The argument for insects as food is not a new one; they are high in protein, low in environmental impact, easy to grow in small spaces, and can be delicious. But in many Western European and North American countries, eating bugs is still seen as pretty unappetizing. Plenty of companies are trying to change that, some of which we’ve written about, but a successful Swiss supermarket chain is is taking a major step forward by offering an insect-based product in its stores.
Coop is a massive Swiss chain, somewhere between a Whole Foods and a local cooperative grocery. (It is structured as a co-op, but has more than 2,000 locations.) Bloomberg reported that Coop will begin selling two products made by the Swiss company Essento: a burger and a “bug ball” (think: falafel, but with bugs), both made of ground ingredients, the most important of which is mealworms.
You’re probably familiar with mealworms. The larvae of a species of beetle, mealworms are typical food for reptiles, birds, and some fish. They’re sometimes regarded as pests due to their tendency to munch through grain, though there has also been research indicating that they eat, of all things, styrofoam, which could make for a pretty amazing waste-reduction program. Anyway! Mealworms are high in protein, low in fat, and require a tenth the land needed by cattle to create a kilogram of edible meat, according to a 2012 study. They’re also very climate-friendly: producing one kilogram of mealworm meat creates 2.7 kg of greenhouse gases. While that’s more than legumes like lentils and soy, it’s comically lower than the 27 kg of greenhouse gases produced in the production of a kilogram of beef.
The Essento products don’t have visible bugs in them; they’re structured sort of like veggie burgers, with ground mealworms joining rice, vegetables, and spices for the patty-shaped product; and chickpeas, onion, garlic, and spices for the balls. They’ll be hitting select Coop stores on August 21st, and cost about $9.24 for two burgers or ten balls.