New research by scientists at Ghent University is advocating the use of insect-based fat, a healthy and sustainable alternative to butter, instead of the real thing.
The researchers found that cakes in which just under half the butter is replaced by insect-based fat remain similar to the original as far as texture, taste and colour are concerned. This was confirmed in a taste test scenario, where researchers used fat from black soldier fly larvae in waffles, cookies and cake.
They baked 3 types of each version:
1. a normal version with only butter, 2. a version in which a quarter of the butter was replaced by insect fat, 3. a version in which half of the butter was replaced by insect fat.
These 3 different versions were then served to a taste panel of consumers, asking if they could taste the difference.
Waffles came out on top, with the group failing to notice when even half of the butter had been replaced by insect fat.
“The ecological footprint of an insect is much smaller compared to animal-based food sources,” explained researcher Daylan Tzompa-Sosa (Ghent University). “Besides, we can grow insects in large quantities in Europe, which also reduces the footprint of transport. After all, palm fat is often imported from outside of Europe.”
Furthermore, the health implications of using the alternative source are notable, according to the researchers. “Insect fat is a different type of fat than butter” researcher Tzompa-Sosa explained. “Insect fat contains lauric acid, which provides positive nutritional attributes since it is more digestible than butter. Moreover, lauric acid has an antibacterial, antimicrobial and antimycotic effect. This means that it is able, for example, to eliminate harmless various viruses, bacteria or even fungi in the body, allowing it to have a positive effect on health.”
The main factor against the wider use of the product continues to be the cost, explained researcher Joachim Schouteten. “Currently the price is still too high, because it is only produced on a small scale. We will have to investigate what consumers think on a larger scale. Products with insects such as insect burgers have not yet proved to be a great success. Bakery products with insect fat are more likely to be appreciated, because the insects are merely a form of fat substitute.”