“Let’s eat insects as a protein source” is a concept that hasn’t quite taken off in the United States. The idea of chowing down on bugs doesn’t appeal to consumers for plenty of reasons, among which is the ick factor (even though they can taste downright delicious!). Despite this, CNN reports that Tyson Foods recently announced its investment in Protix, a Netherlands-based insect ingredient producer. Tyson is also helping to build a Protix factory here in the U.S.
For anyone worried about what this signals for the edible insect market, the massive producer of meat products isn’t about to start supplying bug burgers to your grocery store freezer. The insects aren’t for human consumption, or at least, not quite yet
Why Tyson Foods is investing in insect protein
The insects, specifically black soldier flies, are intended to be used further down the food supply chain. They’ll be fed via animal waste, and once the insects have been processed, that material will be used as sustainable animal feed for poultry, fish, and pets.
John R. Tyson, chief financial officer of Tyson Foods, explained to CNN that “One feature of being in the animal protein business is having to figure out… how to derive value from” animal waste. And given that Tyson is one of the largest meat producers in the country, there’s surely plenty of waste to be dealt with.
While Tyson doesn’t manufacture pet food, it already sells off animal byproducts for that use, as well as in the aquaculture market. Those byproducts are gnarly things like animal hides, fats, and assorted inedible proteins that could otherwise end up in landfills. The black soldier fly is capable of thriving on nearly any waste product, which is why partnering with Protix is an ideal situation for Tyson. In such a partnership, not only does Tyson get to offload its unwanted materials, but it gets to do so in an environmentally friendly (and thus PR-friendly) way. Most importantly for Tyson, this also creates an efficient and ongoing new revenue stream.
Feeding animals insects is better for the environment
It takes a lot of resources to feed animals, including energy, land, and water, so feeding them flies lessens the meat industry’s overall environmental impact. Any genuine attempt to create a more sustainable industry is a good thing.
None of us are about to be stuck with 100% bug burgers, but we might very well eat bug-fed burgers in the near future, and that’s nothing to be concerned about. If you’re bug-curious, there are lots of options for you: Try a little cricket powder, snack on cicadas, toss back handfuls of chapulines (delicious Mexican grasshoppers), or host a Bugsgiving event. And no worries if none of those sound appetizing—maggot sausage will soon be an option too.