The internet took one look at the recent partnership between Tyson Foods and Dutch insect producer Protix and came to the only logical conclusion it could: Tyson was going to put insects in its chicken nuggets.
“If I were a betting person, I would bet that we need to start watching our chicken nugget consumption. ,” read one post on Facebook. "Watch those chicken nuggets!!!," warned another post alongside an image of the announcement.
I'm not even going to link to the numerous TikTok videos spouting disinformation about the poultry industry and insects, guys. I just can't.
So, what’s the real deal?
The Tyson-Protix partnership, announced in October 2023, takes advantage of the growing popularity of insect proteins in poultry and livestock feed.
In the wild, poultry will naturally eat insects, considered to be a protein-rich food source high in energy such as lauric acid, a C-12 saturated fatty acid with demonstrated value-added, antimicrobial and antibacterial properties. The short life cycles of insects – typically less than 50 days – and ability to thrive on a variety of feedstocks make it an easy protein source to produce.
The use of insects to bioconvert byproducts from other food production, like food waste, manure and other agricultural waste streams, could potentially minimize waste and upcycle nutrients, improving the sustainability of the poultry supply chain.
Tyson’s investment in Protix will result in the operation and construction of an insect ingredient facility. Upon completion, it will be the first at-scale facility to “upcycle food manufacturing byproducts into high-quality insect proteins and lipids which will primarily be used in the pet food, aquaculture, and livestock industries,” the company said in a press release.
(Plus, even if Tyson was intending to produce insects for human consumption, let's not forget that bugs are full of protein, totally sustainable and consumed throughout the world -- even if its taste is universally associated with the word 'ick.')
How should the industry respond?
There’s always going to be misinformation on the internet, unfortunately. Still, to me, this feels like an excellent opportunity for education.
Consumers always say that sustainability and animal welfare are top priorities. Insect proteins offer a way for poultry to exhibit natural behaviors and upcycle! The industry should find a way to share this message with consumers so that they don’t bug out the next time insect proteins come up in conversation.