Are edible insects the new black? An exploratory study assessing Danish children’s perception of edible insects

University essay from Lunds universitet/LUCSUS

Abstract: The consumption and production of livestock have a negative impact on the environment and climate. In many Western countries, the consumption is particularly high and it is expected to increase globally. This increase will lead to further pressure on already stressed planetary boundaries. Recently edible insects have been proposed to be an alternative to conventional meat, because they have a lower environmental footprint. Although the consumption of edible insects are practised in many cultures, resistance is prevalent in Western countries, including Denmark that also experiences one of the highest consumption of meat globally. Most research to date has focused on adults, yet children seem curious and open to try edible insects, thus this study explored factors that lead to acceptance and rejection as well as their liking of dishes containing edible insects. The study took place on four schools in Denmark and included children from sixth grade. Focus group discussions were conducted before and after a course that included a lecture, cooking of five different dishes with insects, and subsequent tastings. Moreover, a survey assessing the liking of dishes were distributed to all children partaken. A total of 26 children participated in the discussions and 82 completed the survey. Thematic analysis was used to analyse data from the discussions while means were calculated for the hedonic ratings. The dish containing insect flour was most liked, and the whole grasshoppers were least liked. Factors leading to acceptance included previous experience with edible insects, curiosity, looks of a dish, and little or no taste of an insect. Rejection included insect’s origin and nature. Mixed factors that could lead either to acceptance or rejection included appearance of the insect, societal influence, texture, taste, and cooking with insects. Factors appeared to be rooted in misconceptions, influences from society, and disgust towards animalness. It was suggested that most factors causing rejecting could likely be overcome by providing knowledge, by positive articulation, processing insects before reaching the consumer and disguising or incorporating insects in liked and known dishes.

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