Welcome, baking enthusiasts and insect epicureans, to the Great UBC Bug Bake Off!
On Nov. 28, media are invited as four teams of faculty of land and food systems students engage in a six-legged culinary showdown. Students will showcase insect-laden dishes that are delicious, nutritious and environmentally friendly. Esteemed judges, including UBC executive chef David Speight, will weigh in on the taste, texture and insect ingenuity of the creations.
We spoke to course instructor and sessional lecturer Dr. Yasmin Akhtar about the competition, and why she advocates for entomophagy – eating insects and bugs.
Why do you host this insect dish competition?
This competition is the culmination of my applied biology course “Insects as Food and Feed” where we spent the semester learning about the benefits and risks of eating and using insects. One of my goals is to reduce the negative perceptions people may have of eating bugs. This competition is a fun way to raise awareness among students about the nutritional value of insects, their role in sustainable food systems and the importance of considering alternative protein sources.
What are the benefits of eating insects?
In addition to being really tasty, there are two main benefits of eating insects.
Many insects are incredibly nutritious: They are high in protein, calcium, good fatty acids and vitamins. For example, a species of grasshoppers commonly eaten in Mexico, Sphenarium purpurascens, contain 48 grams of protein per 100 grams, compared to 27 grams of protein per 100 grams of beef. Insect protein is also easily absorbed by humans and some insects contain all the essential amino acids that humans need.
The other benefit is environmental. Rearing insects requires much less space, fewer resources like water and much less feed. They produce much lower greenhouse gas emissions than cattle or pigs, for example. It also encourages the sustainable use of diverse insect species, rather than relying on a small number of traditional livestock species to meet the world’s needs.
It is also relatively cheap to rear insects, which means that small-scale farmers can benefit.
What are some easy ways to incorporate bugs into your diet?
Insect flours and insect powders are an easy way to incorporate bugs into your diet – especially if you are wary of eating insects whole. You can purchase insect flour online and simply replace wheat flour in any recipe with the insect flour for tasty, high-protein baked products like muffins or as filling in samosas.
Barbecuing insects is another great option: they absorb flavour really well, and dry out to become very crunchy. Barbecued crickets are my favourite! I also really like chocolate-covered ants, and adding insect powder to green tea.
What are some risks of eating insects that people should be aware of?
Insects live in a lot of different environments, including soil, and can be infested with microorganisms like bacteria, fungi and other viruses. Just like other animal proteins, insects should be treated before they are consumed – using heat to boil or cook them, for example.
If capturing insects from the wild, you need to be aware that they may be contaminated with pesticides that were used to spray fruits and vegetables. A better option would be purchase them from insect farms, where they are safely raised to be used as food.
Lastly, if you’re allergic to seafood, then you’ll likely also be allergic to insects because they share similar protein allergens.
Event: Great UBC Bug Bake Off
Date/time: Tuesday, Nov. 28, 11:15 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Contest will begin promptly at 11:30 a.m. so please arrive early to set up.
Location: Vij’s Kitchen, Room 130, 2205 East Mall
Parking: Health Sciences Parkade
- Dr. Yasmin Akhtar, sessional lecturer, faculty of land and food systems
- David Speight, executive chef and culinary director, UBC
Note to assignment editors: Due to time constraints, the students will be showcasing previously prepared dishes during the competition for evaluation by the judges. Each group of students will do a short presentation on the dish they have prepared, followed by questions and a tasting by the judges. Once all four groups have presented and the winner has been awarded, reporters are welcome to try the dishes and interview students, course instructor Dr. Yasmin Akhtar and judges. Additional dishes and insect ingredients will also be available for demonstration and tasting.
RSVP mandatory by 9 a.m. Nov. 28, 2023 as space is limited: firstname.lastname@example.org