I’ve been baking this morning and as I sifted the flour I couldn’t help reflecting over the use of cricket flour, which as the name suggests is made from milled crickets. My batch of chocolate brownies was made with plain wheat flour, but just a few days ago I attended a insect eating workshop and talk and it seems that bakes, cakes and snacks made from insects are soon to be considered a mainstay of the British diet.
It is certain that manufacturers, supermarkets and restaurants are all scrambling to cash in on a changing food landscape in Britain, as consumers embrace various diets from Keto to flexitarian through to vegan and fruitarian. The days of dinner being meat and two veg have it seems long departed and so have the days of vegan or indeed vegetarian diets being considered eccentric. More and more people are turning to meat alternatives and plant-based eating even if they are not following an exclusively vegetarian or vegan diet and this certainly shows in restaurant menu options and in supermarkets. Indeed the days of struggling to dine out on anything other than a green salad if you were a vegetarian have thankfully ended and I am astounded by how many meat free options are now available in supermarkets, but somehow the idea of stir-fried crickets still seems like an unlikely sight, but it is already happening.
The damaging environmental impact of global meat production has spurred interest sustainable food sources including cultured meat production and edible insects. In 2018 Sainsbury’s became the first UK supermarket to stock edible insect products, introducing crickets into 250 of its stores and since then other supermarkets have followed suit. Those who support the idea of eating insects say that they are a great source of protein and that they are a highly sustainable food source.
Unlike cows or pigs, insects can be bred in significant numbers without taking up large amounts of land, water, feed or emitting large amounts of green house gases. It is also argued that it is a humane source of food as the insects do not feel pain as animals do. However insects for consumption are typically bred in large-scale factory conditions and I can’t help thinking that as demand increases perhaps the environmental impact will increase as the factory farming model is adopted.
During the workshop I was told that woodlice are nutty in flavour and that worms are delicious, but I cannot say that either is making me salivate with anticipation. It seems that eating insects is going to become more popular in the UK and in a YouGov poll of 2,093 adults, nearly two in five (37%) of respondents said they thought the consumption of insects would increase in the next 10 years, rising to nearly half (48%) among the 18-24-year-old age group.
It is certain that the British are great culinary borrowers and we do love to borrow recipes from global cuisine, so why not bug eating? No doubt many recipes and ingredients considered normal or staples today were once considered suspicious; the potato immediately springs to mind. Revulsion is after all just a matter of taste and perhaps exposure and on that note I wonder if we will soon see bugs as an environmentally friendly snack and if this trend will overtake veganism?
The big question of course is do they taste good?