Tyson Foods Invests Heavily In Bug-Based Protein Production

Corporate giant Tyson Foods announced an international partnership with a Dutch firm that bills itself as the global leader in “insect ingredients.” The mission, Protix claims, is to enable “more sustainable protein production.”

Bugs may not be what’s for dinner just yet, but some are pushing for widespread human consumption. It is difficult not to see Tyson’s move as a significant step in that direction.

Through its investment, the company will have a minority stake in Protix. The plan is to construct an “insect ingredient facility” in the U.S. for the domestic manufacture of bug-based protein as a food source. An Oct. 17 statement by Tyson Foods clarified the current plans.

The proposed plant will produce “high-quality insect proteins and lipids which will primarily be used in the pet food, aquaculture and livestock industries.”

Tyson touted the insect life cycle as a positive for food production.

Chief Financial Officer John Tyson said the reproductive habits of insects present “the opportunity for full circularity within our value chain, strengthening our commitment to building a more sustainable food system for the future.”

The CFO confirmed that current plans not for these bugs to be used for human food. “Today, we’re focused on more of [an] ingredient application with insect protein than we are a consumer application.”

But, what about tomorrow?

Protix, which was only founded in 2019, already produces 14,000 metric tons of insect ingredients per year. There are increasing calls in some quarters for feeding these products to humans.

Insect protein has been slow to become part of people’s diets, but it is now a fixture in some pet food products. A line of cat food derived from insects, LoveBug, was introduced in 2021.

Tyson is not currently in the pet food business, but it sells animal byproducts that go into manufacturing pet food and feeding fish. Company officials note that these products may accumulate in landfills if not reused for feeding insects.

Though most find the prospect disgusting, some environmentalists argue that bugs are the future of food. Insects are sustainable, they say, and thrive on waste that otherwise would be discarded and harmful to the planet.

Perhaps, but they have far to go to sell that concept to diners.