What Would it Take For You to Eat Insects?
According to a recent taste test, you might be more adventurous than you'd think.
When you were an adventurous, curious kid (in Western culture), you might have choked down a bug just to see what it would taste like—but these days, the only thing you do when you spot an ant is reach for some RAID. And yet, despite your natural instinct to be repulsed by creepy crawlers, scientists around the world are pushing for a bug-centric diet as a way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and slow climate change.
Perhaps most recently, University of Adelaide researcher Anna Crump. Ph.D., took to an Australian farmer's market to test people's tolerance for edible bug snacks—a selection of roasted crickets and ants, mealworm cookies, and cricket energy bars.
"We wanted to investigate consumers' acceptability of edible insects and willingness to buy to these type of products," she told Food & Wine. Based on their reactions, the researchers would have "a benchmark for commercially available products already available on the market," she says, including whether they could be improved. And if the customers weren't willing to take a bite out of a bug bar, for example, Crump and her team wanted to know why, "and how we might be able to change their opinion."
It turns out, of the 130 people willing to taste test the products over the two-day trial, many needed little convincing to nosh on bugs, Crump reveals, especially the people who had tried bugs overseas—where insects can be considered a delicacy.
"Some were excited by the opportunity to taste something novel, but others looked puzzled, confused or disgusted," she admits. "And some consumers changed their opinion once we told them the reasons for considering insects as part of our diet."
After they had tried the snacks offered, Crump says, people seemed to overwhelmingly prefer the ground up insect ingredients—chocolate chip worm cookies and cricket energy bars. "I guess there's something about eyes looking back at you that made people a little weary of the 'raw' products," she laughs. But, "some people enjoyed the crispy texture of the roasted ants, and others liked the nutty flavor of the roasted crickets."
All in all, Crump says, "most people were pleasantly surprised with the palatability of the bugs, and felt a sense of personal accomplishment for overcoming a fear and trying something a little different or taboo."
But, after her experiment, Crump says she feels more confident that we can all move toward a more bug-friendly food chain, and help the environment, while we're at it.
"Communicating the benefits of edible insects may help change people's opinions—as long as we stress these aren't bugs pulled straight from the garden but have been produced under controlled conditions," Crump says. And next, she'll attempt how to break down even more of our bug-barriers in a focus group that will "delve deeper into attitudes about edible insects and how we incorporate them into [our] diets."