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Swiss restaurant offers insect cooking classes using homegrown weevils

A Bern restaurant is offering new cooking classes to teach people how to cook with insects.

Swiss restaurant offers insect cooking classes using homegrown weevils
Bug burgers could be common in the future. Photo: Coop
Designer and events organizer Andrea Staudacher will lead the next class, which is open to the general public, on April 3rd at the Löscher restaurant in the Swiss capital.
 
Participants will learn how to make things such as muffins and falafel using fried grasshoppers and flour worms (weevils), the latter bred on the premises. 
 
The restaurant’s manager told 20 Minuten that he produces around two kilos of weevils a week – feeding them old bread and vegetable peelings – with a view to producing three tons a year in the future.
 
Speaking to the paper about the cooking classes, Staudacher said: “We associate prawns with food but not grasshoppers. However the two animals are very similar.”
 
“A handful of crickets provides the same amount of protein as a piece of beef steak.”
 
Staudacher has already held one class for restauranters and chefs, including the manager of Bern burger bar Kung Fu Burgers who told the paper she would certainly look into offering insect-based dishes for special events at her restaurant.
 
The new classes are timely, since from May 1st the Swiss federal food safety office is changing the rules to allow insect products to be sold to consumers as long as they respect usual food safety regulations. 
 
As a result, Swiss supermarket Coop said it will this spring start selling products made from insects, such as burgers and meatballs. 
 
Insects are as rich in protein as meat and fish and contain essential vitamins, minerals and amino acids. They are sustainable to cultivate since they require much less food and water than other animals and do not emit harmful greenhouse gases.
 
They are also delicious, said Coop, pointing out that crickets taste a bit like chicken and weevils have a nutty flavour.
 
The cooking class at the Löscher costs 80 francs a head and is limited to 20 people. More details here.

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OPINION & ANALYSIS

Will Switzerland be able to feed itself in the future?

Amid a worsening climate crisis and an increasingly unstable world food system, Clare O’Dea looks at what Switzerland and its population need to do to ensure there is enough food on the table in the years to come.

Will Switzerland be able to feed itself in the future?

Faced with a growing global population, the climate crisis and increasingly degraded agricultural land, the challenge of how to feed the world in the near future is one of the burning issues of the day. 

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has created a multitude of additional food security problems, contributing to already rising global food prices and rising input costs for agriculture, such as energy and fertilisers. 

Meanwhile, Switzerland’s food self-sufficiency rate is relatively low for Europe at around 50 per cent. The government’s new agriculture strategy for 2050 has set the seemingly modest goal of maintaining that level.

The 79-page strategy document, like most such publications, does not look beyond 2050. But this is just the point when climate change and increasing demand for food are expected to intensify.

Should we be alarmed?

One thing the Covid-19 pandemic showed was that not all countries are equally affected by a global crisis. Money is usually the main protection against disaster, but leadership, preparedness, and the ability and willingness to respond quickly are also important. 

For domestic food production over the next two to three decades, hope still rests on two main pillars – boosting productivity in a sustainable way, and changing consumer behaviour. There’s not much else that can be done. 

EXPLAINED: Why Switzerland’s inflation has rate stayed low compared to elsewhere?

The bad news is that the Swiss population is not eating a well-balanced diet and the average intake of calories is too high.

People are not eating enough dairy products, pulses, fruit and vegetables and consuming too much meat, sweet things and alcohol. 

We all know this.

But did you know how harmful this love affair with our stomachs is? The strategy document spells it out: “The environmental impact of consumption could be halved if people adopted a healthy diet, based on the nutritional recommendations.”

With a different portfolio of food grown in Switzerland corresponding to a healthier diet, the self-sufficiency rate would increase too. Consumer behaviour is changing but not radically or quickly enough. It’s hard to see the harm being reduced without enforced measures of some kind. 

READ MORE: Seven products that are becoming more expensive in Switzerland

Another crying shame of our food system and lifestyle is that a third of the food produced by farmers ends up being wasted between field and fork. All that energy, money and ecological impact for nothing. 

Although food self-sufficiency carries its own risks – vulnerability to local shocks, extra pressure on the environment – being too reliant on imports is not ideal. Overall, the EU is a net food exporter. But the Swiss government has made it clear that Switzerland will continue to rely significantly on imports for the foreseeable future. 

One simple reason is the limited availability of agricultural land. Currently 36 per cent of Switzerland’s land surface is given over to agricultural production and pasture. Farmers have to compete with growing urbanisation and, of course, the non-negotiable presence of the mountains that cover 60 per cent of the land’s surface.

During the Covid-19 pandemic we saw that money can, up to a point, buy you health. Switzerland nabbed so many of the globally available vaccines that it has had to donate or destroy surplus. Money can also buy you food, and this, along with proximity to supply, puts Switzerland is a rather secure position. 

In fact, Switzerland came fifth out of 113 countries in the Global Food Security Index which considers the issues of food affordability, availability and quality, as well as natural resource and resilience. By which we could conclude that everything is under control. 

The victims of this year’s global food crisis – the 323 million people who will become acutely food insecure, according to the UN – live in the countries that routinely appear at the bottom of such indexes. 

Nevertheless, according to the Swiss agricultural research body Agroscope, we should not feel a false sense of security. Apart from dependence on foreign countries and climate change, power supply is one of the key threats to Swiss food supply. 

In its latest annual assessment of threats to food supply, Agroscope wrote that the probability of and the potential damage from a serious power shortage are particularly high compared to other risks. “Supplies of vital foodstuffs would be massively affected, the effects would be manifold, and would not be overcome quickly.”

If the worst comes to the worst, Switzerland stockpiles compulsory stocks of essential goods for bridging in case of crisis and shortages. Mandatory storage facilities around the country hold three to four months’ worth of basic foodstuffs like sugar, rice, cooking oils, cereals and animal feed. 

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Is that reassuring? Three months doesn’t feel like a lot.

These stocks are only released when the economy itself is no longer able to satisfy demand. In any case, Agroscope says “household emergency stocks are of great importance”.

I don’t know about you, but I’m off to the supermarket.

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