This burger weighs about 100 grams (3.5 ounces) and has about 10 grams of protein in it — almost the same amount found in a child’s size beef burger.
The burger itself has little white specks of rice inside with traces of carrot, paprika, chili powder and pepper. After a hesitant bite, the main flavors that come out are the spices. The texture is curious, a bit like a meaty falafel with a crunch.
This beef substitute is making headway throughout Europe – a continent more accustomed to steak, sausage, poultry and fish as a source of protein.
These type of burgers are available in Belgium, Britain, Denmark and the Netherlands and with a limited roll out in Alpine Nations: Austria, Germany, France, Italy, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Slovenia, and Switzerland.
The secret ingredient in these small hamburgers is that it’s an insect burger, mealworms to be exact.
Swallow deeply, pinch the nose and repeat the mantra: “Tastes like beef, tastes likes beef.” Then bite into the burger of rice, chopped vegetables, spices and mealworm larvae.
Eating insects are nothing new in Thailand. Many Thais love snacking on grasshoppers, crickets, and woodworms. The bugs are seasoned and fried in a wok until crispy then served to passersby at local food markets. Ant eggs, like the ones shown here, are also popular.
Another application for these protein rich insects is using them as agricultural feed for pigs and chicken. The United Nation Food and Agriculture Organization predicts that 70% more food will need to be produced by 2050.
Using insects as a protein source can contribute to global food security via feed or as a direct food source for humans. In 2011, the world compound feed production was an estimated 870 million tonnes, and the turnover of global commercial feed generated an estimated annual turnover and sales value equivalent to US$370 billion worldwide (IFIF, 2014).
If insects can be found on the shelves of several European countries, why all the hoopla?
It’s because the Swiss supermarket chain Coop is billing the new burgers as a legal first in Europe.
The goal is to convince leery consumers to try a nutritious, if unusual food that “preserves the planet’s resources,” Coop says.
The new insect burgers are in seven of Coop’s nearly 2500 stores in Switzerland serving up these alternative protein rich food by start-up Essento. So are the insect burgers a hit or miss? The chain says the insect products are flying off the shelves in the Alpine Nations.
“It’s the first time that a state has authorized human consumption of insects in such a firm, explicit way in Europe,” said Christophe Derrien, chief of the International Platform of Insects for Food and Feed.
New legislation being implemented in January will make these bug burgers more prevalent throughout the European Union.