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How do you like your insects, ground or whole? Student research looks at whether insects are the next new meat replacement.

Posted 25 March

A man in a grey t-shirt prepares to eat an insect, lifting it from a plate with chopsticks.

A student at Harper Adams University is exploring how people react to consuming insects.

Having created his own bug biltong, he will seek to determine whether this high-protein meat substitute could become a new normal for meat substitutes.

Charlie Whitaker, 22, from Derbyshire, is a final year BSc (Hons) Food Technology and Product Development student. He is working on his research honours research project entitled “Are they really dirty bugs? A study looking around the stigma of insects.”

During his placement year, Charlie worked with insects and found them to be a subject of interest, regarding their role in the future of the food industry.

“I do believe insects are the future of the food industry, helping to increase nutritional content of products/fortification, and helping to make meat-free products,” he explained.

Biltong is the focus for Charlie’s insect food research. He is currently producing a biltong made from insect powder. He explains “The reason for picking biltong is because I wanted to see if insects could replace a whole-meat product.”

“I wanted to see how insects would work in a savory, flavoured product. The rise of meat snacks is continuing to grow and the insect biltong could be a great fit into this market.”

Charlie is due to finalise the texture of his insect biltong using texture facilities in the Harper Adams Food Academy.  His next step will involve taste tests, along with surveys and sensory panels to complete his research. He will be asking participants to consider texture and appearance as well as taste.

“Food has always been a big part of my life and like the career opportunities it brings within it, there are so many niche fields in the food industry and it excites me to see what path I may go down.”

Charlie is looking for keen participants for his surveys and sensory testing - his survey can be found here.

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