Japanese airline provides bugs to their flight meals — and so they’re right here to remain

Japanese airline adds insects to their flight meals — and they’re here to stay

Chicken, pasta or ground grasshoppers? A Japanese airline recently introduced a range of inflight meals containing crushed cricket powder to promote food sustainability. Crickets are nutritious and relatively popular as a street food in some parts of Asia, but the reason for this flight menu change is that crickets have a much lower carbon footprint than traditional meals served by airlines.

A burger with crickets. Photo credit: Zipair.

Japanese low-cost airline Zipair, a subsidiary of national carrier Japan Airlines, based at Tokyo’s Narita International Airport, is now accepting reservations for two inflight meals, some of which consist of ground crickets. The airline is serving a chili tomato burger and a pasta dish, both of which contain crushed cricket powder.

Zipair has partnered with food technology company Gryllus to serve the unusual meals. And while they’re still reviewing customer feedback, the airline said it has received over 60 orders for the two dishes since they launched in July. So far, those flying internationally from Japan can choose the cricket-based menu options.

It took about three months to perfect the recipe for the two dishes, with the flavor of the crushed cricket powder resembling that of soybeans, according to Zipair. For each dish, two-spotted crickets are ground into a powder, which is then incorporated into the tomato sauce for pasta or into a burger patty and bread.

New dining options

Gryllus was founded in Japan in 2019 with the goal of raising crickets on an industrial scale and converting them into a food source. On its website, the company says it wants to create a “new harmony” to fight food waste while developing a global food cycle and providing healthy food – goals it hopes to achieve with crickets.

Raising crickets is environmentally friendly, the company argues, since they require very little land, water, or feed. The feed conversion rate (the ratio of weight gain to feed consumed) is superior to that of beef, pork or chicken. Crickets are also very nutritious, studies have found that they are high in calcium, zinc, iron, fiber and many other vitamins while also being low in unhealthy fats.

For Zipair, partnering with Gryluss made sense as both companies had already worked to tackle food waste. Asking customers to pre-order meals was a first step for the airline as it saves money and reduces waste. But food options still included beef and seafood – with a wide range of environmental concerns related to ranching and fishing.

This is where the insect-based meal option comes in, which is a better choice from an environmental point of view. Mark Matsumoto, a spokesman for the airline, told the South China Morning Post that Zipair “will continue to partner with companies that develop and introduce sustainable meals to help improve society.”

The aviation industry as a whole has a lot to do if it wants to become truly sustainable. Aviation is responsible for about 2.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions, and while more sustainable meals are a nice first step, they’re just a drop in the bucket. Reducing flight emissions has proven difficult, as electric airlines or lower-emission fuels have yet to really take off. Although the in-flight meal accounts for only a small part of these emissions, it is a first positive step that could put the aviation sector on a more sustainable path.