The second-largest grocery chain in Switzerland, called Coop, has announced that it will begin selling insect burgers and meatballs from a Switzerland-based startup called Essento this week. The decision comes after a law passed in May that now allows insect-based foods to be made and consumed by humans, something that many say is more sustainable and better for the environment.
Essento has been working on creating burgers and meatballs made primarily from mealworms for the past two and half years and they completed their first major goal back in January of this year. Their insect burgers are made from mealworms, rice, and vegetables such as turnip, celery, and leeks as well as various spices such as oregano and chili. Their meatballs are also made from mealworms as well as chickpeas, onions, garlic and spices like coriander and parsley.
“As food, insects are convincing in many respects: they have a high culinary potential, their production saves resources, and their nutritional profile is high quality. Thus insects are the perfect complement to a modern diet,” said Essento co-founder Christian Bärtsch.
In order to comply with the Swiss safety and health laws, the insects must be bred under strict supervision for four generations before they’re safe and acceptable for human consumption. The products will be in the refrigerated meat section, just like regular meat made from cows, pork, or chicken.
This isn’t the first time that people have considered using insects as meat, nor is it the first venture to successfully do so. Other startups are experimenting with the idea as well, including a San Francisco company called Tiny Farms that offers open-source farm kits for people to grow edible insects at home for consumption. The difference with Essento’s success is that their products will be sold by a major outlet.
“Insects provide food at low environmental cost, contribute positively to livelihoods and play a fundamental role in nature. However, these benefits are largely unknown to the public,” said a 2013 study by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
According to Essento, 80% of insects are edible, while only 40% of cows are. Food sustainability has become a major point of concern because of rapid population growth with increased loss of land. The growing of cows, pigs, chickens, and other livestock is the largest contributor to greenhouse gases, yet the demand for them is going up because the population is growing. By 2050, Earth will be inhabited by 9 billion people, meaning other forms of meat and food products that are less damaging to the environment are necessary to sustain so many humans.
Coop intends on providing the Essento products in seven select branches, including ones in Geneva, Bern, and Zurich. Essento has also said that they plan to release and sell future products made from insects through Coop, but has yet to announce what food products they will be.