2012-02-08

Co.Exist

Ento Box: The Elegant Insect Meal Of The Future

Bugs are high in protein, easy to raise and feed, and … not so great to eat. But what if they were served in a lovely, palatable setting? If six-legged creatures are what we’re eating in 20 years, hopefully the meals look this good.

Though they’re consumed in most of the world, people in the West tend to be a little squeamish about eating bugs. But a new project from a group of design students in England hopes to put edible insects in a more gourmet light.

Avant-garde chefs have been trying to introduce insect eating for some time, but these students approached the question not as a gastronomical issue, but rather a design one: How do you make bugs more appealing? The answer is the Ento Box (that’s a portmanteau of bento box and entomology). Click through the slide show above to see the elegant way you’ll be eating bug-based foods in the future.

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This isn’t just some tounge-in-cheek project to get us to rethink our narrow palettes. The Western diet, delicious as it is, is problematic for our planet. Giant herds of cattle are not particularly friendly to the environment: Their burps cause climate change and they require large amounts of food that could perhaps be better put to other uses. The farming of pigs is just as bad. And those are just the factual issues, leaving alone the potential ethical problems with eating animals that one may or may not agree with.

On the flipside, the protein-rich diet afforded us by those vast, unsustainable herds of animals is a hallmark of the developed world. What do Indians and Chinese do as they rise to the middle class? Start consuming vastly larger amounts of protein, which requires more giant herds of animals (and a strategic pork reserve). There is little chance of asking the world to go backwards, and the promise of synthetic meat seems a long way off. The best solution for that protein infusion is, of course, insects. Hence, the Ento Box.

This isn’t just an exercise, the students worked with a chef and made real recipes out of real bugs. As the creators, four students at the Royal College of Art and Imperial College London, write: Bugs are "much more space and energy efficient than traditional livestock and will happily eat the crops we don’t want. They are also high in protein, low in fat and cholesterol, and rich in nutrients like omega-3."

To get all those benefits, they’ve designed the lovely Ento Box, so that instead of chomping down on those grasshoppers pictured above on a plate, we can instead enjoy sustainable protein while not thinking too much about it. They hope, though, that the Ento Box is just a gateway. Their prospective business timeline shows that by 2020, we’ve hopefully done away with the delicacy of having our bugs turned into fancy looking foods, and are instead chowing down on handfuls of grasshoppers. It may be hard to picture, but we may not have a choice.

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14 Comments

  • Danny Schotthoefer

    Great write up. TEDxBozeman (http://www.tedxbozeman.com) is featuring an entomologist from MSU - Bozeman, Florence Dunkel, who will talk about how eating bugs can fight off the world hunger crisis. Already her and her husband have incorporated insects into their diet and include them in their desserts. 

    I'm pretty psyched to hear her, she's a very interesting lady. 

  • Don Eglinski

    Since learning of the efforts of the Insectarium de Montréal over a decade ago, I have been excited to a Western adoption of insect protein into our diets. I think it will be a marketing challenge here on in, since the costs and health benefits vastly outweigh those of beef and the like.

  • takastone1

    Really, there are many people who would NOT eat meat if they recognized what they were cutting up as that cute chicken that ran around the yard........or that little goat that was playing with your kids the other day..........what do boneless breasts and steaks have to do with live animals?
    People try NOT to recognize what they're eating as a basic premiss........I'm sure if you had a pate or a "McNugget" or a "Fish stick" made from grasshoppers or roaches........they would be seen as food..........good for you, cheep............ I'm sure college students would lead the wave. : }

  • markusfei

    what a brilliant concept! A must try! They cater a very well designed experience. 
    And btw: are shrimp and clams look so good?
    Wish you all the best!

  • Wesley

    Ento Box: The Elegant Insect Meal Of The Future read morte m a k e c a s h 4 . [c o m]

  • Dan

    I tried the pate at the Work in Progress show a couple of weeks ago - it was delicious! There was no way you would know that it was made from insects.

    @Abby I'm not sure I agree about hiding the fact that it's made from insects. Eventually people are going to find out and isn't that just going to be a ticking time-bomb? Wouldn't it be more sensible to be honest and open and think of a good way to introduce it gradually so that people aren't worried?

  • Jaime Odabachian

    Mexico's Pre-classical Maya, Toltec and Mexica (Aztec) civilizations have been eating insects as a regular staple since before the Roman Empire existed in Europe and Asia. 
    Even today, you can still orded the most delicious Ant-egg tacos (Escamoles), maguey worms (a delicacy) in the sophisticated Mexican restaurants in Mexico City, as well as delicious fried grasshopers (chapulines) in Oaxaca. 

    You really don't need to go to as far as china to look for the future of sustainability. It's right next door. 

  • Ross Patton

    There was a restaurant in the Mission district of SF that was famous for serving insect tacos and I think scorpions. They were quite a hit due to the novelty.

    They were told they couldn't serve insects by the health dept.

  • Zenclimber

       I think it's great idea !!!  Where can I get it ? How are insects harvests?

  • Abby

    I'm not sure that deciding to put little pictures of insects on your packaging is such a good idea. We're trying to distract people from the fact that they're eating insects, so I would have chosen something simple and non-insect related!

  • Scott Byorum

    If it looked good and tasted good, I'd totally be down for it.  Just make sure there are no bits of carapace in it.