"Insects are the new sustainable meat," Essento's website insists. The Switzerland-based startup makes food products from various bugs. Their motto is "delicious insects." And starting this spring their mealworm meats will be sold at the Swiss grocery store chain Coop.
"With select insects as ingredients in processed products, we are promoting forward-looking food production," Coop's head of fresh products Roland Frefel said in a statement. This opens up new tastes to customers, he added. The question is whether customers will actually bite.
Until recently, grocery stores in Switzerland weren't allowed to sell insects as food. But the rules changed in December, and beginning in May the Coop chain will start stocking Essento's mealworm larvae burgers and meatballs. The goal is to make them resemble beef in taste and appearance as much as possible, Essento's co-founder Christian Bärtsch told Business Insider.
Essento and a slew of environmentally minded foodies argue that insects are the sustainable protein of the future. Harvesting them produces much less carbon dioxide than the equivalent for beef production. Plus the insects require less water and 10 times less feed, according to the company's stats.
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"Two billion people worldwide enjoy insects regularly," their site says. "In Europe, some top restaurants use edible insects." In other words, what are we waiting for? I can't say from firsthand experience yet, but apparently mealworms have a nutty flavor, grasshoppers taste like chicken, and ants are citrusy.
From what I can tell, the governance in the United States varies but insects are currently allowed to be sold as food here if that's the intention for them from the start of production. A growing number of American entrepreneurs think we can get over the ick factor. Exo makes cricket protein powder, Bitty Foods makes cricket flour, and Tiny Farms sells California-grown crickets.
One time at a friend's birthday party, my little cousin gamely ate one of those candy pops that have actual scorpions in the center. The scorpions are 100 percent real, but their stingers have been removed. His mom didn't learn about the adventure until later.
During the retelling, my five-year-old cousin grinned. He was fine, and maybe even a bit proud.
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