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Coming Soon: Faux-Meat Burgers Made From Maggots and Mealworms

Growing numbers of producers are exploring insects as a source of protein.
Black soldier fly larvae.

Black soldier fly larvae.

Photographer: David Avazzadeh for Bloomberg Businessweek

Diners have increasingly warmed to the idea of burgers made from peas and coconut oil, crab cakes crafted from artichokes and kelp, and chicken nuggets formed with gluten and tapioca starch. Big food producers are betting they’ll soon welcome crickets, beetles, mealworms, and maggots to the mix as well. “Everyone is looking at the environmental impact of sourcing food, so there’s a lot of growth potential,” says Tunyawat Kasemsuwan, group director of innovation at canned-tuna producer Thai Union Group Pcl, which is diversifying into insect proteins. “Chicken and tuna made from vegetables, cellular culture, or insects—we know the demand for it will grow much more than what we’re seeing today.”

Although vegetarians wouldn’t eat them—insects are, after all, animals—bug evangelists say the 2,000 or so species of edible critters have a lower carbon footprint and require less land than livestock and many grains. And various breeds have differing characteristics that fans say make them work as a food source: Mealworms are clean, odorless, and rich in minerals and vitamins; crickets and grasshoppers are loaded with protein; fruit fly larvae—most people call them maggots—have a mild taste and light color, so they’re easy to hide in foods; black soldier fly larvae will eat virtually any organic waste.