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Are insects a real alternative to meat?

Does it really make a difference if the barbecue skewer has shrimp on it or the white, protein-rich meat of grasshopper innards? Delicious marinated in garlic and olive oil and grilled on the barbecue they could be just as tasty in a salad as the familiar gambas. In other words insects can be a real alternative to meat. The idea isn’t new, although in Europe it is still difficult to find something on your plate that you have always considered rather disgusting.

Insects on the menu can increase protein intake

It is exactly this instinctive repulsion that an insect cookbook from the Netherlands could help to overcome. The book features well-known recipes but made with insects instead of meat and beautifully photographed in attractive settings. It could provide the impetus towards seeing these creatures as a food alternative, rather than something to be hunted in the garden with a syringe full of poison. The authors, Arnold van Huis, Henk van Gurp and Marcel Dicke see insects on the menu as a chance to meet the increasing needs of a growing world population with a sustainable protein source. Research at the University of Wageningen in the Netherlands has confirmed that the nutritional value of insects is comparable to that of meat, but you need far less of it to supply the same amount of nutrients. The environmental footprint of rearing insects is far smaller than for rearing beef, pork or chicken.

Insects presented as a delicacy – award
for authors

Since 2008, Dutch companies have been producing insects for human consumption: locusts, mealworms and "buffalo worms". You can order them online. Louise Fresco, Professor at the Universities of Amsterdam and Wageningen, emphasizes in her foreword to the cookbook that edible insects are conceivable, especially as a meat substitute in processed foods, such as sausage, pizza and soups. A sausage in the future could be one third meat, one third insects and one third plant protein. That alone represents a huge profit. The book presents the insects primarily as a delicacy to show that they can be made to be quite appetizing.


The authors were awarded with the first prize at the "Green Book Festival" in San Francisco. Whether that helps consumers to overcome the repulsion barrier and whether we shall soon see well-known fast food restaurants offering insect burgers remains to be seen. Whatever the outcome, a start has certainly been made.


Source: Friederike Heidenhof, www.aid.de