Insects aren’t traditionally a welcome addition to any kitchen, particularly the commercial kitchen, but there may soon be a time when the bugs in food are there on purpose.
We’ve already been introduced to flour made using insects, but this study published in the journal Food Quality and Preference looks at consumers’ perception of bakery products made using insect fat as a partial butter replacement.
The researchers at Ghent University in Belgium found that insects in pastry form might be more accepted by bug-phobic Westerners. In the right proportions, testers couldn’t tell the difference between butter and larvae fat in baked goods.
In their blind taste test, scientists served 344 subjects three different versions of waffles, cakes and cookies. For each pastry, one batch was made with all butter, another with 75 per cent butter and 25 per cent black soldier fly larvae fat, and the third 50/50 butter and larvae fat. The cake samples containing one-quarter insect fat successfully escaped detection — testers didn’t notice anything amiss.
Researchers warned the participants in advance that the pastries might contain “an insect ingredient,” but none guessed that larvae fat had been used in the 25 per cent treats.
“In the case of waffles, they did not even notice the presence of insect fat when half of the butter had been replaced,” they wrote.
“Also, the texture and colour were hardly affected as compared with butter.”
As with edible bug species in general, the researchers highlight both ecological and health advantages to pursuing insect fat as food. A 2012 study published in PLOS One found that raising insects takes 25 times fewer land resources than cows, and according to 2015 research published in the journal Water, rearing mealworms requires one-third less freshwater than conventionally farmed animals.
Using insect fat could also have environmental benefits.
“The ecological footprint of an insect is much smaller compared to animal-based food sources,” researcher Daylan Tzompa-Sosa said.
In terms of the health benefits, the researchers said that the composition of larvae fat sets it apart.
“Insect fat is a different type of fat than butter,” said Tzompa-Sosa.
“Insect fat contains lauric acid, which provides positive nutritional attributes since it is more digestible than butter. Moreover, lauric acid has an antibacterial, antimicrobial and antimycotic effect. This means that it is able, for example, to eliminate harmless various viruses, bacteria or even fungi in the body, allowing it to have a positive effect on health.”