If you’re a hamburger aficionado, the following blog post may bug you.
A Swiss supermarket is trying to push Westerners away from classic meat patties, and towards an eco-friendly, superfood alternative: bugs.
Coop is one of Switzerland’s largest food retailers, with over 2,200 stores throughout the neutral nation. It operates as a co-op with roughly 2.5 million members, too.
Recently, the giant retailer started stocking bug burgers and bug balls, created by fellow Swiss company Essento. According to the bug food company, the burgers and balls – comprised of ground mealworm and other ingredients – are a hit, and flying off the shelves (no, not literally).
And despite being hamburger loyalists, we can’t help but admit they do look appetizing.
Incorporating bugs in balanced diets isn’t unusual in countries like Thailand, Ghana, Mexico and China – these countries together lead the world in insect consumption. Conversely, the U.S. and Western Europe have yet to jump on the entomophagy hype train, but with companies like Coop, that may change. Clearly, consumer preferences are tilting toward higher quality and organic food products that have limited ecological footprints – therefore, eating bugs is logical from an environmentally-conscious consumer viewpoint.
Insect enthusiasts say Switzerland isn’t the first European country to approve retail bug sales – but they’re the first to have so adamantly authorized such sales. A shift in Swiss law in May approved the sale of three insect types: mealworm larvae, house crickets, and migratory locusts.
“It’s the first time that a state has authorized human consumption of insects in such a firm, explicit way in Europe,” said Christophe Derrien, chief of the International Platform of Insects for Food and Feed.
Projecting to the not-too-distant future, by 2050, the world’s population is expected to eclipse 9 billion people – meaning many more hungry mouths to feed. And where can we find sufficient protein for everyone?
Insects, as you may have guessed, are chock-full of protein and other micronutrients. Plus, insects don’t take up space, emit fewer greenhouse gases, and just a single kilo of feed can yield 12 times the amount of edible protein than it does with beef protein. Oh, and if you live for variety, there’s over 1,900 species of edible insects to dabble in.
Our repugnance of insects may come from the sense that they’re taboo – they’re pests, things to avoid or eradicate. Generations of North Americans and Europeans have lived and become acclimated to colder climates, so surviving on insects just wasn’t viable to our ancestors based on geography. So, the challenge for companies trying to breach the Western grocery store market with bug products will need to overcome the ‘Ew’ deterrent.
Essento is essentially doing this with their Coop partnership and their ground mealworm burgers, rather than selling whole insects. There’s just something unsettling about antennae, legs, and wings sticking out of a burger’s buns.
The Belgian company Green Kow, who makes chocolate-, tomato- and carrot-mealworm spreads, is utilizing similar tactics. In the United States, Chapul and Exo sell protein bars made from cricket flour. New Generation Nutrition, based in the Netherlands, is experimenting with falafel-like chickpea and buffalo worm patties.
So, would you say yay or nay to a mealworm burger at your next barbeque?
Photo Credit: stockphototrends/BigStock; Essento; weera prongsiri/BigStock