‘Ant Egg-Pudding’ Served as University Meal Could Mean More Than Unsettled Taste Buds

May 20, 2019 Updated: September 6, 2019

News Analysis

A new dish went viral on Chinese social media not necessarily for its flavorful appeal, but rather the shock at what the students were being offered.

The university prepared a large platter of steamed egg pudding, covered in a speckled-black layer of ants, first offered up on May 16.

Many students at the Fuyang Normal University in China’s Anhui Province appeared repulsed by the new dish according to chat-group messages reported by state sponsored media The Beijing Times. However, the report included positive commentary by a single student and upbeat music.

The somewhat shocking meal showing up in a university may reflect the recent significant loss of pigs to disease in China.

Ant Propaganda

The report begins with cartoon-like words reading, “The following images may cause discomfort,” along with a pleasant tune in the background.

However, not all information was kept positive.

“Bugs??? This is too disgusting,” wrote one user, ironically named “Dare to eat anything,” in a chat group that shared pictures of the bug-pudding, according to The Beijing News.

Many other users who shared about the meal on Weibo, China’s version of Twitter, included one recurring phrase, “Do you dare to eat it?”

Certain dishes already use ants as a main ingredient, but insects are not a common meat source in China compared to livestock or seafood. One dish is named “Ant-Fried Pine Nuts,” where the two main ingredients are right in the name.

Though some suggest that insects are not only a viable, but also more efficient food source than traditional livestock, the change in China may reflect one different food’s availability throughout the world.

Could Ant Replace Pork?

It happens that in some regions, pork commonly accompanies egg-pudding, which is made by steaming whipped eggs with water, but several factors have pushed Chinese chefs to look to other protein options. The positive tone in the state-sponsored report comes at the same time as pork prices are on the rise due to the African Swine Fever (ASF) epidemic that is sweeping through China.

China’s massive loss of native pork supplies, its high internal demand for pork, and the United State’s tariffs on pork exports have put the Chinese regime in a difficult situation to appease citizens. The appearance of ants, or other insects, as a food source may become more common.

The Chinese Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs said on April 17 that pork prices may rise over 70 percent in the second half of 2019. China is by far the largest consumer of pork in the world, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) (pdf).

As the Chinese regime grapples with importing pork to satisfy its citizens, propaganda may shift to a pleasant tune to other non-pork sources, as in the above report from The Beijing Times.

Other nations may feel an impact from China’s production loss, and countries like the United States may find an increase in pork prices, according to analysts.

Though African Swine Fever is not a food safety issue, it is a threat to pigs. “African swine fever is a highly contagious and deadly viral disease affecting both domestic and wild pigs of all ages,” according to the USDA. “ASF is not a threat to human health and cannot be transmitted from pigs to humans.”