Buzzing: Getting over the yuck factor is urgent
Hello everyone, how are you all? This week’s edition is a little late but holidays got in the way 😊. I did however manage to squeeze in one very exciting work trip (see below). And to all the new subscribers who signed up after reading Substack’s What To Read feature, welcome and thank you so much for joining. You can comment on posts and/or reply directly to this newsletter if you’d like to get in touch.
This week in Buzzing:
Getting over the yuck factor will take time, which we don’t have
In Other News: Model lego factory and bug backlash
Test Corner is on holidays
I had the pleasure to be contacted by Substack (the platform I use to send this newsletter) to be featured in their “What To Read” newsletter, a feature they use to spotlight writers. One of the questions they asked me was what had surprised me the most since starting to work on the topic of insects as food and feed.
I had to think about that a little bit but once I started reflecting, the answer became obvious: the enduring power of the yuck factor and how little things have changed over the past couple of years. My original thinking was that if I could be convinced to eat insects, anyone could. I realise now how naïve this was. My “conversion” was strongly motivated by my professional interest in the sector and my desire to make my diet more sustainable and that trumped my aversion to try something new (especially once I realised how arbitrary and absurd it was that I would eat prawns but not insects).
Most people won’t have the professional push, and the sustainability pull may not be enough – I’m not judging by the way: the climate emergency hasn’t been enough of a carrot for me to stop flying for instance, so I am no climate saint. I do think an increasing number of people are changing their diets for sustainability reasons, but for them to eat insects, they’ll have to be a) readily available, b) easy to use, and c) delicious.
What I’ve come to realise is that getting over the yuck factor isn’t like flicking a switch – I don’t eat insects, now I do – but an iterative process whereby successive positive experiences eventually lead to accepting insects as “normal” food. And this process takes time.
My own experience is probably fairly illustrative: I ate my first insect in Madagascar in June 2019 and that experience can best be described as “phew, it wasn’t that bad”. I then had the opportunity to try insect snacks back home, but it was at least another year until I started cooking more regularly with insects at home, with a strong professional motivation in the shape of this newsletter. Even now, there are some insects I would struggle to eat: I find grasshoppers a little intimidating and there is NO WAY I’m eating a scorpion.
Previous new food trends have taken decades to be adopted: think about Mediterranean cuisine in the UK, sushi in the US and Europe. I don’t know why I assumed eating insects would be any quicker but I’d like to think that it could because we live in urgent times (“Code Red for Humanity, said the latest IPCC report).
At any rate, I’d love to know how you feel about this topic: has this newsletter prompted you to try an insect product or recipe? When do you think insects will be mainstream? Am I naive to assume sustainability-led dietary changes will come around faster than those based on cultural trends alone?
In Other News
This week, I paid Ÿnsect a visit at their mealworm farm in Dole, France, one of the largest in the world. It was quite something to stand at the foot of 13m towers of mealworm trays, and another still to think that their next farm (currently under construction in Amiens) will be three times taller... Anyway, one of Ÿnsect’s founders built this Lego model of the farm in Dole, which was not only really useful to visualise the different stages of production, but also made me think that I need to seriously up my Lego game with the kids 🙄.
Could Black Soldier Fly larvae help solve the food waste crisis in the UK? (Wicked Leeks)
Small Giants closes £400,000 funding round to grow its insect snacks business in the UK and Europe (The Grocer).
Instar Farming (UK) are now using solar power to dry their crickets – brilliant initiative to reduce the footprint of insects as food.
Beef for Bugs: CSIRO lashed for cash splash on edible insects. Aside from being quite the tongue-twister headline, this is an interesting insight into the kind of opposition the insect protein industry faces. (The Courier Mail, Australia).
I’ve not eaten all my insect cereal bars yet so Test Corner will have a break this week and come back with the next instalment of my snack bar road test next edition.