Chefs in Europe experiment with insects – PBS NewsHour

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AMY GUTTMAN, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND: At this food truck in Brussels, there are healthy portions of protein in their kabobs, burgers, and nachos, but one ingredient may surprise you: crickets.

Yes, these are skewers of roasted crickets with tomatoes.

Increasingly, in Europe, adventurous eaters, entrepreneurs, and scientists are touting insects like crickets, mealworms and grasshoppers as a new “super” food…for humans…because some insects provide more protein than meat, plus high levels of iron, essential amino and Omega-3 fatty acids.

NIKOLAAS VIAENE, CO-FOUNDER, LITTLE FOOD: I truly believe that it can be an alternative for meat, because it’s much more ecological to breed insects than other meat, and it tastes good.

GUTTMAN: Nikolaas Viaene farms crickets indoors — in the basement of this Belgian business park. It takes him just 40 days to raise them from larvae to adults, and because crickets are so tiny, Viaene can breed tens of thousands in this small space, as long as he’s able to control the heat and humidity: 31 degrees Celsius, or 88 degrees Fahrenheit, is ideal.

What are some of the benefits of both eating and breeding crickets?

VIAENE: To make the same amount of protein as a cow, crickets need 25 times less food, 300 times less water, and they produce 60 times less greenhouse gases.

Viaene says another benefit of breeding crickets is they feed on by-products normally thrown away – like soybean hulls and corn husks.

Breeding and selling crickets for food is so new, different countries have different rules. It’s not allowed in Italy, Iceland, or Denmark. It IS legal in Belgium, the Netherlands, the UK — and the U-S.

With all that uncertainty, in York, England, scientist Adrian Charlton is studying the use of insects in animal feed as a replacement for soybeans and fishmeal.

The nutritional profile of insects for use in chicken feed, as an example, are absolutely perfect. As you can imagine, chickens have evolved to eat insects.

Charlton says more than two billion people – mainly in Africa and Asia — already eat bugs as part of their diet, but despite the health benefits, he isn’t convinced Western taste buds are ready to swallow crickets and grasshoppers like vitamins. Charleton thinks incorporating insects into other products is the place to start.

ADRIAN CHARLTON, BIOCHEMIST, FOOD ENVIRONMENTAL RESEARCH AGENCY: I can see, for example, cricket flours — food products that are produced from insects that may not have legs and wings, and what have you, being a little bit more acceptable than eating whole insects as a bulk dietary supplement.

GUTTMAN: A United Nations report three years ago cited nearly two-thousand species of edible bugs as a potential, partial solution to world hunger.
CHARLTON: But I’m not entirely convinced myself that we‘ll see insects // as a mainstream food. Now, insect protein or insect products within food, i think, is much more realistic // i would estimate that we’re not going to see a huge dent in either market, the animal feed or the food area, within the next 5 to 10 years.

GUTTMAN: Crickets and other insects have already cracked the kitchen at London restaurant Archipelago. Chef Daniel Creedon says ten to fifteen percent of his customers order his quinoa, kale and cricket salad every week.

GUTTMAN: YOU’RE ACTUALLY TRYING TO GET PEOPLE TO GET OVER THE ICK FACTOR?

DANIEL CREEDON, CHEF, ARCHIPELAGO: We’re trying to be bold about it. We want people to see what they’re eating and to get over the nerves, ‘cause it’s only a psychological block.

GUTTMAN: For dessert, Creedon serves chocolate-covered locusts and mealworms in caramel sauce, he jokingly named “cavierr.”

CREEDON: I do think they are going to become a part of our diet. i don’t think it’s necessarily going to be how we serve them — whole insects right up. For example, you can extract the protein from insects. So you could end up with something very similar to tofu made from insects.
If an insect meal is too much to fathom, there are snacks made of insects.

GUTTMAN: Some were on display at the annual specialty and fine food show in London.
There were barbecue-roasted bugs…

WOMAN: For the grasshopper, we just recommend to remove the wings because the wings are very small.

It’s like a prawn.

And insect bars.

GUTTMAN: Danish entrepreneur Christine Spliid makes these Crobars — cocoa and peanut butter protein bars made with cricket flour. Since starting her business last year, she’s added raspberry and coffee flavors.

Despite having a slightly earthy taste, Spliid detects a shift in public acceptance.

It’s really tasty.

CHRISTINE SPLIID, OWNER, CROBAR: Many more people have heard about the trends of insects in food, and that’s both at the kind of health shows we’ve done, also the more commercial shows.

GUTTMAN: Back in his lab, Adrian Charlton envisions a world where insects not only supplement human diets, but also medicine, with the potential to extract proteins and fats to develop pharmaceutical products.

CHARLTON: Insects live in some very terrible places, and their immune system stands up to that. well, why is that? There’s a whole body of research around some of the molecular defense mechanisms that insects have against disease that might provide us with new compounds and new solutions for the future.

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