A Plague Upon Your Plate

Some of the foods featured on this blog are totally unconventional. And so is the topic of this post, Locusts. It might seem surprising then, that they are now being served in one on Dunedin’s swankiest venues, Vault 21. Since the went on the menu a few weeks ago they have been selling out almost daily, leaving the Otago based producer scrambling to keep up with demand.

But is this menu item just for laughs? Not exactly. Many people think that insects will soon be an important source of protein for human consumption, though a new study has put this idea under the microscope, with some mixed results.

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The researchers were conscious that insects won’t help to meet global food demands unless they can be produced on a large scale. As such, they tried rearing crickets on a diet of grain, something that is already produced en masse for livestock feed. They found that relative the amount of food consumed, the crickets grew at the same rate as battery chickens. While this is fairly low – around a fifth of what is achieved by cattle – it may not be enough to prompt a significant change in our food habits.

The same study did find one cause for optimism. Crickets were fed on the solid waste product formed when food scraps are turned into a liquid fertiliser – or in other words, the garbage made by recycling garbage. Currently, this process is too expensive to be commercially viable, but the fact that locusts are not fussy eaters leaves a rich space for innovation  – as long as we can also be willing to try something new.

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That step will be easy if we all use the recipe from Vault 21. Their locusts are deep fried at 175°, seasoned with spices and then ‘returned to the forest’ on a bed of micro greens. Delish.

Happy bar hopping!

 

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