Johan Van Dongen sells insects.
A bright, engaging man, Mr. Van Dongen is head of the meat department at Sligro, a kind of Costco on the edge of this trim Dutch town. Besides steaks, poultry and others kinds of meat, he offers mealworms, buffalo worms, locusts and other insects, as well as prepared products containing insects like Bugs Sticks and Bugs Nuggets — not for pets, but as a source of protein for people.
The New York Times reports that on a recent afternoon he arranged two sample stands, one with chunks of chocolate laced with ground mealworms (larvae for a type of beetle), another with various kinds of whole insects for munching, including worms and crickets, in small plastic containers.
The efforts of Mr. Van Dongen and Sligro, a chain of 25 membership-only warehouse stores throughout the Netherlands, are part of a drive to convince the Dutch that crickets, worms and caterpillars are healthier sources of protein, and are less taxing on the environment, than steaks and pork chops.
Dutch breeders of insects, who until now have supplied the market for pet food — insects for geckos and other lizards, salamanders, newts, frogs, birds or fish — have jumped at an opportunity to open a new market and have founded a trade organization to promote the idea. The government is backing them, and last year it appropriated $1.4 million for research into insects as food, to prepare legislation governing insect farms, health and safety standards, and marketing through retail outlets.
“The risky part is: How can we move this product upscale?” said Marian Peters, a public relations expert who is the organization’s general secretary, munching on Mr. Van Dongen’s insect-laced chocolate.
The risky part is, don’t make people barf.