Cricket drumsticks and all-mealworm patty? (commentary)Cricket drumsticks and all-mealworm patty? (commentary)
October 16, 2015
A STORY was reported in "Malay Mail Online," an e-publication from a distant place, about research done in the bizarre and multicultural collection of bitterly fighting BFFs known as the European Union.
The lead paragraph states, "Houseflies, crickets and silkworms can be safe, nutritious and more environmentally friendly alternatives to chicken, beef or pork, research carried out for the European Commission finds."
A few dozen years from now, could Kentucky Fried Chicken turn into Kentucky Fried Crickets? Could that old but recurring rumor that McDonald's meat patties contain earthworms actually come true?
The European Commission actually asked the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) to research the safety of eating insects. I'm not kidding; this is not a story for "The Onion." And you thought the U.S. government sponsored research on some silly ideas!
EFSA, after discovering that a beetle doesn't fart or belch nearly as much as a cow does and is cheaper to raise, said insects as a potential source of food and feed have important environmental, economic and food security benefits.
Insect farming would lead to reduced emissions of greenhouse gases and ammonia compared to raising cattle or pigs while achieving increased efficiency in converting feed to protein, the report says.
Insect species with the greatest dinnertime potential include houseflies, mealworms, crickets and silkworms. EFSA suggests that, in order to improve the taste appeal, in some cases, parts of the insect — such as the wings and legs of crickets — should be removed "to improve the eating experience and reduce choking risks."
The report ignores the bigger question: Who would be given the job of plucking wings off flies or de-legging a few hundred-thousand crickets?
It would likely open up a new market for animal scientist and ethicist Temple Grandin, though. The EU (I'll pronounce it "ewwww" for this story) would have to consult with her on the humane handling and slaughter of billions and billions of bugs. Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver could be hired to develop tasty, ammonia-free recipes for schools and institutions.
If the U.S. accepts insects as a food source, where in the federal nutrition guidelines would the government place the bugs, especially now that the U.S. Department of Agriculture agrees that sustainability shouldn't have been part of the recommendations?
Defining the proper serving size of creamed crickets might take decades of research.
EFSA was rightly concerned about the gastronomic impact of making a meal out of mealworms.
The "Malay Mail" news story mentioned that Delhaize, a Belgium-based supermarket, introduced tapenades made with mealworms in a few of its stores two years ago. They were not a hit. They did not even "crawl" off the shelves.
"We opted not to have any visible insects in the products to lower the initial reluctance, but even then, we saw that the customer wasn't ready for it," a brave Delhaize spokesman said.
Those annoying but legally required product labels still had to say, "Contains mealworms ... for your eating enjoyment."
*Chuck Jolley is president of Jolley & Associates, a marketing and public relations firm that concentrates on the food industry.
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