Documentary following insect expert Dr Sarah Beynon and award-winning chef Andy Holcroft as they try to bring insect-based food products to the mainstream market.
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On the south-west tip of Wales, in Britain's smallest city,
St David's, it is market day.
Alongside the stalls of jams, meats and cheeses on sale
is local farm produce with a difference.
Hello. Would anyone like to try some edible insects?
And insect scientist Dr Sarah Beynon and her partner,
award-winning chef Andy Holcroft,
are causing quite a buzz about town with their edible bugs.
These are Mexican red grasshoppers that have been lightly spiced with
chilli as well, so these are quite a salty snack.
So, you know, two billion people are eating insects everyday.
So, the burgers are a blend of mealworms, crickets,
grasshoppers and buffalo worms.
-That one had its little eyes going, "Hello!"
They are lovely.
-Would you like another one?
-That was a hint, wasn't it?
But Sarah and Andy are on a bigger mission - to take edible insects
from their local marketplace to the mainstream.
With rising demand for high protein food and new breeding and mass
the day of the insect has arrived for the bug grub couple.
Just outside St David's in Pembrokeshire is Bug Farm -
the family farm of entomologist Dr Sarah Beynon -
with a zoo, gallery, research centre and restaurant.
Oh, the cabbages this time in the morning...
-It's a lovely smell.
And fox. Can definitely smell fox musk as well.
Every morning we need to go out and get fresh food for the locusts,
for the ants and for the stick insects,
so they need new food every day.
And in this field we're growing a wild birdseed mix,
so it works really well that it benefits the birds in the winter,
it benefits pollinators in the summer,
and we get kale and cabbage for our locusts.
OK, so that will be enough cabbages for now.
And we need to replace the cabbages every couple of hours
for the locusts, like, they eat a lot!
What we don't want to be doing is we don't want to be feeding our insects
on something that we can eat as humans.
We want to actually be looking at, "What's a waste stream that we don't currently make use of?"
Because if we're just eating insects and feeding them on food
that we could eat, it would be much more efficient for us to just eat
that food rather than having that intermediate step of the insect in the middle.
So, during the night, the locusts poo a lot,
so we need to clear out the poos and pull out any dead locusts as well.
Right, so this is always a challenge in the morning.
You do end up having locusts kind of raining down on your face as you go in.
Basically, we just scrape off all the fresh poos on the surface
and then any dead adults as well.
So, that's one that's done.
And then this is the new feed going in...
and that's just overnight.
So, they've eaten three of these overnight and turned them into stalks like this.
-One of the perks of the job.
Welcome to The Bug Farm.
Across the farmyard from the bug zoo is the grub restaurant,
where award-winning chef Andy Holcroft offers a double menu -
normal food next to insect versions -
beef burgers and bug burgers.
So, locusts, the best way I've found to cook them is actually to pan-fry them.
At the moment, these insect ingredients are imported,
but the couple's long-term aim is to commercially breed their own bugs locally.
So obviously I like to enhance the flavour of the locusts,
and what better than honey and a little bit of chilli?
And obviously I fry it in a little bit of butter as well.
The first thing you'll taste will be this nice honey flavour with a little bit
of heat from the cayenne pepper and then you start to eat them a little bit,
you'll get the flavour of the locusts will come through and they're really nice
and almost meaty, almost like a prawn.
I mean, effectively they are basically a land prawn.
You see in Africa, kids go to school with strings of locusts, you know, and that's their lunch.
And I think, yeah, as a high-protein snack to eat on-the-fly,
I think locusts will be brilliant.
With the locusts, pull the legs off.
They tend to get stuck in the throat otherwise, OK?
Sort of zingy.
It tastes, yeah, earthy, sort of, I'm not quite sure.
Hi, there. Who's having the bug burgers?
The bug burger is our signature dish.
Everyone likes to eat a burger,
so this is a recipe we've been developing and working on for about three years.
It's one of the buggiest dishes we serve at Grub Kitchen,
probably about between 55 and 60% insect.
So what I'm going to start with, these are lesser mealworms,
so I'm going to pop a few of these in this little blender.
And then these are large mealworms, grasshoppers.
These are crickets,
so this is almost like your insect mince.
-So this is going to go on.
The reason we make them about 55-60% insect
is so we can actually explain to people this
has probably got the same amount of protein in it as your beef burger,
so that's what we want to do,
is try and replace conventional protein
with much more sustainable edible insect protein
to show to people that there is a way of reducing the amount
of meat we're consuming.
If it wasn't for the whole insects we put in here as well,
you wouldn't really be able to tell, apart from the taste,
there are any bugs in here.
So the reason I actually put some whole bugs in at the end
is purely so people can see them.
If you told someone that it was a veggie burger,
they would probably think it was a very delicious,
suspiciously delicious, veggie burger.
-Lovely, yeah. Really nice, yeah.
I think it helps having friends around to join in,
-but she's, yeah, loving them.
-SHE TAKES NOISY BITE
While still a senior research associate at Oxford University,
Sarah also enjoys enthusing about insects,
changing people's minds by taking the creepy out of crawlies
in hands-on sessions with visitors.
Dave is a giant Madagascan hissing cockroach.
I started off having these as pets.
-This is how it all started.
I'm blown away daily by the feedback we get from visitors.
We've had people who come in who hate insects or are terrified
by them and who end up handling Dave, the giant cockroach.
So what does everyone think?
-Do we like Dave?
Yes? Brilliant. That's it.
There's just that shift in perception, which you can see.
It's a light bulb moment of,
"Oh, I didn't know these things were so interesting."
If something bit their head off,
a female cockroach would live for long enough without her head...
-..to be able to have babies, because the brains
in her legs could keep her going, keep her alive for, like,
two weeks without a head.
He's really, like, really easy to handle.
Go on, see if you can do it!
It's really difficult to know when that exact moment was when I thought,
"I'm fascinated by insects. This is what I want to do."
But I think it goes back to ladybird-hunting with my gran.
That fascinating childhood of farming
alongside learning and an appreciation for life,
whether it was farmed animals or wildlife,
I think is probably what has got me to where I am today
and to running The Bug Farm.
I met Sarah in a restaurant.
I was cooking as a chef. She was a waitress.
I think I was looking for a bottle of brandy to make some
peppercorn sauce and smashed a giant bottle of martini at her feet.
And I think I looked up and, yeah, there was definitely a click.
Our eyes met over the blood and broken glass,
and that was it. And then he bought me rissoles every day,
these meat rissoles, and I don't eat much meat,
and he tried to woo me with rissoles that I would then secrete
under the different counters of this restaurant so that I didn't have to
eat them and I could pretend that I was wooed.
I was an academic scientist
and we never really thought that our career paths would cross.
And it really, you know, it took five or six years before we went, "Hey, hang on,
"we're at either ends of the food chain here.
"We can do something pretty good."
Immediately, my curiosity was piqued and I thought, "Well, this could be the new thing."
So the next day I literally went on the internet, ordered some bugs,
they turned up, and I started experimenting.
After the insect idea came the opportunity.
Sarah's uncle farm came up for sale -
a chance to create a bug hub.
The farm itself was tired and it's like a lot of old farms,
it takes a huge amount of time and money to do them up.
Sarah has that vision.
She knew straightaway that this is going to be something special,
so I suppose that took a bit of time to get there,
but now I wouldn't have done it any other way.
While creating Bug Farm,
Sarah and Andy have still managed to keep the family's Welsh Black cattle going,
so Sarah knows first-hand how much fewer resources insects use
compared to a beef herd to produce the same protein.
Bugs feed on waste, while cows need feed from edible arable crops.
Farmed insects need hardly any land.
Their water use is minimal and, unlike cattle,
they hardly add to climate change.
But, while far less sustainable,
people like eating beef, so the challenge is to make bugs as tasty.
The great thing about Andy is he makes food taste delicious.
He's a superb chef and that's what we need
when you're taking a new type of food to the masses.
So this is a red pepper and cream cheese chapuline vol-au-vent,
so we've actually blitzed up some of the grasshoppers really finely,
and that's in the mixture to give it some taste and a bit of bite,
and then we're putting some on top as well so you can actually see the grasshoppers that you're eating.
All bugs taste really different, yeah.
There's just under 2,000 species of edible insect.
That's potentially a whole load of more, you know, tastes.
Tonight, Andy is preparing a bug feast,
trying out new recipes on his family, friends and neighbours.
We've had a huge amount of support. We've been so lucky.
This is such a vibrant community,
with such wonderful supportive people,
and we couldn't have done it without them,
but it's been a bloody tough journey to get to this stage just because we
haven't done it with pots of money behind us.
Go on, you can have a cricket, as well.
I'm not letting you get away without a couple of crickets.
-I'm not trying any of this.
Would you like to try them cooked?
-That's really interesting because quite a lot of people don't want to see them.
-Oh, wait till the end.
They sound amazing.
I want to try everything.
There were some...
The black ants. And then we've got crickets, which you can try here.
What a buggy feast.
I really liked it. It's not as terrifying as you imagine before you start eating it.
It's all right, yeah.
The flavour wasn't bad, but visually I couldn't get over it.
The legs and things, no.
I've been vegetarian for 20 years but,
for ethical and environmental reasons,
this is fine because it fits in
with all my principles and it's delicious.
I've really enjoyed actually tasting these.
You know, these are the tiny mealworms.
I really enjoy it.
Hope you all enjoyed the food.
So, next course, obviously, is the pudding.
We are looking at taking some products to market,
so these cricket cookies contain 10% crickets.
They've also got white chocolate, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds,
which give a nice interesting bite as well.
And you're probably wondering what these crazy mounds are.
So this is a mango, passion fruit and black ant pavlova kind of mess, kind of thing.
So, enjoy. Come up and we'll get you some pudding.
At this stage now, with this sort of,
a bit of market research, people liking the food,
we can now put into practice a few steps, which will get those products
pitched and hopefully on supermarket shelves soon.
But to take their cricket cookies and other bug grub to market,
Sarah and Andy need to know that their suppliers can upscale,
deliver commercial quantities,
so they are off to the Netherlands to meet the insect farmers.
I'm super excited to meet with our mealworm and cricket suppliers.
Will they be able to meet our demand going forward?
It's all about the taste.
Are they still going to taste great with this massive upscaling?
And will they be safe for us to eat?
Traditionally, insect farmers have produced protein for the pet food industry,
but demand is expanding rapidly for protein in animal and fish feed,
and for human consumption.
Most people think about mealworms as worms,
but they're actually beetles,
so the mealworms are the larvae of these beetles.
And we harvest them at the larva stage,
because that's when they've got the most nutrients in them,
so this little larva here is packed full of protein.
This is the breeding stock,
so this is the absolute core part of the farm.
And 25% of the beetles, the adult beetles, will die each week,
so you are constantly having to be breeding more
to replenish that stock.
Yeah, this is the heart of the beetle farm.
So, what's in here?
Here are the beetles and they put eggs in the boxes.
-So the adult beetles?
This is amazing.
And you're feeding them with?
Carrots and meal.
OK. How many beetles are in each tray?
About 2,000 beetles.
Wow. And there's a lot of trays in here.
All these trays have 2,000 beetles in them?
Yeah, all the trays.
Oh, wow. So these beetles will lay the eggs in here?
-And then you'll transfer the eggs to a different room?
To a different room, with another climate.
-OK, so these are the mealworms?
Wow, that's so warm!
Yeah, that's a lot of heat in it.
So they're generating that heat?
-How old are they when you harvest them?
Then, they are nine weeks.
So, in nine weeks, you go from the adult beetle laying the egg
to a box full of larvae?
-So, do you think, what you feed the mealworms on,
do you think that changes the flavour of the end product?
Yes, it changes the flavour.
Wow. From my point of view, as a chef, this is revolutionary.
Yes, there are chefs out there doing amazing things,
but there's not many chefs in the UK really using insects
in new products, in new dishes,
and this is where it all begins.
And what do you think they taste like?
Er, like walnuts.
Here, we have the crickets.
I breed them in boxes.
This is a box.
How many crickets would you have in one box?
At the moment, now, it's 150g.
But in that box, there can be half a kilo.
You are now moving into crickets for human consumption.
-And what's changed for you to allow that to happen?
The big change is, before it was for human,
I used a lot of medicine.
Because you are breeding crickets in this,
the stress is very high inside the boxes
and, with medicine, you can reduce the stress.
But, for food for human, we don't need hormones and
all that stuff in the medicine.
How have you reduced their stress,
which allows you now not to be using medicines?
I'm now a 40-year breeder
and I almost sleep with them in those 40 years,
so I'm thinking like a cricket, actually.
One rule, an easy rule,
is not more than half a kilo in those boxes.
So, just to get this right,
these crickets are perfectly safe for us to use in human food?
Yes, they are perfectly safe to use in human food.
I eat them myself every day in my yoghurt.
With their suppliers on board, Sarah and Andy return to Wales
to take their cricket cookies to a wider audience.
But their restaurant kitchen is too small to bake on a commercial scale,
so they've come to the food centre near Llandysul
in West Wales for help.
Good morning. How are you? Are you OK?
-Yeah, nice to see you.
-Everything going well?
Really well. So excited.
The insects at the moment aren't looking much like insects.
So this is cricket powder. This is a protein.
But this is pure crickets that have been ground up into a powder.
There is actually protein in normal flour,
but this will make the cookie, on average,
about three times more protein than a normal cookie.
Have you done anything like this here before?
You're the first of the cricket family to come here.
Did you think we were flipping mad when we mentioned what we wanted to do?
It is an unusual product,
but that's what all our new product development is all about.
Innovation is the word all the way through
and your product is totally an innovative product as well.
-I'm just going to get out of the way.
Who wants to press go first?
-Shall we do it together?
-What do we have to press?
-Three, two, one, go.
I'll do the second and third
and you do the first line.
-They're coming out.
We were aiming for about 400,
but I think we're going to be close to 600.
So, yeah, we'll have done quite a few cookies.
And rolling that out by hand would have taken four,
five hours just in the rolling and cutting time.
So, yeah, it's sped it up an amazing amount.
On average, in each cookie, about 25-30 crickets.
I think, in general, about ten crickets per gram.
Well, next, we're going to test them.
So we're going to take them up to Hay Festival and we're going to test
them on a crowd up there, and see what they think.
Andy and Sarah are sharing the stage at the Hay Literary Festival with a
children's author whose bestselling book features a beetle and is today launching a sequel.
I actually know not much about bugs, so I need an expert,
someone who can make sure that all the facts are true,
and then I saw Sarah on telly.
And I was watching Countryfile,
and she came on and she'd just started this bug farm in Pembrokeshire.
And I was like, "Oh, she's an entomologist.
"She likes dung beetles! Brilliant!"
So, I wrote her an e-mail and said, "Please, please, please,
"I'm writing this book, you have to make sure that the facts are correct."
And she very generously said yes.
And I'm very, very proud of my relationship with Sarah because,
ultimately, the inspiration for Beetle Queen has come out of my
relationship with Sarah and how much she's taught me.
Who here has ever eaten a burger?
Yeah, that's pretty much everyone.
OK. To produce that one burger,
a cow has to drink over 3,250 litres of water.
Now, to get the same amount of protein value for a bug burger,
they have to drink...
..about one cup.
So, straightaway, just by choosing that burger,
you're reducing the amount of water that is being consumed to produce that.
So does anyone want to try something very quickly?
Your hand went straight up.
-Shall I take...?
-Do you want to actually take around a cricket?
Yeah. And these are little lesser mealworms.
After the dried bug nibbles,
the audience are offered in the foyer the cricket cookies.
What happened in there, I hated the bugs,
but now that I've eaten this, I think I quite like them now.
Like, the impact on the environment, it's just so much better.
But it tastes the same.
I didn't eat the bugs on their own when they passed them around,
but this cookie is so nice.
It's so great to come to an event like this,
where you start off by asking, "Who doesn't like bugs?"
And most of the audience put their hands up.
And I noticed that they were sitting there looking really concerned.
By the end, "Who likes bugs? Hands up."
Everybody loves them and, well,
that's all we've got left of the cricket cookies.
Regardless of the bugs, they're a good product.
So, yeah, very happy.
With rave reviews from Hay,
the cricket cookies then go for scientific and commercial assessment
at the Food Industry Centre at Cardiff Metropolitan University.
We're really looking forward to doing a consumer panel
with your cricket cookies.
I hope it'll be really helpful for your new product development
and your product going forward.
-See you on the other side.
-See you soon.
For the perception tests,
each volunteer is given half a regular cookie from a high street retailer
and half a cricket cookie.
They are then asked a series of questions,
including preference, purchasing and price.
The test results were then given to an expert panel,
to scrutinise all aspects of the cricket cookie product.
So the test results are back.
I'm absolutely petrified, truly.
And in that room we've got a panel of experts,
which are going to let us know the test results, so...
-Let's go, let's do it.
-Good morning. Please sit down.
Thanks very much for seeing us.
I'm sure you're quite excited to hear these results.
Well, twice as many people preferred the one with insects...
-..compared to the retail product.
-That's what we wanted to hear.
The reasons for preferring it was that they had a sweet,
chocolaty flavour, that it was crumbly and buttery,
and saying that the retail one was a bit bland,
and that one was too sweet for their taste.
But 94% of the people that took part in the panel said that they would, you know,
that they would consider buying foods with insects in them.
-So, that's really...
-94%, so that's really great results for you.
Could you share some more about the branding?
I'd be really interested to know your thoughts.
-I like that.
-Yeah. It has that sort of luxury...
Maybe the individual packs or twin packs to go off to the, sort of, coffee shop,
hospitality channel, might be more appropriate.
We're meeting with Celtic Manor next week,
to pitch to them the cookies for conferencing,
so we'll be talking to them about whether we go along with our cookies
for their big conferences.
As the former host of the Ryder Cup and a Nato conference,
the Celtic Manor is one of Wales' most prestigious hotel resorts.
-Hi, nice to see you again.
-How are you doing?
We've done a very first draft of packaging
-and we've rejigged the recipe a little bit as well.
I like this, the "Who we are," as well, because it's telling a story
and, you know, certainly, for our market, people want to see that,
and that's the sort of thing that would definitely help it sell.
Yeah, I mean, and we said this before, in terms of,
I think it would be a unique selling point,
in terms of crickets, for one of our shops.
So, in terms of upscaling, where are you with that now,
in delivering volume?
Well, I think, I think what we really need is those first initial expressions of interest,
maybe a few pre-orders, or, you know, just as an indication to say,
"Do we take the punt?"
-That's really good, actually, really tasty.
-Glad you enjoyed it.
They are wicked, they are really, really good, yeah.
So, if we're looking at hitting, say,
the conference market in September,
when could we get boxes of cricket cookies on the shelves in the shop here at Celtic Manor?
We'd go with the conference market in September
and, you know, what a great thing for a conference delegate to say,
"Oh, you know, we had the cookie at our break
"and we can take it home to our spouse or to our children."
So it makes sense that both are running parallel.
Well, we'll shake on that!
-No, no, you're welcome.
-Thanks for your passion.
-Thank you very much.
Well, that was absolutely amazing.
I mean, I think we've got our first big client there, with conferences,
with the conference centre, and in the shops as well.
Yeah. There's so much opportunity here.
And we've also heard that the First Minister is on-site today here at
Celtic Manor, so we're going try and go and track him down,
and see if we can get him to taste a cricket cookie.
-Hi, there, how are you?
-Very good, thanks.
-Hello. I'm Andy from Grub Kitchen.
-How are you doing?
Hello, I'm Sarah Beynon from The Bug Farm at St David's.
So here we have cricket cookies.
-So these are cricket cookies.
-Well, shall we?
What are your thoughts? I mean, as a scientist,
I'm very keen that we are getting Wales on the map
to become a leader in this new, innovative industry.
Do you think that's something that would be of benefit to Wales?
Yes, I do, because I've read a lot of articles that suggest
that insects will become more important as a source of protein in the future.
People are far more open to new tastes and new ideas.
A little bit further to go, I suspect, in terms of insects.
But we know in Mexico and a lot of other countries,
it's, you know, run-of-the-mill to eat insects.
It's just a question of broadening people's minds.
Andy and Sarah have come a long way in the last two years.
The next step is whether supermarkets
and high street shoppers are ready to take on the bugs.
So now the challenge is to go more and more mainstream.
Bugs are valuable.
They're protein, not pests, so let's do it.
Showing as part of the Our Lives strand.
Entomologist Dr Sarah Beynon and award-winning chef Andy Holcroft are on a mission. The Pembrokeshire couple love eating bugs and they want the UK public to eat them too. Which is why they have transformed their beef farm in west Wales into a one-stop bug shop! But will their insect food fly or get swatted?
As demand grows for a sustainable alternative protein to meat, Sarah and Andy believe bug grub is the way forward. Insects need far less land and water than beef, they can feed off waste rather than edible arable crops and don't contribute to climate change to the same degree as beef production does. But has the day of the insect arrived? Are the UK ready for bug burgers and cricket cookies?
We follow Sarah and Andy as they take their bug based food products developed on the farm to the mainstream food market. First up is the cricket cookie, a delicious concoction of cricket powder and chocolate chips! But before the duo pitch to UK buyers, they go to the Netherlands to meet the insect farmers Roland van der Ver and Bert Nostimos who they hope will provide them with a plentiful supply of bugs.
With a regular supply of safe bugs secured, the couple decide to take their cricket cookies to the prestigious Hay Literary Festival, where Sarah and Andy hand them out to the public. Receiving rave reviews, we follow the couple as they endeavour to get their cookies scientifically assessed and on to the market. Will the UK take to their sustainable protein or will they be seen as nothing more than pests?