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Great UBC Bug Bake Off showcases sweet treats with a secret ingredient

Students whip up some crunchy munchies to show insects can be the ‘meat of the future.’


You’ve heard of chocolate covered crickets, but what about having insects baked directly into your morning muffin? For some, this might sound nauseating – but fighting that stigma is one of the goals of the annual Great UBC Bake Off.

“There are so many people who don’t like insects and they consider [them] as annoying, they annoy you by their buzz, by their bite. They consider insects as vectors of diseases, they consider insects as pests … and people have a feeling of disgust against insects,” said Yasmin Akhtar, an instructor in the University of British Columbia’s faculty of land and food systems.

The contest is a requirement for Dr. Akhtar’s course, Insects as Food and Feed, which discusses the nutritional and environmental benefits of eating insects. Dr. Akhtar believes that as the world’s population increases to 10 billion people by 2050, there will be a struggle to feed everyone and people will need to look to alternative protein sources. This is why she believes insects could be the “meat of the future”, as they serve as a more environmentally sustainable source of protein.

“As they start taking the course and as they hear about the environmental as well as nutritional benefits of insects, that negative perception goes away. Then in the end, when they eat the insect then of course you know that the fear is completely gone,” said Dr. Akhtar.

She believes that a new industry and new jobs could come from insect-based food. People are now starting up insect farms including Entomo Farms which is based in Toronto. However, she also warns about the risks associated with eating insects and said that it is important to buy them from a reliable source as they might be infested with bacteria, viruses or fungi.

Four teams of students participated in the bake off. They were required to make a dish using insects or insect powder. A panel of judges, which included UBC executive chef David Speight, were asked to pick a winning confection based on criteria such as taste, texture, required time of preparation and the cost of the dish. “Knowing that the [participants] were not culinary students, I was less focused on the cooking techniques and final product … I was judging them on their ability to provide context as to why eating insects is a good sustainable choice,” said Mr. Speight, adding that “insect-based dishes can be tasty.”

This year’s contest winners? A pound cake and cranberry shortbread cookies baked with cricket flour. Runner ups included tacos made with insect-based tortillas, mealworm ginger sugar cookies and a cheesecake with a layer of crushed cricket fudge.

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