In a small area near the Alps in northern Italy, containers filled with millions of crickets are stacked on top of each other.
Jumping and chirping loudly – these crickets are going to be food.
The process is simple: they are frozen, boiled, dried and then ground.
Here at the Italian Cricket Farm, the largest insect farm in the country, every day around a million crickets are turned into food items.
Evan Albano, who runs the farm, opens a case to reveal a light brown powder used to make pasta, bread, pancakes, energy bars — and even sports drinks.
Eating crickets, ants and worms has been common in parts of the world such as Asia for thousands of years.
Now, after the European Union approved the sale of animals to humans earlier this year, will there be a change of heart across Europe?
Well, nowhere in Europe is there more resistance to eating insects than in Italy; According to the information obtained from the international public opinion company YouGovAnd the objections are directly from above – the government has already done so They have taken steps to ban their use in pizza and pasta production.
“We oppose this madness that harms agriculture and our culture in any way and in any place,” Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini wrote on Facebook.
But is all that about to change? Several Italian manufacturers have been supplying cricket pasta, pizza and snacks.
“What we do here is very sustainable,” says Evan. “We use only 12 liters of water to produce one kilo of cricket flour,” he said, pointing out that thousands of liters of water are needed to produce the same amount of protein from cows.
To raise insects, they need only a fraction of the land used for meat production. Given the pollution caused by the meat and dairy industries, a growing number of scientists believe that insects could be the key to combating climate change.
In a restaurant near Turin, chef Simon Lodo has tweaked a nearly 1,000-year-old pasta recipe – the dough is now 15% cricket flour.
It emits a strong, ripe smell.
Some diners are reluctant to try cricket tagliatelle, but those who do—myself included—are surprised at how good it tastes.
In addition to its taste, cricket flour is a superfood full of vitamins, fiber, minerals and amino acids. A dish contains high sources of iron and magnesium, for example, from the usual sirloin steak.
But is this a real option for people who want to eat less meat? The main issue is the price.
“If you want to buy cricket-based food, it will cost you,” Evan says. “Cricket flour is a luxury product. It costs €60 (£52) per kilogram. If you take cricket paste, for example, a pack can cost up to €8.”
This is up to eight times more expensive than regular pasta at the supermarket.
Nowadays, since farmers can sell chicken and beef at low prices, insect food has become a popular option in the Western world.
“The meat I produce is cheaper than cricket flour, and it’s very good,” says Claudio Lauteri, owner of a farm near Rome, which has been in the family for four generations.
But it’s not just about the price. It’s about social acceptance.
Throughout Italy, the number of people aged 100 and over is increasing rapidly. Many point to the Mediterranean diet as the holy grail for a healthy lifestyle.
Claudio says: “Italians have been eating meat for centuries. In moderation, it’s definitely healthy.
He believes that insect food could be a threat to Italian culinary culture – which is universally sacred in this country.
“These products are rubbish,” he says. “We are not used to them, they are not part of the Mediterranean diet. And they can be a threat to people: we don’t know what eating insects does to our bodies.
“I am completely against these new food products. I refuse to eat them.”
As insect farming is on the rise in Europe, so is the aversion to the idea.
A member of Italy’s ruling far-right Brothers of Italy party has described the EU’s approval of animals for humans as “bordering on madness”.
Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, who called Italy a “food superpower,” created the Made in Italy ministry when she was elected, with the aim of preserving tradition.
“Insect products are reaching the supermarket shelves! Flour, larvae – good, delicious,” she said in a disgusted tone in the video.
Three government ministers have issued four decrees to take action amid fears insects may be coming into contact with Italian food. “It is fundamental that these flours do not mix with food made in Italy,” said Agriculture Minister Francesco Lollobrigida.
Insect food is not the only thing that divides opinions in Italy.
It has become a hot topic ahead of this year’s elections in Poland. In March, politicians from the two main parties accused each other of introducing policies that would force citizens to eat insects – with the leader of the main opposition party, Donald Tusk, branding the government “promoters of worm soup”.
Meanwhile, Austria, Belgium and the Netherlands are more accepting of feeding insects. In Austria they eat dried insects Mixed drinkAnd Belgians are open to eating mealworms in energy shakes and bars, burgers and soups.
“Unfortunately, there’s still a lot of misinformation about eating insects,” says Daniel Scognamiglio, who runs a restaurant that serves cricket tagliatelle.
“I’ve been hated, I’ve been criticized, the food tradition is sacred to many people. They don’t want to change their eating habits.”
But he has identified a shift, and says more people — often eagerly — are ordering cricket-based products from his menu.
With the world’s population now over eight billion, there are fears that the planet’s resources may struggle to meet the food demands of so many people.
According to estimates by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, worldwide agricultural production should increase by 70%.
It may be necessary to switch to eco-friendly proteins – such as insects.
Until now, opportunities to produce and commercialize insect food have been limited. With EU approval, prices are expected to drop significantly as the sector grows.
Evan says he has many requests for his products from restaurants and supermarkets.
“The impact on the environment is almost zero. We are a piece of the puzzle that can save the planet.”