Insect larvae in meatballs? Food startup hopes meat-free alternative flies with consumers

Insect larvae in meatballs? Food startup hopes meat-free alternative flies with consumers
PHOTO: Reuters

ISRAEL - Yair Feinberg is making Swedish meatballs. The Israeli chef shapes them, fries them, and finishes them off with a squeeze of lime.

The taste - seemingly a hit. The main ingredient, however, is a head-turner. Feinberg calls these 'flyballs.' That is because they are made with a powder derived from fruit fly larvae.

The powder is made at FlyingSpArk, a food tech start-up that sees the larvae as a near perfect protein.

"First of all the nutrition values are very, very high in terms of protein, iron, calcium, magnesium and the essential amino acid profile is very, very high. There is no cholesterol etc and on the other hand, it's highly sustainable," founder and CEO FlyingSpArk, Eran Gronich explained.

With market demand growing for edible insects, developers say fruit fly larvae have an edge over other edible insects, like grasshoppers or crickets, because they have no legs, wings, antennas, or eyes.

The fruit flies have a short lifespan of six days and are easy to cultivate. A mix of sugary vegetables like carrots, pumpkins, and sweet potatoes provides their nourishment, and the nutrients they ingest is passed into the powder.

"It's much more healthier than eating red meat for instance, in insect protein you have all the good stuff without the bad stuff, the only thing that's a challenge, it's only in our mind, it's only the psychological barrier, that's it," added Gronich.

The powder has already sparked interest from IKEA.

Whether the Swedish furniture giant ever adds the ingredient to its legendary restaurant meatballs is debatable, for one good reason, the 'yuck' factor, which might prevent many consumers from accepting the insects as part of their diet.

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