An article in the Japanese Mainichi Daily News (which claims to be merely repeating a story that appeared in a magazine called Fushigi Knuckles) tells the story of the attempt to introduce Wormburgers in Japan. An Aomori Prefecture company, so the story goes, tried to market worms as food for human consumption because of the high nutritional value of worms:
Instead of a beef patty, the Worm Burger used ground worms, cut the onions a little, added wheat flour, a runny egg and blended in milk to make it go down easier. The magazine notes that despite the best intentions, the Worm Burger ended up as a major flop. Marketers had been targeting women and young people, but appear to have struggled to overcome worms' image as a bizarre food.
Maybe this really happened, but probably not. It's more likely that this is a recycling of the old Wormburger urban legend from the late 1970s. This urban legend got launched when papers reported that food scientists were experimenting with earthworms as a source of protein. Take, for instance, this UPI article that appeared in a number of American newspapers in mid-December, 1975:
Sacramento, Calif. (UPI)
You may one day be eating earthworm casserole. And redworm cookies.
The lowly earthworm, ignored by almost everybody but the fisherman, is burrowing its way into the world of big business, and may be put to work soon to help man grow crops, dispose of garbage and even satisfy his dietary need for protein.
So says Frank Carmody, market development director for North American Bait Farms of Ontario, Calif., one of the nation's largest growing and marketing businesses ...
If produced in sufficient quantity at a cost competitive with other protein materials, he said, worms could be used as feed for pets, poultry, fish and other animals as well as food for people. Seventy-two per cent of a worm's dry weight is protein.
Sponsor of a worm recipe contest, North American Bait has received ideas for adding dried, crispy worms to salads, casseroles and cookies. Carmody says redworm cookies are "delicious."
After a few articles like this appeared, it was simply a matter of time before tales began to spread of McDonalds and other fast-food chains secretly using worms in their burgers. However, worms are in no way cost competitive with other sources of protein such as beef. So there's little reason to fear that fast-food chains will start padding their burgers with worms any time soon.

Food Urban Legends

Posted on Thu Aug 02, 2007


The sheer amount of worms necessary to make one burger far outweighs whatever nutritional value they may hold. Beef is cheaper. Takes a hundred worms per patty. Takes one cow per hundred patties. Go figure.
Posted by Renquist  on  Thu Aug 02, 2007  at  02:01 AM
While what Gary says is true, beef holds more risks than verdeterre (as the meat of the earthworm is generally known). Steak tartare is a common source of tapeworm (that's how Maria Callas got hers!), for example; earthworms, in contast to cows and other mammalian livestock, do not carry parasites that can affect humans.

That's a big reason I favour verdeterre tartare - though the number of worms required does mean that it's a rare special treat rather than a cheap beef substitute. There are other reasons verdeterre, like escargots, should be regarded as a delicacy in its own right rather than a beef substitute, of course: both the flavour and texture are different, and the preparation is more complicated because of the need for 'purging' (that is, getting rid of the earth inside).

Be that as it may, though this story is doubtless an urban legend it does have a kernel of truth: while I doubt any fast-food giants are flogging 'Wormburgers' (any more than they make Snailburgers), many high-class restaurants are following the gourmanderies (gourmet dining clubs) in developing dishes to exploit the uniqueness of verdeterre.
Posted by outeast  on  Thu Aug 02, 2007  at  03:47 AM
Sorry, it was Renquist who commented on the number of worms needed - for some reason I thought it was Big Gary. My bad.
Posted by outeast  on  Thu Aug 02, 2007  at  03:48 AM
The best part of WormBurgers, is you can cut the burger in half, and two days later, you have two regenerated whole burgers. Unfortunately, the burgers are both male and female, which can be confusing to some. You want special sauce on that, or just leave it planerian?
Posted by Hairy Houdini  on  Thu Aug 02, 2007  at  08:14 AM
Being a fisherman... I have had the pleasure of tasting my bait before... although never intentially. :red:

Redworms are VERY pungent critters... and the smell to me is a bit unpleasant (somewhat oily - perhaps a bit acidic/astringent, might be from the tannins in the leaves they feed on). Nightcrawlers and earthworms are not so bad... smelling of fresh earth.

Mmmmmmmm earthworms!
Posted by oppiejoe  on  Thu Aug 02, 2007  at  08:30 AM
I knew intentionally looked wrong...Gah!
Posted by oppiejoe  on  Thu Aug 02, 2007  at  08:32 AM
I recall hearing that military outdoor survival teaching said if someone lost in the wilderness came across a dead animal, they shouldn't eat the carrion but scoop up the maggots and eat them, thereby getting more nutrition and less chance of falling sick. I'm glad I haven't needed to test this out.
Posted by Phred22  on  Thu Aug 02, 2007  at  09:11 AM
Phred22 if someone lost in the wilderness came across a dead animal, they shouldn't eat the carrion but scoop up the maggots and eat them, thereby getting more nutrition and less chance of falling sick

I fish with maggots as well... but have never been tempted to eat one...

Posted by oppiejoe  on  Thu Aug 02, 2007  at  03:43 PM
Verdeterre makes it sound so exotic. All that is is Earth Worm in French. Ver (worm) de (of) Terre (Earth). Although in French it's actually three words and not just one. Personally steak tartare isn't that appealing, so I'm not that worried about the tapeworms. Unless verdeterre ends up tasting absolutely magnificent, I'll stick to the "beef" and let the "gourmet" chefs keep their worms. This despite being a fan of grasshoppers and ants as snacks...

If they do start making good money selling "verdeterre", I might just have to open up a little place and start serving "mortderoute".

This story has been around forever, I remember debunking it at least five years ago based simply on the cost of mass-producing worms.
Posted by Transfrmr  on  Thu Aug 02, 2007  at  10:32 PM
Phred22, I went through Air Force survival school almost 40 years ago (damn time flies) and it wasn't mentioned then. However, they did teach us to eat insects and other such as those were high in nutrition. Now the course has probably been updated more than once since I went through but the emphasis then was on staying alive and NOT spending a lot of time in one place unless you knew you were being rescued at that place. Anything you ate had to be quickly gathered and prepared (if you prepared it at all) so that anyone chasing you couldn't catch you. That might be the justification for eating the maggots and not the meat of the dead animal.
Posted by Christopher Cole  on  Sat Aug 04, 2007  at  01:45 PM
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