A Cambridge College has been looking at the growing market for edible insects as part of an initiative to raise awareness about sustainable food.
Students and staff at St John’s College recently attended an insect tasting session arranged by the Catering Department, in conjunction with Crunchy Critters, a supplier whose slogan encourages customers to ‘feed the future’.
On the menu were Cricket Biscuits, made by the Chefs at St John’s, Queen Leafcutter Ants, Butter Fudge with Buffalo Worms and Mopane Worms – to name a few.
While there are no immediate plans to put bug burgers or cricket fritters on College menus, those attending were able to hear about the possibility of insects becoming a more established part of our diet in the future.
As well as providing a more environmentally-sustainable potential food source, insects are also extremely nutritious – high in protein, low in carbohydrates, and a good source of fibre, calcium, iron and zinc.
Some people working in the food industry believe that insects are likely to form a more significant part of our diet in years to come. The growing world population, coupled with the demand that rearing livestock imposes on key resources such as water and land, has raised the possibility that in the future, we might have to seek out other sources of protein.
Bill Brogan, Catering and Conference Manager at St John’s College said: “The main aim with the tasting session was to start a discussion about the role that insects might come to play in our diets over time.
“While many people still feel queasy at the thought of eating a plate of beetles or a deep-fried grasshopper, in many other cultures, ‘entomophagy’ – the practice of eating insects – is already normal. In fact, insects form part of the traditional diets of an estimated two billion people.”
“We’re not going to start serving insects to students at dinner, but we do want to encourage new thinking about the challenges that we are going to face when it comes to how we get our food. However it is likely to take more than ethical reasoning to persuade large numbers of people to tuck into wok-fried grasshoppers, roast cicadas, or mescal worm tacos.
“But strange things have happened before. For many years, people in Britain considered langoustines an unappealing food – today many consider them a delicacy.
“We will be hosting an insect and wine pairing tasting session in due course.”
As one of the largest colleges, St John’s serves 1,400 meals per day during term. Working with organisations such as the Sustainable Restaurant Association, it has already developed practices geared towards supporting local suppliers, serving local produce, and training staff in sustainable catering practices. In 2015, it became the first college in Cambridge to receive a two-star award from the SRA’s Food Made Good programme.