Food trend: Insects crawling onto the menu

By Jodi Mohrmann - Managing Editor of special projects
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Hungry? Are you craving something crunchy?  How about something crawly?

Chef Thomas Hugenberger has been eating insects since he was a kid in South Korea, but now he sometimes dishes them out here in the United States.

"If you can just get over the, the visual part of it, they're quite delicious. They're nutty. They're crunchy," he said.

Hugenberger said bugs aren't just for adventurous eaters anymore. Thanks to the so-called "extreme foodie movement," they are slowly crawling onto more people's plates.

"It's like an underground trend with people who are willing to try something different," Hugenberger said.

It's a trend that seems to be spreading. Some restaurants have insect items on their regular menus, and online you can easily get salted ants, seaweed scorpions, barbecue worms and plenty more.

"Edible bugs in other countries are very common. Currently about 2 billion consumers worldwide regularly consume insects," explained Suzy Badaracco, a food trend expert with Culinary Tides Trends Forecaster.

But if you didn't grow up in a bug-eating culture, and can't stomach an entire arthropod, products on the market made of bug parts might be more appealing. Badaracco expects growth in this type of insect product.

"The best way to prepare them is probably to grind them. For instance, grind them into a flour, like a cricket flour, put them into protein bars. As long as the insect doesn't look like the insect, I think it would probably have a better chance in the U.S.," she said.

So why the push for bugs and bug parts? Vandana Sheth, spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, doesn't eat them herself and calls it a personal decision, but she did say "bugging out" can be healthy.

"Insects can be an excellent source of protein," she said. "In fact, they have all the amino acids similar to what's found in beef, chicken, fish. Insects also are an excellent source of vitamins, minerals, polyunsaturated fats. And they are also especially high in B vitamins, iron and zinc."

If you do decide to get in on the insect trend, experts have some advice.

"You really want to make sure the source that you're getting the insects from is well-versed in how to handle them, clean them and make sure they're free of microbes," said Badaracco.

Hugenberger himself encourages everyone to at least give bugs a try.

"You never know. You might actually like it," he said.

Sustainability advocates say more people are swallowing the idea that insects, either prepared whole or ground up into flour, will eventually help address world hunger problems brought on by huge population growth.

Additional Information:

Restaurants that list grasshoppers (called chapulines) on their online menus:
(Listed under Entrees, in Houston)
(Listed under Tacos, in San Francisco)
(Listed under Tacos, in New York)

Edible Bugs Gift Pack for order on the Internet:

Food Writer Suzy Badaracco has been tracking the growth in products with bug ingredients and told us about cricket bars by Chapul, as an example. Another example of a cricket flour product:

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