31 December 2018 | Story Igno van Niekerk | Photo Igno van Niekerk
Insects on the menu
Beetle juice and bug flour; Drs Ismari van der Merwe and Cariena Bothma are researching the possibility of a high-protein diet consisting of insect ingredients.

You’ve just had a tasty milkshake made from grasshopper juice, now for a light snack. Your choice: Salty cricket cookies or a deep-fried ant delight?

One of these days the above delicatessen may just find its way to your local restaurant menu if Drs Ismari van der Merwe, Cariena Bothma, both lecturers in the Department of Consumer Science, and their enthusiastic team of students have their way. Insects as food are rich in protein, often tasty, and having them on a menu is not as far-fetched as you may think. After all, we know what culinary delights mopani worms – and yes – cooked land snails (enjoyed as escargots) have become over the years.


Cricket smackerals


When Dr Van der Mewe explains the benefits of her team’s vision for a high-protein diet consisting of insect ingredients (cricket flour as an example), one becomes aware that this could be the solution to a myriad of problems. Insects eat much less than our regular menu items such as cows (beef), sheep (lamb chops) or pigs (pork). Insects as an alternative diet will reduce the negative impact that larger animals have on the environment and greenhouse gases. Insects have faster life cycles and it takes less effort and space to breed and feed them.

“Ugh! Ick! Disgusting,” you might think. But picture the taste lab where volunteers are given regular chocolate cookies made with regular flour, and then asked to compare it with cookies made from cricket flour. Dr van der Merwe assures me that most people will be unable to distinguish between them, often even preferring the cricket smackerals.


Heathy alternative


Insect breakfast cereals, granola, and snack food is a real and viable solution for the developing world where food is scarce, and hunger is a real issue. But is it healthy? Dr Van der Merwe assures me that during the process of ‘bug to flour’, they are addressing the main concern: micro-organisms that might be detrimental to health. Once the insects or processed insect by-products arrive on your plate, it’s a healthy high-protein alternative that might become the next revolutionary diet.

So, stand aside Atkins, beware Banting, and be gone Gluten-free – there is a new diet on its way to the menu. Brace yourself for beetle juice and bug flour: a diet full of proteins, fat, energy, and essential amino acids. 


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