Australian museum serves up insects

Insects are a super healthy super food that are already found in many diets around the world. And they could soon find their way into Western meals. The Australian Museum is now serving them up as a culinary delicacy. Barbara Barkhausen reports from Sydney.

The Australian Museum is serving bugs as a culinary delight as part of a cultural programme that runs over January and February. (Image credit: Philip McMaster, Networking and Training Center for Ecopolis Development - RCEES, Chinese Academy of Sciences and McMaster Institute for Sustainable Development in Commerce)

The Australian Museum is serving bugs as a culinary delight as part of a cultural programme that runs over January and February. (Image credit: Philip McMaster, Networking and Training Center for Ecopolis Development – RCEES, Chinese Academy of Sciences and McMaster Institute for Sustainable Development in Commerce)

The differences couldn’t be any bigger: in reality TV shows around the world, contestants undertake skin crawling challenges like eating mealworms, cockroaches and spiders to win votes from the public. Meanwhile, the Australian Museum in Sydney has added creepy crawlies to their menu – as a delicacy.

Eating outside the box

Cockroach canapés? Roasted ants? Grilled crickets? The museum is trying to tempt visitors to eat outside of the box for a change.

In Asia and Africa, insects have long been a part of people’s diets and are consumed by around 2 billion people worldwide, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization.

For instance, indigenous Australians – the Aborigines – have long been eating witchetty grub and honey ants, which store small honey-filled sacks on their backs.

Tastes like roasted peanuts

But the Australian Museum isn’t so much interested in teaching visitors about the supposed delicacies of the Aborigines.

Rather, the museum has its own chef who is cooking up cockroaches, crickets, mealworms and ants as part of a cultural programme that runs over January and February. And his goal is to make them as delicious as possible.

Nick Jarvis, who likes cockroaches the most because the taste like “roasted peanuts”, pays little attention to what he calls “ridiculous” responses towards eating bugs. In his opinion, we are currently experiencing “a big push to start farming bugs for human consumption”, as Jarvis told local media.

Healthy source of protein

And he’s not entirely wrong considering that the FOA has said we will not be able to feed the ever-growing global population without eating insects in the future.

Creepy crawlies they may be, but bugs are a highly nutritious and healthy food source. They provide protein (instead of carbohydrates), fats, vitamins, fibre and mineral content, wrote the FOA back in 2013.

Less space, resources than cattle farming

Australia’s only insect farm – the Edible Bug Shop in Sydney – also sells bugs for human consumption, not lease because they take less space and resources to bread than say cattle farming.

Skye Blackburn, who founded the company, is an entomologist and nutritionist and has developed a whole range of edible insect products since she started back in 2007. Much of her work revolves around clearing up misconceptions about what it means to eat bugs.

Bug snack for your loved one

“You don’t just eat them when you’re stuck in the bush and have nothing else to eat,” she said. “If they’re properly prepared and you’re able to get over the ick-factor, then bugs are delicious and good for you.”

Blackburn wants to tempt your average person to eat bugs, just like the Australian Museum. She’s even developed a special gift package for Valentine’s Day that people can surprise their loves ones with: chilli and garlic crickets, roasted mealworms and dehydrated ants.

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