Bug Life: University of Adelaide Researchers Offer Insect Tastings

Low in fat and protein-dense these little critters could hold the key to the future of sustainable food production. And you can try them at the Adelaide Central Market now.

A wide-array of edible insects and insect-based products are on offer for tasting in the south-western corner of the Adelaide Central Market. Curious passers-by can sample the likes of black ants, roasted crickets and chocolate chip mealworm cookies and fill a survey on their impressions of the food to contribute to the work of the University of Adelaide research team.

Postdoctoral fellow Anna Crump is leading the study and tells The Adelaide Review the team has been “really surprised with how willing people are to try them”.

“I think we’re probably located really well within our target market,” Crump says. “The clientele of these markets would be people who are more novelty seeking anyway, and they’re looking for premium products and different products. I think that’s helping.”

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This public taste test forms the second part of a study to examine the viability of a broader insect-based food industry. Widespread concern about the sustainability of traditional agriculture practices have driven the industry in the West thus far, and Crump says the high protein yield from insects is a major benefit for these producers to exploit.

“For their size, they’re really protein-dense, but also low in fat. They take up much less agricultural land to produce in numbers and they’re not affected by the climactic factors that other traditional protein sources are.”

Likewise, growing curiosity for new and exciting foods has led to a growth in consumer interest in this industry.

“People are looking for different products and they’re willing to try new things,” says Crump. “I think when you explain the benefits to them people are also more willing to try them.”

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What about the taste? The Adelaide Review sampled four foods with mixed results. While black ants might take some getting used to, the mealworm cookie was practically indistinguishable from a traditional biscuit and roasted crickets provide a nice crunch and nutty flavour.

Crump says that after this portion of the study, the research team will move on to more intensive focus groups to plumb consumers to find out what motivates or dissuades them from eating insects.

“We’ll get people who are novelty seekers who were willing to try them. We’ll get people who weren’t willing to try them. We’re trying to learn the ways of marketing these products and how we can target the products to the market.”

As for the future, Crump is confident insects will slowly make their way into more mainstream diets, though perhaps not in their purest form.

“I’m not sure that it will be in the form of eyes, legs and antennas, but I think the processed products are certainly appealing to them.”

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