Is It Time to Give Bug Burgers a Chance?

By Carl Engelking | August 31, 2017 2:47 pm

(Credit: Essento)

A Swiss supermarket is doing its part to get Westerners hooked on the eco-friendly superfood of the future: bugs.

Coop is one of Switzerland’s largest food retailers with over 2,200 outlets throughout the country, and it operates as a co-op with some 2.5 million members. Recently, Coop started stocking bug burgers and bug balls (like falafel) that are made by fellow Swiss company Essento. And according to Essento, the burgers and balls, made with ground mealworm and other ingredients, are already flying off the shelves. Not to editorialize, but they look really tasty.

Incorporating insects into a balanced diet is hardly new in countries like Thailand, Ghana, Mexico and China, which together lead the world in insect consumption. People in the United States and Western Europe have been hesitant to jump on the entomophagy bandwagon, but that trend may shift. Consumer preferences are tilting toward higher quality and organic food products that leave a smaller ecological footprint, and for any environmentally conscious consumer eating bugs just makes sense.

By 2050, the world’s population is expected to reach 9 billion people, and all of those mouths will put added pressure on the planet to churn out enough protein. Insects, as you may have guessed, are chock-full of protein and other micronutrients. What’s more, insects don’t need much space, they emit fewer greenhouse gases and a single kilogram of feed yields 12 times more edible protein than beef protein. Plus, there are over 1,900 species of edible insects to try.

Westerners’ aversion to insects may stem from the fact that insects are considered taboo, pests and things to avoid. Generations of North Americans and Europeans grew up in colder climates, so surviving off of insects just wasn’t an option for much of the year. The challenge for companies looking to penetrate the Western grocery aisles with bugs will be overcoming the “yuck” factor.

That may be why Essento is testing the waters at Coop with ground mealworms, rather than selling insects whole—diminishing the aversive effect of those antennae, legs and wings. And Essento isn’t the first to package insects in a way that appeals to Westerners. The Belgian company Green Kow makes chocolate-, tomato- and carrot-mealworm spreads. In the United States, Chapul and Exo sell protein bars made with cricket flour. New Generation Nutrition, based in the Netherlands, is experimenting with falafel-like chickpea and buffalo worm patties.

Given the nutritional power in insects, would you try a mealworm burger at your next cookout?

  • Uncle Al

    One does not observe these miracle workers eating their own stock animals and produce. The entire Vatican has vows of poverty and chastity. Gold, silk, and sodomy are illusory.

    Consumer preferences are tilting toward higher quality and organic food products that leave a smaller ecological footprint” Dry-aged ribeye seared medium rare vs. ground mealworm. Agora Churrascaria or Mr. Michelle’s school lunches.

    Social advocacy maintains the crap level as its bottom is dredged ever deeper.

    • FluffyGhostKitten

      Cricket protein is delicious. And what on Earth has the Vatican got to do with eating bugs, aside from perhaps mentions of the subject in the Bible?

  • kapnlogos

    I’m sure we’ve all eaten plenty of insect protein in everything from peanut butter to cereal grains and for the most part are none the worse for it. That said I won’t be eating any of that crap until I’ve been hungry for a week or so. I can’t help but think of shrimp and lobster as ocean going bugs, and they are not on my regular diet.

  • Erik Bosma

    A little story: One late summer when I was living in Calgary, Alberta I found a job helping a grain farmer with his harvest. While helping out with the combine, I noticed that after the grain was removed (threshing) from the plants it was passed over a large vibrating table with many little holes in it. These holes were just large enough to allow the grains to fall through into a large hopper. The rest of the wheat plant gets chopped up and is ejected from the back of thee combine.
    But I noticed something else. Harvest season is usually also the time when the grasshoppers proliferate. They’re everywhere especially on the wheat plants (probably one of the reasons the harvest HAS to come in) and many many of them wind up inside the combine only to get quickly chopped up with the wheat they were sitting on. I also noticed that a grasshopper’s head is almost exactly the same size as a wheat grain.
    Need I say more. Enjoy that slice of bread.

  • Nick Iseb

    Bweuuurk . Birth control is the only realistic solution.What after 10 or 20 bill. people ? a 2-3 child policy should be ok.

    • Scott

      You’d have done great in Germany circa 1935. A real man of the people


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