Goodbye Butter, Hello … Larva Fat?

Banana bread.
Banana bread, yum. Photo: Kim Smith-Miller Photography/Getty Images

How would you feel if you took a large bite of a chocolate chip cookie or piece of banana-walnut bread, still warm from the oven, and then, while still chewing, you learned that one of the main ingredients in the treat was larva fat? Surprised, curious, or a little bit queasy?

No, you don’t need to start suspiciously inspecting all baked goods that come your way, looking for any trace of larva fat, or grappling with any potential aversion to it that you may have — at least, right now. According to the Guardian, scientists at Ghent University in Belgium are currently experimenting with the animal product as a sustainable alternative to butter.

“And what exactly is larva fat?” one might ask, cautiously. The process for making it actually quite technical. Per the Guardian, the scientists at Ghent University prepare it by soaking black soldier fly larvae in water, then blending all of that together until it forms a “smooth greyish dollop,” and finally using a kitchen centrifuge to separate the insect butter from … whatever else. Yum.

While the prospect of eating insects may disgust some, people around the world have long been eating bugs, which are protein dense, affordable, and ecofriendly. As New York Times restaurant critic Ligaya Mishan writes in a story dedicated to bug-eating traditions, it’s only in the West that people “shy from anything that might once have crawled, hopped or hovered over a picnic blanket.” However, in the past decade or so, we’ve slowly started to open our eyes to the sustainable protein, and even seemingly developed a taste for it. According to Global Market Insights, the North American edible-insect market is expected to rise 43 percent by 2024.

Daylan Tzompa Sosa, the scientist overseeing the research, echoed these benefits to the Guardian, and expanded on what makes bugs sustainable: “[Insects] use less land [than cattle], they are more efficient at converting feed … and they also use less water to produce butter.”

And to those who still think the whole idea of larva butter sounds disgusting, good news: In baked goods, you shouldn’t be able to taste a difference between the bug stuff and actual butter, if you only swap out a little. Per the Guardian, researchers gave consumers cake in which a quarter of the butter had been replaced with larva butter, and they thought it tasted like a normal, dairy-rich sponge. Instead, they said the larva butter only became unpalatable when the scientists gave them a cake in which they substituted half the butter with the bug product. So, you know, use responsibly.

Also, Nicole Kidman is known to enjoy the occasional bug, so they can’t be that bad.

Goodbye Butter, Hello… Larva Fat?