Olympia Yarger likens maggots to sushi. As the CEO of maggot-farming start-up, Goterra, Yarger also eats the bugs she farms and believes more Australians soon will as well.
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Goterra is a waste-reducing firm that uses waste like food scraps to feed larvae, which are then used as feed for cattle. But the firm has another reason to produce bugs: human consumption.
“I remember the 80's and sushi was like, ‘What, raw fish? Gross!’” Yarger told Yahoo Finance.
“I think culturally, we're always willing to be challenged in the right circumstances. And so you'll see these little breakaway segments of people who are either environmentally propelled to try something different or they're just up for something new because they're a foodie.”
The challenge for the industry is in how it overcomes the “cultural connotations of gross”, Yarger added.
While she loves steak, she says that logically a piece of steak is just “bleeding flesh”.
But eating steak has become normalised and is not considered anything close to “gross”.
In fact, to Yarger, ‘gross’ isn’t even a real thing. If anything, it’s a cultural belief – insects are eaten widely across south-east Asia, where they’re cooked up with garlic, chilli, shallots and sauces and considered delicious.
And according to the CSIRO, eating bugs is also good for you. Crickets, for example, can be up to 60 per cent protein.
The United Nations also predicts the edible insect sector will be worth AU$1.5 billion by 2023 as they can be farmed with a relatively small water and land footprint compared to other protein sources like cows.
The Insect Protein Association Australia, of which Yarger is president, has a mission of promoting a forum for collaboration within the industry, and believes that Australia is “well placed for a thriving insect farming sector”.
How do we get over our squeamishness?
“I think what's really important is to stop pretending that they're anything but bugs. So we see a lot of people saying, ‘Grind them up and put them in a muffin, or make them a flour and turn them into a pancake’.”
But the fact is, even if it’s in a decadent chocolate cake, it’s a bug.
“It's just important to embrace the bug,” Yarger said.
“Like with any new food, trying it is part of it. The job for the industry, I think to be fair, is that it has to become more available and so we need more farmers to farm them, so that you can buy them and they start to be more prevalent.
“And the more prevalent they are, the more available they are, the more usual they become. And then from there it’s just sushi, just for 2019.”
Seasoning helps too. Mexican flavours are great, Yarger said, noting that there are other seasonings outside of rosemary and garlic.
She said crickets can be “absolutely divine” when cooked up in frittatas or with sweet chilli, lime and coriander flavours.
“To be fair, humans are really notoriously bad for changing their food habits. We eat the same things, whether we think we do or not, we eat the same things over and over again. And so [the shift to bugs] will happen.”
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