April 24, 2013 | By Geraldine Bouvry

Nowadays, horse meat gets into consumers' plates without them knowing it. With the launch of "Insects au Gratin" exhibition in London, consumers will, at least, be able to psychologically prepare for the next food generation to land in their plates! Food for thoughts as we say.

"Insects au Gratin" had already been presented at the Science Gallery in Dublin, from February to April 2012 and is now running in London, at the Welcome Collection venue, from April 23rd to May 5th.

3D printed insect food (prototypes)

"Insects au Gratin" was created by designer Susana Soares and Food Bioscientist Dr Kenneth Spears (London South Bank University), 3D printing specialist Dr Peter Walters (University of West of England, Centre for Fine Print Research), Pestival, and Penelope Kupfer's Steak Studio.

This exhibition looks for new ways of consuming insects and debates the nutritive and environmental aspects of insects as human food. In an era where food resources are being endangered in some parts of the globe, considering insects as a primary food source should not be simply viewed as a group of artists' fantasy.

Plus, this question of eating insects is not recent; it goes back to 1885, when it was raised by entomologist Vincent Holt. While the idea was rejected by the Victorians, insects have a long history as food in many places around the world, Asia to name one.

As Holt pointed out, "insects are all vegetable feeders, clean, palatable, wholesome, and decidedly more particular in their feeding than ourselves". They are also tremendously efficient at converting vegetation into edible protein: 100 kg of feed produces 40 kg of crickets and only 10 kg of beef!

Downsides? Cultural background and unpleasant aesthetics most of the time discourage people to eat insects, even if being convinced of all sorts of benefits. And this is why merging insect eating with 3D printing was a smart way to make it slightly more "digestible" to consumers…

Process-wise, edible insects are being dried then grinded into powder. The insect flour is then mixed with icing butter, cream cheese or water, gelling agent and flavouring to form the right consistency to go through the nozzle. The food aesthetics are designed previously, 3D printed and ready to eat or cooked.

3D printed insect food (prototypes)

The video on Susana's website says it all.

Note that this exhibition's opening in London also fell one day after the annually celebrated Earth Day. Nice coincidence, at the heart of our environmental concerns.

Last, for those who thought that eating insects was only a Robinson Crusoe thing, watch your plates or rather, read the labels…

 

 

Posted in 3D Printing Applications

 

 

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