UBC Bug Bake Off: testing the waters of insect cuisine

At the University of British Columbia’s culinary lab, a unique competition unfolded with the Great UBC Bug Bake Off. Nine students showcased their culinary skills by preparing insect-infused dishes, such as beef tacos with cricket flour tortillas and mealworm ginger sugar cookies, to a panel of judges. This event highlighted the growing interest in insects as a sustainable food source.

The stakes of the competition were about more than just taste. As global populations rise, expected to reach nine billion by 2050, the demand for food, especially meat, is increasing, raising concerns about environmental sustainability and food security. Insects offer a potential solution, requiring significantly less land and producing fewer greenhouse gases compared to traditional livestock.

The movement towards insect-based cuisine has seen varying levels of acceptance. In Vancouver, chef Meeru Dhalwala was among the pioneers, introducing insect dishes in her restaurants as early as 2008. Despite initial media interest and some public curiosity, the concept faced challenges in widespread acceptance.

The Canadian government has shown support for this industry, with investments in edible insect farms and products. However, many companies have pivoted towards using insects for animal feed instead of human consumption, reflecting the industry’s struggle to gain mainstream acceptance in North America. Despite these challenges, exporting to countries where insect eating is more culturally accepted offers a new avenue for the industry.

The UBC Bug Bake Off serves as a microcosm of this global shift, showing both the potential and challenges of integrating insects into Western diets. While the insect food movement hasn’t fully realized its early ambitions, it continues to provoke discussions about sustainable food practices and opens new avenues for experimentation in cuisine.

Source: Bowen Island Undercurrent

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