Locusts take Dunedin by swarm as Vault 21 diners go crazy for bugs

People are swarming to a Dunedin restaurant to eat locusts.

Vault 21 executive chef Greg Pine said the lower Octagon restaurant had sold out of locusts since putting the insects on the menu on Friday. "We can't keep up."

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Last week, they were offered either fried with chilli salt, or alive and kicking. But the restaurant dropped the "raw" option after negative feedback on social media which claimed eating a live insect was inhumane.

A plate of five cooked locusts costs $5, with another delivery of locusts expected this week.

Bugs are on the menu in Auckland as well, with Avondale-based company Crawlers selling cricket pasta and flour. According to co-owner, 25-year-old Daniel Craig, eating bugs is the way of the future.

He says crickets are high in protein and more sustainable to farm than cattle - claims which are backed up by a United Nations report.

Flour ($39.99 for 500g) and pasta ($13.99 for 250g) made of ground crickets are now available and Craig says the 30 packs of pasta and 12 packs of flour he ordered from a Thai supplier sold out almost instantly.

The pasta, he says, has a "nutty smell and tastes a bit like almonds".

Craig has been selling edible insects for about three years. Other products available include dehydrated zebra tarantulas ($19.99), chocolate-coated superworms ($11.99), Asian forest scorpion ($19.99), and "mixed bugs" - a selection of salted grasshoppers, mole crickets and bamboo worms ($11.99).

Tarantulas are sold fried as a street food in Southeast Asia, but Crawlers sells them in a can.

Craig says the top-selling bug is the centipede, and customers are half interested in eating the products and half in buying them as a joke.

He sells up to 40 "edibles" a week.

In a 2013 report, the UN estimated that insects formed part of the traditional diet of at least two billion people, and more than 1900 species are eaten.

Craig is waiting for a new shipment of pasta, and says he has recently signed an agreement to supply an Auckland restaurant with crickets.

An MPI spokesperson said insects for human consumption could be imported as long as they meet biosecurity requirements.

"The insects have to be farm-grown for human consumption and processed at facilities that operate under a food safety management programme approved by the government of the exporting country."

All sellers had to be registered with MPI as a food importer and comply with sourcing, storage and traceability requirements.

"All food for sale in New Zealand must meet our requirements to ensure that it is safe for consumers," the spokesperson said.

- Otago Daily Times

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