Entomophagy, or eating insects, is commonly practiced in at least 113 countries
The aversion to insect food is largely emotional, so appealing to reason is a losing battle
Locust soufflé. Mealworm chocolate truffles. Caterpillar lasagna.
Mouth-watering enough for you? If acquainting Western taste buds with insect food is a tall order, maybe it’s time to try the time-honored ploys of advertising, new research suggests.
Promoting insects as tasty – or even as a luxurious delicacy – could help change both attitudes and menus, according to a study published Tuesday in the journal Frontiers in Nutrition.
“Many people think of insects having a similar taste (not necessarily texture) as nuts,” Sebastian Berger, lead author of the study and an assistant professor of organization at the University of Bern in Switzerland, wrote in an email.
What ‘works better’?
Lobsters are far from pretty. Your average crayfish would never win a beauty contest. But dip these unsightly creatures in warm butter, and they become instantly pleasing to many palates. Why, then, do we gag at the thought of eating insects?
Apparently, only Westerners get squeamish when seeing antennae on their plates. “The majority of humans eat insects (or come from a culture in which insect-eating is normal),” Berger wrote, though he admitted that in the Western world, “it is rather uncommon.”
Entomophagy, the scientific word for eating insects, is commonly practiced in at least 113 countries, according to a recent study. And with more than 2,000 documented edible species, insects have won the approval of the United Nations, which recommends them as a potential solution to the global food shortage. They’re also environmentally friendly, said Berger, who said insect food can be produced with a fraction of the gas emissions that go into livestock production. Nutritional studies have shown insects to be a good source of protein by weight, though fat content and vitamin levels vary across insect species.
All good, but will insect food actually make its way to Western plates?
Berger and his colleagues recruited 180 German volunteers from the streets of Cologne to better understand what might persuade them to at least try insect food. Some of the participants viewed advertisements from an insect-based food company that highlighted environmental or health benefits of this food, while others saw ads showcasing the delicious taste of insect treats.