Creepy crawly, tasty morsels on the menu for George Town Bigger Science Expo

Published 14 Aug 2017

Kids might turn their noses up at brussels sprouts, but how will they react to being served up a fried house cricket?

Young Tassie Scientist Shasta Henry will be putting kids to the taste test at the George Town Bigger Science Expo on Wednesday, and can’t wait to see the results.

Co-presented by the George Town Council, Bell Bay Aluminium, the George Town Community Hub and the Peter Underwood Centre, the Expo features hands-on science activities designed to inspire and engage students.

Ms Henry, a PhD candidate in invertebrate ecology at the University of Tasmania, has been frying insects for fellow students for some time, but this will be her first attempt to convert the palate of children to the six-legged morsels.

“It could go either way,” she said.

“The kids might have less prejudice, or they might be more squeamish. It is going to be fascinating.”

Ms Henry, an ambassador for the Young Tassie Scientists program, is among the exhibitors at the expo. The house crickets are supplied by her “food hero” Louise Morris, who is pioneering Tasmanian-grown insects for human consumption on a property at Derby.

“I will have a booth set up to chat to people and be frying up some house crickets for tasting,” Ms Henry said.

“The insects we will be eating are quite small, mild and kind of nutty – much like eating a bar snack.”

While her exhibit is certain to attract a crowd out of “morbid fascination”, Ms Henry is a serious campaigner for insects as a food source which could assist the fight against malnutrition in developing countries, and obesity and diabetes in developed countries such as Australia.

“There are a lot of compelling reasons [to turn to insects as a food source],” she said.

“They are very nutritious, with a positive protein to fat ratio.”

“They are also carbon neutral. If you compare 100g of insect meat with 100g of beef, insect meat is 10 times more energy efficient.”

Ms Henry said she understood the idea of eating a “creepy, crawly” was abhorrent to many people, particularly in the Western World, but it was all about perception, and perceptions can change over time.

“It is a big hurdle but I don’t think it is insurmountable,” she said.

Ms Henry pointed to prawns, which were once considered peasant food and disgusting by the majority of people, while sushi was seen as strange and unsafe by the majority of Australians until relatively recently.

“Sushi has become so popular and normal that it is available in every corner of the globe,” she said.

A National Science Week event, the Expo is expected to attract more than 500 students, parents and other community members to the George Town Memorial Hall complex between 11.30am and 3.30pm on Wednesday.

Launched in February 2015, the Peter Underwood Centre is a partnership between the University of Tasmania and the Tasmanian Government in association with the Office of the Governor of Tasmania.