Think I’ll go and eat (meal) worms

In May of this year, the sale of insects as food for human consumption was approved in Switzerland, with one Swiss supermarket chain (Coop in case you’re interested) announcing that they would be selling insect burgers. Jan got very excited when I sent him an article about the burgers and announced that we would have to try them. I was maybe slightly less enthusiastic, but I’ve always said I’ll try anything once, so…  The launch of the burgers actually ended up being delayed due to a lack of approved insects, but eventually, in August, I saw an announcement that they were going on sale. Only at select branches, as it turned out, and not at our local one. A colleague of Jan’s told him that the big supermarket behind the train station was selling them, but every time Jan went they didn’t have any. Finally, a couple of weeks ago, he came home with this:

insect burgers

I opened up the packaging to reveal a burger-like entity:

insect burger

We fried them in the pan according to the instructions:

Then served with some Bratkartoffeln (fried potatoes) and cherry tomatoes.

To be honest, they didn’t taste any different to a veggie burger. Jan bought a “spicy” variety (he isn’t sure whether a “normal” version exists though since he just grabbed a pack) and they reminded me a bit of a spicy bean burger a vegetarian friend used to eat when I was about 10. Would I eat them again? Probably, although they aren’t the cheapest.

Originally, this was going to be the end of this post… but then we went to the autumn fair at the weekend and discovered the same company that makes the burgers selling their insect wares there. (And if you’re squeamish you may not want to look at the next few photos…)

Not only were they selling burgers, but also “Heuschrecke” skewers – which I thought were grasshoppers but apparently it’s the general term for grasshoppers, crickets and locusts and these particular ones were actually Eurasian Migratory Locusts. So there you go. I wasn’t brave enough to try a skewer, but we ordered a locust burger each. They also had actual, real, recognisable insects to try:

While we waited for our burgers, we got a little “trial plate” of insects to share. I ate a mealworm first, thinking they looked less scary (no legs!). Considering I find giant prawns creepy with their eyes looking at me you can imagine how I felt about locusts! But I managed to eat the weird shrimps on sticks in Taiwan (scroll to the end of the linked post to see them) so after Jan ate a locust and claimed it tasted nicer than the mealworms I gave it a go. Verdict: I’m not about to start eating dried insects as a snack any time soon but they didn’t actually taste too bad. The salted mealworms reminded me of the inside of a pistachio shell (you know the bit that sometimes comes off with the nut when you take it out?) while the locusts didn’t taste of a great deal, really. Jan preferred the locusts. And for any doubters 😉 here is photographic evidence that I actually ate a mealworm (or at least put one in my mouth):

go and eat worms

After a while, the burgers turned up. They looked a lot like the mealworm ones we had from the supermarket. A bit thicker maybe? And they came with locusts for decoration, of course 😉

Again, they tasted like veggie burger and the only identifiable thing I could see inside was tiny cubes of carrot. If nobody had told me they actually contained insects I would have had no idea! At 12 francs it costs exactly the same as a beef burger does at the stands along the river in summer, so fairly normal there.

So, would you eat insects (or have you already)? Only in burger form or would you be brave enough to try the skewer? Are insects the food of the future?
And, a question for any vegetarians and vegans out there: how do insects fit in? Do you think eating a locust or mealworm burger is the same as eating a beef burger or pork chop? Or is eating insects okay? (I am genuinely interested so please no arguments/riots in the comments! Constructive criticism is, of course, always welcome – and by constructive I don’t mean telling me I’m evil for eating things with eyes!)


27 thoughts on “Think I’ll go and eat (meal) worms

  1. Wow Bev you are so brave! I don’t think I could be tempted, even by the burgers you bought at the supermarket. But I am mega squeamish! Interesting question about what vegetarians would think. Probably a No way mate! X

    1. I’m really am curious about what vegetarians think. I know a lot of people don’t eat animals because they think it’s cruel, but can you be cruel to a mealworm (or a beetle for that matter, since that’s what they will turn into)? Or are insects somehow “different” to cows and pigs – that look cute and seem like they maybe understand what we say to them? I also know vegetarians who wouldn’t hesitate to kill a spider, so if killing spiders is okay surely killing locusts must be as well?

    1. But are insects any more “yuck” than some seafood? I find cockles pretty yuck! And crabs for that matter. (Obviously as a non-meat eater this is maybe a moot point for you, but for others I think it’s a valid question).
      Definitely people can eat – or not eat – whatever they want. I am just curious about where people draw their own personal line 🙂

      1. I personally don’t eat seafood either but there are some who thing that’s okay but chicken, pork and beef are not. Japan for instance doesn’t understand the concept of vegetarianism because they don’t think fish is meat. Oftentimes they say something is a tofu burger or soy burger only to find it has fish in it. I draw the line at eating living creatures (no bugs or fish for me). I don’t kill spiders either because I know they are super beneficial. I don’t particularly want to kill a cockroach not because they’re beneficial but because I can’t really stomach it. Mosquitoes and scorpions on the other hand can rot in hell. I have no problem killing either but I have no intention of eating them. That’s my opinion for what it’s worth. Great topic for discussion!

  2. You’re a braver woman than I am 😀 I might try the burger seeing as it just looks like a normal veggie burger (is the texture the same too? often, the texture of things is what gets me), but I definitely wouldn’t try the snack insects, way too creepy for me!

    1. The texture is similar to some veggie burgers you can get here. It’s hard to generalise though since there are so many different burgers. It’s definitely a different texture to a beefburger though – no way would anyone be fooled into thinking it’s cow!

  3. I am impressed. Jana is a vegetarian, partly because of the environmental impact of raising beef and chickens. I would have to think that insects require a lot less water, food and land to raise and also put out much less waste and methane than cattle and chicken. So, perhaps there is an argument for eating them over other animals…

    1. That is one of the arguments of the company that makes them – insects require much less food, water and space. (They had statistics at the stand but I forgot to take a photo and can’t remember them!). Another argument was that we can eat 80% of an insect (that I remember!) whereas we use very little of other animals as food, so with chickens the beak, feet, etc. are wasted – at least in most countries. I did see duck heads and feet for sale in Taiwan! I’m not sure why they said 80% for the insects though – at least with the mealworms I’m pretty sure we were eating 100% of them! Maybe they were being cautious? Jan said the 20% we weren’t eating is what was cooked out of them. Who knows.

    1. I would definitely eat the burgers again, but not the dried insects. They didn’t actually taste that bad but I had to give myself a pep talk to be able to put one in my mouth. Haha. Really they are no more “yuk” than some types of seafood though and loads of people eat that. Or snails!

  4. You are a lot braver than me! The burger looked just like a veggie burger and I would be able to eat that while not thinking about it too much I think. But those other things, argh!! Reminds me of the Bushtucker trials on im a celebrity get me out of here!

  5. It’s great that this is happening. Even if vegans/vegetarians never get into it, maybe eating insects will save the planet and feed everyone who is hungry. I eat meat, but I am trying to cut down. When I lived in Korea, I got a cup of silk worm larvae with a couple of friends. I only ate one and let my friends have the rest. It reminded me of sweet corn when it makes that little pop in your mouth. But the smell is really terrible.

      1. Yeah, I’m sure it would take some getting used to! It actually reminds me of that film about the train when the whole world is covered in snow. Snowpiercer! Have you seen it?

  6. i am not a vegetarian but i would say i am like… 80 or 90% vegetarian? maybe? but i am not really one (or almost one) for ethical reasons, though they play a part. i don’t really like the taste of meat, so i’m not sure where insects would fit in with my particular diet lol. i would probably eat them because it’s the taste of meat i don’t like. but i probably wouldn’t eat them regardless because… well, i don’t really want to eat insects haha. i also find shrimp and prawns creepy! but i honestly don’t know.. my bestie is a vegetarian and i asked her and she said no, but because ‘ew’ not because of the same reasons she doesn’t eat meat.

    1. The mealworms on their own didn’t really taste of anything much to me. In the burger they weren’t noticeable at all. So if you can get over the squeamish factor of them being insects maybe you would prefer them over meat? I don’t know. It’s interesting that your vegetarian friend thinks “ew” and not “they’re living creatures and should be allowed to not be eaten!”. I find some insects much prettier/less creepy than shrimps and things… like butterflies and those insects that are disguised as leaves – those are really cool! Not sure I would eat them though.

  7. I HAD NO idea that such things were available! I think if they were cooked and mashed in burger form, i would give them a go but there is no way I am eating meal worms- they look like SCABS! And I feed them to the birds.

    1. Haha, thanks. The locusts were the hardest. Those little wings/legs are so creepy! Strangely I didn’t mind the mealworms so much – I have a harder time with winkles or cockles and other such slimy seafood fare.

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