Earlier this year, Anthony H. Wetzel, the CEO of Chilling Farms, a pesticides and insect-management company, announced that he wanted to make insects the main protein source for Americans. While insects are in fact part of the natural diet for many animal species, largely due to the diet of their excrement, they haven’t been fully accepted as a food staple outside of Asia.
Chilling Farms began developing new varieties of mealworms with more protein. Combined with salt, calcium, potassium, and iron, dinner in your mouth, this farmer is banking on more than just consumer taste. Insects may be bug food today, but they could become the new protein for future generations, available throughout the year from the table. Wetzel estimates a ready market of $7 billion to $10 billion in the future if insect products are available through an “open-source market-driven model.”
Wetzel’s efforts have attracted the attention of culinary masters such as Miami chef José Andrés, who is a major contributor to The Hungry Panda project, which is aiming to place the insect protein on the human menu. Insects are beginning to infiltrate menus at restaurants across the country. From big names like New York’s McCarren Park Pool to smaller Brooklyn restaurants like 4 Rivers Oyster Bistro, insects are hitting the tables. There are efforts to make them part of a shift toward healthier dining in the mainstream.
The bugs may taste bizarre, but this school of thought goes something like this: that if everything tastes bad, and we’re more health conscious, then what’s the point of eating it at all? But if good food tastes good, why not give insects a try? Who knows, in a year or two, bugs may well be making it on your dinner plate.