Companies That Want You To Eat Bugs Are Cropping Up Across Europe

(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Bradley Devlin General Assignment & Analysis Reporter
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The edible bug industry is growing in Europe, and now, vendors want you to try their cricket chips and bug burgers, among other insect delicacies.

While the industry is still in its infantile stages, new companies intent on making more edible-bug products are popping up all across the European continent, according to Bug Burger. Research into making more edible bug products is even being funded by the European Union (EU), as financial institutions like Barclay’s have claimed the bug-eating industry is poised to boom, The Associated Press (AP) reported.

As it stands now, European production of insect-based food products reportedly amounts to 500 metric tons per year, and are turned into cricket chips in the Czech Republic, burgers in Germany and beetle beer in Belgium. Projections from the International Platform of Insects for Food and Feed in Brussels suggest the industry could grow to 260,000 metric tons by 2030. Currently, pork and chicken annual production amounts to 22.8 and 13.4 million metric tons annually, The AP reported.

Insects are apparently a regular part of 2 billion peoples’ diet across 130 countries, according to The AP.

However, while the industry is growing, Wageningen University tropical entomologist Arnold van Huis told The AP it is unlikely these products will be showing up in supermarkets or restaurants any time soon. Van Huis attributes this, part, to the strong cultural “yuck” factor in Europe and the west. “It’s very difficult to turn people’s minds around but insects are absolutely safe to eat, maybe even more nutritious than meat products,” he said.

Antonie Hubert, the CEO of an edible-bug company in France called Ynsect, believes the biggest market opportunity for edible insects is in the sports and health nutrition markets because mealworms can be turned into protein powder, The AP reported. Another opportunity lies in the animal feed industry, where insect proteins can be turned into fish food to help raise larger, healthier salmon.

Insects are also being turned into feed for chickens and pork. The EU approved insect proteins to feed fish in 2017, and is looking at approving the insect proteins for poultry and pork later this year, according to The AP. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration also approved insect proteins to be used for chicken feed in 2018. (RELATED: Cicadas Are Making It Rain … With Their Pee)

Ynsect’s latest funding haul amounted to $224 million, and attracted donors such as actor Robert Downey Jr.’s FootPrint Coalition, The AP noted. The funds will help build one of the world’s largest vertical farms, where 100,000 tons of mealworm products can be produced in a given year, according to The AP. Ynsect is also eyeing expansion into the U.S.

Horizon Insects, a London-based startup owned by Tiziana Di Costanzo, makes pizza dough with cricket powder, which she claims gives the pizza “a very nice, meaty, healthy taste” with added nutrients, The AP reported. She also teaches classes on how to cook crickets and mealworms at her home in London, using insects she and her husband raised themselves in their backyard shed.

Horizon Insects is reportedly now working on developing an insect-based cooking ingredient after, to their surprise, people in the area were not interested in buying fresh mealworms to eat. Powdered mealworms, Di Costanzo claims, can be added to cakes, bread and pasta. Mealworms can also be turned into “tasty” burgers that are “very easy to make,” according to The AP.

“Definitely, I think the future is products made with insects rather than the actual insect,” Di Costanzo told The AP.