Photo: Ines Carrara, prapassong (iStock)

For some Western diners, the idea of eating bugs is still beyond the pale. Across much of the rest of the world, however, culinary traditions often include larvae, crickets, and other edible critters as part of regular diets. It’s a protein source, a cultural staple, and a nutrient-rich alternative to animal farming. As the saying goes, don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.

Now a research team at the University Of Queensland is working on substitutions that involve a percentage of maggots, larvae, and plant-based ingredients as either partial or full replacements for conventionally-produced meat products. Meat-science professor (what a title) Dr. Louwrens Hoffman, whose students have already worked on bug-based additives for sausages and ice cream, offers a reminder that it’s hardly outside the norm: “Chickens in the wild don’t eat feed preparations. They eat insects and larvae. And, while insects are largely foreign as a food in Western cultures, for many millions of people around the world they are a familiar part of the diet.”

The work being done by Hoffman’s team “involves the use of larvae (maggots) from the black soldier fly (Hermetia illucens) as a protein source for chicken production.” While Hoffman acknowledges that some Western diners are averse to the mixture unless it’s a component of an otherwise animal-based blend, he argues that “an overpopulated world is going to struggle to find enough protein unless people are willing to open their minds, and stomachs, to a much broader notion of food.”

Particularly now, when researchers and corporations alike are joining in the great race to pioneer different, less animal-dependent methods of mass-producing protein for an ever-growing global population, it’s going to be key for diners to open their minds and palates. We might have to expand our notions of what we’re willing to try for the sake of curtailing concerns associated with industrial farming.

Perhaps this is the truest thing The Lion King ever taught the world: You can find grub anywhere with the right attitude.