Russia Proposes 'Alternative Meat' Made Out of Fly Larvae as Sanctions Bite

A senior Russian official has suggested that the people of his country may have to change their "mentality" and learn to enjoy alternatives to meat such as fly larvae and vegetable protein.

Deputy Prime Minister Denis Manturov, who is also Russia's minister of industry and trade, said on Monday he had tried meat replacements and that as a consumer he will "continue to experiment."

His comments come as Russia continues to suffer strict sanctions imposed by the U.S. and its allies following the Russian invasion of Ukraine that began on February 24.

While Russia is not currently experiencing food shortages, there are major concerns about the global supply of food as a result of the ongoing war. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will chair a summit on food security at the United Nations on Tuesday, per The Guardian.

Sanctions are having a major effect on the Russian economy, however. A report from the Council of the European Union on August 19 found that Russia's gross domestic product (GDP) was expected to drop by more than 11 percent in 2022 and that inflation could reach 22 percent.

Manturov was attending the Innofood exhibition in Sochi where he tried alternatives to meat—among them vegetable meat and burgers made of vegetable proteins that also included black soldier fly larvae, vegetables, and aquafaba, which is a byproduct of cooking legumes such as chickpeas used as a replacement for egg whites.

Moscow-based outlet RBC reported on Manturov's support for "alternative meat" on Monday.

"It's true that it's almost indistinguishable from real meat. You have to be a real gourmand to tell the difference. I couldn't [do it]," Manturov said, according to RBC.

"It was a blind tasting, but it's really just a question of mentality when you know it's not the real thing. But in terms of taste it's identical [to real meat]," the deputy prime minister said.

Manturov said he was still getting used to the idea of using natural proteins as an alternative—including those sourced from insect larvae.

"It was a real surprise when a protein sourced from black soldier fly larvae is used, but here we are on the cutting edge of modern [practices]," he said. "We need to overcome that mental block and then even a black soldier fly larva will be to your taste. You need to make an effort."

Newsweek has asked the Russian foreign ministry for comment.

The Russian government has previously blamed Western sanctions for the global food crisis, while those imposing the sanctions have attributed them to President Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine.

In May, Blinken pointed out that food, fertilizer and seeds were exempt from the sanctions that had been imposed on Russia by the U.S. and other nations. In July, the European Union (EU) included exceptions for wheat and fertilizers for sanctioned Russian banks when the bloc introduced new measures to restrict Russia's use of gold.

The Counsel of the European Union said on its website that "Russia is solely responsible for the global food crisis and that EU sanctions do not target food and agricultural products."

The U.S. Treasury Department also noted the U.S. "has not imposed sanctions on the exportation of agricultural commodities from, to, or involving Russia."

Denis Manturov
Russian official Denis Manturov and an inset image of a black soldier fly species Hermetia illucens. Manturov has welcomed the use of meat alternatives including those using the fly's larvae. iStock / Getty Images