies that consider larvae a delicacy

        1. I guess you’ve linked that article to show that diabetes can be shown in a skeleton. Ancient Egypt certainly isn’t pre-agricultural. I doubt whether there would be enough skeletons from pre-agricultural people. I would also doubt the causal link even if diabetes were shown to be more prevalent in agricultural societies. Hunter-gatherer life is HARD, that’s why we don’t do it anymore, and it very well could negatively select any people who experience diabetes before it shows in the bones.

  6. For one of my gen-ed classes in college, I had to do a project to creatively combine something ancient and modern in some way. I decided to take a food source that humans have been eating as long as humans have existed, which is insects, and combine it with modern dishes. I made mealworm + bean tacos, and I mixed ground crickets into banana nut muffins for some added protein. The mealworms came out a little chewy, probably because I did a poor job cooking them. The muffins would have been totally normal except that I didn’t grind the crickets entirely to powder, and a knowing taste tester found a leg. I think there’s a lot of potential in incorporating powdered insects into other dishes to increase protein but reduce the yuck-factor some might get from looking at whole cooked insects.

    Other insect eating experience came in a wilderness survival course. Roasted grasshopper tastes like popcorn, and cooked fire ants are not great(though I hear other ants are).

    FYI people allergic to shellfish, be warned! You’d be allergic to some insects too.

    1. Ground crickets are pretty good in baking but definitely changes the appearance somewhat, everything comes out darker and you’ll see speckles of cricket through the food. I had a lot of luck with cookies and I thought it was very good in pancakes, it gave them a bit of a nutty kind of taste. Weirded out my whole family though when I told them what my secret ingredient was. I wouldn’t be against giving a bug based meat substitute a try, I’ll try almost anything at least once.

      I’m not a vegetarian or anything but honestly I think many people would be surprised how good vegetarian food can be when you are not trying to make it into something it’s not. Some of the recent fake meat is passable and I admit that I kind of like Burger King’s Impossible Whopper but most veg imitation stuff I have tried is pretty bad because there is always something off about it compared to whatever it’s supposed to be. On the other hand I have had purely meat free Indian and Asian foods that have been perfectly enjoyable and satisfying but the trick was they were their own meal not something trying to be what it’s not. Though I would also like to say using tofu along with some meat really is a good idea. I’ll go about half and half with chicken in things like stir fry and curry and it really does pick up the flavor and gives some more variety to the texture of the dish.

  7. Sure… but why? Insects are great and all but what about the plant-based replacements that have been in the works? If someone wants to incorporate insects into that, that’s fine but I see no reason to force a culture shift into eating unprocessed insect bodies.

    1. The main issue with plant based protein is that a) plants have relatively little protein in them, b) it’s lower quality protein so you need more of it. Extracting and processing it into a meat substitute typically wastes most of the calories and requires a ton of water and energy. E.g. seitan is made by extracting wheat gluten, which is only 10% of the wheat flour.

      The processing requirements make these substitutes no better than real meat in terms of land, water and energy use. If you don’t process, in other words if you just eat the plants as they are with all the carbs with the proteins, then you end up with an unbalanced diet deficient in proteins. Adults can survive on a diet like that, but children and pregnant women tend to become malnourished.

        1. True, although you have to convert the starches into sugars first because the yeast won’t eat it.

          Wheat doesn’t contain the enzymes required for the conversion. This is why when you make wheat beer, you always need a portion of barley in your malts.

          1. And more to the point, the efficiency of converting the leftover carbs and fats into something useful is not 100%. At first, you won’t completely convert the starches into edible sugars, and secondly the efficiency of yeast to convert it into ethanol is between 60-80%, and the efficiency of distilling it out is yet another matter… all these steps leaves you with the shorter part of what you started with.

            So to complain about the waste of food when feeding it to animals is a moot point: you won’t do better yourself.

          1. The gelatin comes from the cartilage. The bone itself is ground up for fertilizer.

            My Vietnamese friends are crazy about eating all the knuckles and joints off of chicken bones, they really like the chewy stuff.

        2. Indeed, but its a very hard min-max problem to solve and find the right solutions for every location. Too many variables that it is hard enough to figure out the system efficiency as it is now, let alone what it could be.

          Personally I don’t think entirely plant based diets are even remotely plausible for large areas of the globe, even areas that have the right weather to grow crops don’t always have the right geology or topology, and the places that have good soil etc might not have the weather able to provide enough water for these crops etc.. Not to mention that a vegan diet needs plants that really won’t grow in many climates – perhaps there are native plants that can provide the right proteins etc – but that sort of understanding of the local plants, and finding ways to cultivate them for mass agriculture needs work.

          Insects on the other hand are much easier to see working out. Snail farming has been done for a long time, its easy to see how much quality human nutrition can be created out of inedible plants…

          1. That’s kinda the issue. To have a full-rounded no-meat diet, you’re relying on imports from the entire world. Go to Sweden and try to survive off the land, and you’ll mostly be eating turnips and rye.

      1. Incredible. I wonder if you ever googled any of these things you are saying.

        I wish the human race could survive on eating anonymous charlatans. We’d never run out food.

          1. And for the point of low protein content, quinoa which is one of the foods that does contain complete proteins, has only 14% by mass in proteins, compared to meat which is 60-70% protein.

            You have to separate the protein and toss away the excess carbs and fats, because otherwise you couldn’t fit anything else in your diet (without over-eating).

          2. That wiki article cannot be taken seriously, they omitted the venerable swine. Large swaths of the global population eat pork. Few meats can compare in juiciness and affordability, not to mention pigs basically are ominvores. You can feed them absolutely anything you can eat yourself.

      2. My nieces and brother are vegans and they all have to supplement their diets with whey and peanut butter based protein shakes in order to get the daily minimum requirement of protein. Those who don’t end up getting weaker and losing muscle mass(which is a bad thing in people).

        I remember when I went vegan back in the early 90’s. The vegan books never mentioned you needed a certain amount of protein every day so I ended up losing lots of muscle mass and getting weaker. After a year of it, I dropped it. Got tired of eating fake meat and what amounted to green roughage that you have to slather with Mayo or Thousand Island to make edible.

  8. >It’s likely to be a tough sell to consumers

    Not really. Couple years back there was a huge fad for crickets and mealworms, and the producers couldn’t make enough.The insect farmer built new facilities and invested heavily only to find the fad had died and the sales disappeared.

    The consumers had nothing against eating the insects. It’s just that like every other fad food, it was expensive and otherwise nothing special. I’m not amazed that it’s not meat at $9.90 a burger either, because I can’t afford to pay ten times the price for protein.

    1. A fad isn’t the same as actually being willing to incorporate something into your diet. Tons of people are willing to pay premium pricing for organic vegetables and fruits, despite cheaper alternatives.
      Of course it’s going to cost more In the beginning, it doesn’t benefit from economy of scale. Cattle ranching is also ridiculously expensive, but can be sold cheaply because the beef producers can leverage thousands of cattle at contractually agreed upon pricing, and take advantage of existing secondary businesses.
      There historically hasn’t been huge demand for insect protein, and therefore the infrastructure doesn’t currently exist to push the price down.

      1. It shows people are not against incorporating something into your diet. There’s no fundamental barrier to eating insects – it’s not a “tough sell” – it’s just too expensive.

      2. “There historically hasn’t been huge demand for insect protein, and therefore the infrastructure doesn’t currently exist to push the price down.”

        Maybe the “shellac”, “chocolate”, and ” Cochineal Scale dye” industries could tell us their secrets.*

        *If all the first comments are to be believed.

    1. Seems everyone wants to breed tilapia though which seem to have the worst protein to weight ratio of any fish, like you need to eat a triple portion to get 20 grams in a meal.

    2. Pig farming is a tasty and delicious alternative. Pigs are highly intelligent and social animals, so you can use them as pets, hunt truffles, use as house guards until its time for the chopping board.

    1. Depends on your cooking strategy.

      Slugs? Garlic butter them like snail or use oyster preparation methods
      Chitinous insects: Stir fry, or roast.
      Mealworm: Stir fry or sautee with garlic buttter.

      The Montreal insectarium had an edible bug night once. The grasshopper stir fry was good, but avoid the ant-smoothie. Too tangy

  9. I’ll stick to eating free range meat, As for eating a nice big bowl of bugs everyday. I have to wonder why this is being promoted by the EU elite to begin with. Because we all know those people pushing it will be stuffing their faces with Kobe beef at $300 a plate eateries.

  10. While there are cultures in which the consumption of certain types of insects is a “culinary thing,” (which I respect) and while even now there are certain bug-derived substances in processed food (like coloring, for example) it is my observation that in the West, proponents of large-scale bug-eating seem to come from one of several categories:

    (a) The insanely rich (whose Utopian vision of the future always seem to involve everyone ELSE living in pods, eating bugs and drinking soy)

    (b) Researchers who earn their living from the grants of rich people

    (c) Virtue signalers who want you to know they “care” about the earth.

    Truth be told, there is no limit to what humans will eat if their situation is dire enough and if the alternative is death. This has included shoe leather (Captain Franklin’s Arctic expedition in the early 1800’s), undigested corn kernels strained out of outhouse sewage (German POWs after Stalingrad) and in rare instances, other humans (Donner Party, and the “Andes Flight Disaster”).

    All that said, even in the event of a complete collapse of the American society, the dissolution of the dollar, cities razed and infrastructure destroyed–I’m talking Road-Warrior-like dystopia–I cannot picture myself preferentially eating bugs when there are rabbits and quail around. In fact, I’d likely capture a number of those animals alive, first, and then create a sustainable colony in pens or cages in my backyard. THEY can eat the bugs.

    1. I agree with a lot of what you are saying.
      I would extend category (b) to include researchers who earn their living from the grants of poor people.
      After all, a large amount of the tax money wasted on this kind of rubbish is paid by citizens with only modest incomes (the bosses of the funding agencies who decide what to waste the money on are probably very rich though).

  11. I just worry about the millions of mealworn consciousnesses that will be extinguished if this takes off.
    How many million mealworm equate to one cow, and would it be ethically more acceptable to kill one cow instead?

    Also, this article seems very well calculated to Yank (sic) the chains of the U.S. contingent, well done Jenny! ;^)

  12. Insect protein is ok but it’s not the ultimate solution to feeding our population.

    Why raise whole insects covered in skin and filled with squishy guts when we can just grow the meat? Eventually lab grown muscle tissue will be perfected. And once the anti-gmo crunchies grow old and die off why grow just plain meat? It will be developed to all sorts of textures and tastes and made nutritionally perfect.

    Finally, we will have an efficiently grown food that tastes great, fills our desire for meat, is good for us and we don’t even have to kill anything.

    But maybe still not as efficient as it could be. We will have to grow something that photosynthesizes to create the sugars we feed to the meat. Why make it a two step process. Someone will develop photosynthetic lab meat.

    And I’m pretty sure I remember reading how there is a more efficient form of photosynthesis that is currently rare in earth life but may have once dominated. And instead of green it’s purple. Why use the less efficient process. We’re going to have purple meat!

    And it will be great that we can have this without killing any animal or causing any suffering. But there is still a flaw. Some animal must have been harmed to give the original sample. Maybe it wasn’t even lethal, maybe it was just a little prick. But that animal couldn’t consent could it?

    So it will all have to be done over again. This time the starting tissue sample will be taken from the one animal that is capable of consenting.

    And so there it is. Our descendants will one day all be purple people eaters!

  13. Whenever I travel I eat all what I find. Including street food of many kind. Actually going to some tourist restaurant made me sick but never from street food. Besides the regular insect snacks in many parts of Asia, I´ve had many kind of rodents, snakes, fruit bats (yes, those that carry coronavirus) and many other things, alive or not.
    I have only few rules: “where one can see nobody eating, it´s not the place to go”, and “stick to the most favorite food of people around”, “don´t go by the menu (anyway, language barrier)”

    There is plenty of delicious things that would scare or disgust most people. But it´s good they steer away, otherwise it would turn into a mass food and loose its qualities.

    It find it a pity that most people are stuck into their food taste. Like they listen the music of their 20s their whole life.

  14. Why am I not surprised that the EU are behind this?

    No doubt in the future the lucky citizens of the EU will be expected to eat insects produced under the EU common agricultural policy whilst watching EU state mandated TV (probably restricted to 24/7 live stream of WEF billionaires, celebrities and politicians telling citizens what to think) in tiny little single room apartments, which they won’t own. “…something something sustainability..etc etc etc”.

    1. I think this may be the wrong EU stereotype – it seems more like a case of needing extra regulations for everything. I’ve seen insect-based food for sale in the USA for quite a while. It appears after enough pressing the FDA for what the rules on insect based food were, the FDA concluded, “There’s nothing on the books about insects, so just use the same rules you’d use for anything else.”

    2. This was written from the UK, which ain’t in the EU no more. :)

      And they aren’t “behind” it or “pushing” it. People want to grow bugs, they’re just doing their job of testing them to see that they’re safe. That’s all it is.

      If you took the time to travel the EU, you’d find it’s a very diverse place. Telling EU citizens what to think is the definition of herding cats.

  15. I don’t eat meat when I’m doing my own thing, but will try anything once. (“Burger? Nah. Owait CAMEL burger? Oh absolutely.” It was okay.) Tons of people already eat stuff for which they actively do not want to know the contents: “You know what’s in that hot dog?” “DON’T TELL ME JUST LET ME EAT MY HOT DOG IN PEACE.” If people grew up eating beyond-meat-plus-ground-dried-mealworm that had a bunch of spices and was called Fall Sausage they’d think it was great. There are two local restaurants that serve insect-based dishes. They’re okay. It’s more like the taste of walnuts than almonds. I’m convinced that in many cases there is a value-signaling in eating meat: filet mignon is better than ribs for the same reason Chateau Derission 1968 is better than Yellowtail 2020, and you’re not going to address the pleasure of consumption of expensive food as self-affirmation by offering mealworms. We generally agree that consumerism is bad for the planet, but a fundamental problem of being pack animals is that we advertise status, even if just to ourselves, and for a lot of people performative energetically wasteful behavior is pleasurable.
    This is a good way to reduce the cost of such behavior, at least.

  16. The problem with insects is they have a hell of a lot of chitin, the stuff that forms their shells, and this makes them unpalatable to most people (nobody eats lobster shells), what we need to do is treat processed insects with chitinase (which could be sourced from bacteria). This process would turn the chitin into sugars humans could process, increase the food value and make it more palatable. You have to ferment soy to make tofu so bring on the fermented bugs and lets see what we can make with them. (“Gimme a double Bugfu burger!”)

  17. Eating bugs is only slightly less stupid, because you don’t need to eat anything but plant and fungi products to have very healthy and tasty diet, if you decide that this issue matters to you at all. The real problem is that the number of steps between you and the sunlight/grow lamps multiplies the waste, you can’t avoid the laws of thermodynamics. One note r.e. that map, it is not very meaningful as Australia is in red with 25 million people yet they actually produce enough food for about 80 million people, so there is no real indicator of the regional carrying capacity and countries like Japan that import Australian meat do so with a significant added energy requirement for refrigeration and transport, and that does matter if you are pretending to address the question of sustainability.

  18. Watched my mom eat a green caterpillar on organic broccoli and she didn’t notice it was cooked but you barely noticed it was still there after washing and cooking. Sister avoided broccoli since.

  19. Regenerative. Agriculture. Cattle properly managed sequester more carbon into the soil than they produce. Quantis (the leader in CO2 emission research) did a study on a regenerative farming. https://quantis-intl.com/casestudy/general-mills/ .

    Mealworms will still need a source of food. This will be corn and soybeans which is the # 1 cause of soil erosion, fertilizer runoff in our water system, along with the largest contributor to herbicides, insecticides, and fungicides in our environment. It’s the same game with a different cow. Look at the problem from a systems perspective.

    1. I’m not against it, but the company claims seem misleading. They said that they reduce 111% of CO2 in order to offset 85% of the methane (methane is a more potent greenhouse gas). Then on the graph they use the same percentages (even though the impact is different) to allude that they are greener.
      The same CO2 sequestration they are talking about can be used for normal agriculture as well, it’s the soil that captures CO2, not the cows.
      Also, the other issue is that a lot of land is used for cows, that would otherwise not be used (so no emissions) and a lot of that land comes from converted forests.

  20. I’m not sure how the food preparation process works for omnivores/carnivores, but over here in Veganland™ one of the first steps, usually *the* first step, in preparing a meal is cleaning the food.



    srsly, it doesnt matter how much propaganda you spill out, the only type of people who will agree on those points are already castraded and mindless soy drinkers, the people with normal lives and hormonal levels aint falling for that stuff
    meat protein is quite different than bugs or plant based protein, hell, even chicken mean is different from beef or pork, or fish, whats left for a bug?
    the myth and propaganda pushing that meat is bad for the enviornment is just bogus, the end point is that – bad environment = bad for the people, but whats worse? eating bugs is worse.
    its like that Ted X talk when Bill Gates were talking about killing the old to save the young, imagine the arrogance of those mindless drones

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