Eating insects is not new to Koreans. During the postwar era, people struggled to find sources of protein, particularly in rural areas. Now decades later, they might be making a comeback in the Korean diet, not as a mere protein source, but as the future of food.
CJ CheilJedang, the food-processing arm of CJ Group, said Thursday that it is looking into edible insects as a smart alternative to traditional protein such as meat.
“Protein sources, such as meat, have production limitations. Insects are much higher in protein and sustainable to farm. This could become the future of food,” said Kim Hyun-dong, publicist for CJ CheilJedang.
The company will study the culinary possibilities of insects in collaboration with a local research lab. CJ signed a memorandum of understanding with the Korean Edible Insect Laboratory Knowledge Coop, to devise ways to use insects as ingredients in ready-to-eat products and recipes, the company said.
The size of the edible-insect market is currently worth 1 billion won ($857 million), which is small compared to the U.S and Europe. But the sector is growing fast in line with the rising insect-eating movement here and abroad.
The Korean government has already established legal measures to support the edible insect industry, along with a series of research projects led by the Rural Development Administration.
Insects generally used for cooking include grasshoppers, crickets, mealworms and honey ants. They are all rich in protein and minerals. They also contain high amounts of unsaturated fatty acid.
According to a 2014 study conducted by the RDA, crickets have a protein content that is three times higher than beef for the same unit weight, meaning people can take in a high amount of protein by consuming just a small amount of insects. This is why CJ sees their appeal as the future of food, Kim said.
But how does CJ plan to convince people to eat insects, considering their unappealing characteristics?
“Edible insect research is still in its infancy. But we plan to carry out various projects as part of our efforts to secure food sources,” said Moon Byung-seok, head of a food lab of CJ CheilJedang.
“The ultimate goal is to introduce edible insect products that people feel comfortable with while eating.”
By Cho Chung-un (email@example.com)