Big Ten Network

02/21/2017 | News release | Distributed by Public on 02/21/2017 16:28

How a Nebraska startup is rethinking what’s for dinner: BTN LiveBIG

Try not to bug out while reading this, but there's a Nebraska company that thinks you aren't exactly getting your daily dose of whole foods.

There's one foodstuff in particular they'd like to see us all eating more of: Insects

That's because when the principles of Bugeater Foods, a company founded by University of Nebraska-Lincoln grads, see arthropods like crickets, they don't see creepy-crawlers. They see one of the most sustainable and nutrient-packed sources of fiber, protein, minerals and vitamins on the planet.

Eating insects is nothing new to many cultures, but is still viewed with gastronomic skepticism in much of the western world. Bugeater is looking to change that by working innocuous insect powder - derived from crickets - into a variety of foods that people enjoy daily.

In addition to the nutritional benefits, consuming insects has a variety of advantages, environmentally and economically.

The farming of insects requires far fewer resources than does that of traditional livestock and produces far fewer greenhouse gases. And the ample nutrition present in most bugs means that consumers can purchase and consume a much smaller amount compared to, say, chicken or beef. That will likely add up to savings in the supermarket.

Bugeater launched with a protein shake powder called Jump that contains ground cricket along with ingredients such as honey powder, coffee powder and cocoa. In a blind taste test, most people couldn't tell the difference between Jump and other protein shakes on the market. (Jump powder is included in the Bulu Box subscription service, another UNL startup featured on LiveBIG last year.)

Bugeater recently secured a $100,000 grant from the US Department of Agriculture to perfect the integration of insect meal into everyday foods. Using the UNL Food Innovation Center, the team is testing out a variety of formulas for items such as macaroni, ramen and rice-shaped pastas.

'You might just think that this is a whole-grain noodle, and not that you're looking at insect particles,' says Julianne Kopf, Bugeater's primary food scientist, speaking to the Omaha World-Herald.

With taste trials set for this coming spring, you may be seeing Bugeater products in an area supermarket sooner than you think. The company is already distributing their Jump powder through Hy-Vee stores in Iowa.