The latest dairy butter substitute involves blending heaps of once-wriggling insect larvae into what Reuters describes as a “smooth greyish dollop.”
Researchers at Ghent University in Belgium have created “insect butter” by soaking black soldier fly larvae in water, mixing them together, and then separating out a greasy, butter-like substance using a centrifuge. That substance isn’t quite tasty enough to spread right on your toast, but it’s apparently a suitable stand-in for butter in baking recipes—as long as you don’t overdo it.
According to Reuters, the researchers replaced one-fourth of the regular butter with insect butter for some cakes, split the amount straight down the middle for others, and then had consumers try both versions. Though they didn’t specify how many people participated in the experiment, they reported that overall, the taste-testers thought the first cake tasted normal. The half-and-half cake, on the other hand, had an unusual flavor, and consumers concluded they wouldn’t want to buy it.
Despite the funky flavor, insect butter could turn out to be the best option for baked goods in the future—if scientists can figure out how to make the taste more appealing (and public relations specialists can reduce people’s general aversion to eating bugs). Not only are insects a good source of protein, healthy fats, and minerals, they’re also much more environmentally friendly than livestock.
“They are more sustainable because they use less land. They are more efficient at converting feed to weight,” Daylan Tzompa-Sose, the University of Ghent food technologist who led the project, explains in the video above. “They also use less water to produce.”
Bug butter cakes wouldn’t be the first innovative insect food to hit the market—find out about cicada ice cream, mealworm burgers, and more here.