Fact Check: Tyson Foods Is NOT Adding Insects To Meat Products

Fact Check

  • by: Madison Dapcevich
Fact Check: Tyson Foods Is NOT Adding Insects To Meat Products No Bugs Added

Do Tyson Foods brand meat products contain insects and are the bugs listed on the labels, as implied by a post on Facebook? No, that's not true: In a phone interview with Lead Stories, a spokesperson for Tyson Foods responded to the social media post by saying that insects are not being added to human-grade meat products, nor does the company intend to do so in the future. Lead Stories corroborated this statement by examining dozens of labels bearing the brand names in the meme. We found no evidence that Tyson Foods intentionally added the four insect species listed in the post to their meat products. Articles found on Google News and Tyson Foods press releases revealed no evidence to corroborate the claim.

A reverse image search (archived here) revealed that this meme has been shared on various social media platforms, including Reddit and TikTok (archived here), since late 2023. One such version of the claim was included in a post on Facebook on April 20, 2024 (archived here), with a caption that read:

πŸ˜³πŸ˜³πŸ€”πŸ€”πŸ€”πŸ€” #bugs #whatthehealth #tyson #saralee #worms #grasshopper #protein

Here is how the post appeared at the time of writing:


(Source: Facebook screenshot taken on Tue Apr 23 21:43:34 2024 UTC)

The above post implies that products manufactured by meat processing company Tyson Foods contain bugs, specifically two species of crickets (Acheta domesticus and Grillodes sigillatus), mealworms (Tenebrio molitor) and grasshoppers (Locusta migrature). The post implies these insects can be found on "the labels" of some products, including Hillshire Farm, Sara Lee, Jimmy Dean, Ballpark, Gallo, Pierre, State Fair, Original Philly and Steakeze.

In a phone interview with Lead Stories on April 24, 2024, a spokesperson for Tyson Foods responded to the claim by saying it is false. The meat production company is not adding insects to its human-grade food products, nor does it plan to do so in the future.

After examining dozens of labels bearing the brand names above, Lead Stories also found no evidence that Tyson Foods intentionally added the four species listed to their meat products.

This claim may have originated in a misunderstanding following the announcement of a partnership between Tyson Foods and insect ingredient supplier Protix. As Reuters reported on December 22, 2023 (archived here), Protix was "misrepresented online to falsely claim that it is evidence of insects being added to food for people." The publication continued:

The full press release, dated Oct. 17, 2023 (archived here), states in the second paragraph that Tyson Foods and Protix have entered a joint venture to construct and operate 'an insect ingredient facility' that will create 'high-quality insect proteins and lipids which will primarily be used in the pet food, aquaculture, and livestock industries.'

A spokesperson for Tyson Foods said in a Dec. 21 email that the venture would manufacture products to be used as a 'sustainable ingredient within premium pet food, and as sustainable protein alternatives for aquatic organisms such as salmon and shrimp,' adding that 'these products are not being added to food intended for human consumption.'

The Food and Drug Administration establishes maximum levels of "natural or unavoidable defects in foods that present no health hazards" known as "Food Defect Action Levels" (archived here). Differing amounts of insect fragments are allowed depending on the food product -- ground allspice, for example, can have an "average of 30 or more insect fragments per 10 grams." However, implying that the insects are listed on labels as an intentional ingredient differs from accidental, unavoidable insect contamination during food processing.

Lead Stories did a search using keywords on the Google News archive of thousands of reliable information sites, visible here, which found no credible documents or reporting to corroborate the claim. Had the major food manufacturer made such an announcement, it would have been national news.

Lead Stories also searched Tyson Foods press releases (archived here) published on the company website between June 22, 2023, and April 23, 2024. We found no relevant information corroborating the claim that the meat company was adding the listed insects to any of its products.

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  Madison Dapcevich

Raised on an island in southeast Alaska, Madison grew up a perpetually curious tidepooler and has used that love of science and innovation in her now full-time role as a science reporter for the fact-checking publication Lead Stories.

Read more about or contact Madison Dapcevich

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