Kuwaiti businessman Jassem Buabbas, spent years breeding “superworms” for animal feed and now hopes the creatures will find their way into the diets of Gulf citizens.
In a small, dark room outside Kuwait City, Buabbas places the worm-like larvae of the darkling beetle, famed for their high protein content, into a transparent box on a bed of bran and cornflour.
In another, he puts the mature beetles for mating.
“My ambition is for worms to be a successful food alternative for humans,” he told AFP.
Insects are widely eaten around the globe, with an estimated one thousand species appearing on the dinner plates of some two billion people in Africa, Asia and Latin America.
But apart from traditional diets, cricket pasta and mealworm smoothies have become the latest food trend in some world capitals, with edible insects being promoted as a sustainable alternative to regular protein sources.
Some Gulf states have a tradition of eating dried and baked locusts, which can appear in plague proportions.
They are considered a delicacy by some, although consumption has fallen out of favour in modern times.
While superworms — in high demand among owners of birds, fish, amphibians and reptiles — have not yet been approved for human consumption in Kuwait, Buabbas is hopeful that people will be willing to try them.
He aims to expand his business beyond the pet trade and get the invertebrates onto dinner plates, in what would be the first such restaurant in the Gulf.
He is now experimenting with recipes before seeking permission from the Kuwaiti authorities.
“I have so far created three types of sauces… and colleagues of mine have tried and liked them,” said Buabbas, who apart from breeding superworms works in the government sector.
Regulation is catching up with the food trend — in May, the European Commission approved dried mealworms for human consumption after the 27-nation bloc’s food watchdog said they were safe to eat.
The decision was good news for the burgeoning insect farming industry in Europe.#s63