For an industry in which many have partaken in chocolate chirp cookies (this editor included), and perhaps other delicacies like banana worm bread and scorpion suckers, using fat from the larvae of black soldier flies (Hermetia illucens) as a butter substitute doesn’t sound like much of a reach. But the consumer media had a field day, with headlines including:
- “Belgians swap butter for bugs”
- “Insect fat tastes just like butter in Belgian waffles”
- “Have your cake and eat it with insect-based fat”
- A “normal” version with regular butter.
- A version in which 25 percent of the butter was replaced with insect fat.
- A version in which 50 percent of the butter was replaced with insect fat.
In a consumer panel test (where to me, at least, it’s not clear whether the panelists knew about the flies, per se, as much as they were asked about taste only): “The cake with a quarter of insect fat passed the test: the taste panel did not notice that insect fat was used. In the case of waffles, they did not even notice the presence of insect fat when half of the butter had been replaced. Also, the texture and color were hardly affected as compared with butter.”
The researchers point to two big benefits to using the fat as a butter substitute:
- Care and feeding costs go down: Flies vs. cows? The ecological footprint is a no-brainer.
- More nutritious: “Insect fat is a different type of fat than butter,” said researcher Daylan Tzompa-Sosa. “Insect fat contains lauric acid, which provides positive nutritional attributes since it is more digestible than butter. Moreover, lauric acid has an antibacterial, antimicrobial and antimycotic effect. This means that it is able, for example, to eliminate harmless various viruses, bacteria or even fungi in the body, allowing it to have a positive effect on health.”
They do lament that the production costs are high because of the small scale. What do you think — could this be a viable addition to our pantry in the not-so-distant future?