Eating insects can be good for the planet – Europeans should eat more of them

Edible insects are now a billion-dollar market because of their high protein content and low carbon footprint.

Insects are a healthy food source that can be raised more sustainably and cheaper than conventional livestock. While they are a common food in many countries, western cultures are more likely to be disgusted by them.

As the benefits of eating insects have increased, so has the consumption. widely discussed. There are more than 2,000 species of edible insects. Is it possible to reduce the environmental impact of food production by incorporating insects into our diets?

Insects are rich in nutrients, fat, and protein. While this varies from species to species and lifecycle stage to sector, the majority of insects have high levels of protein. 40-60 per cent. All essential amino acids are also found in insects, which is good news for humans.

Adult crickets are 65 per cent protein by weight, which is higher than both beef (23 per cent) and tofu (8 per cent). Insects also contain high levels of minerals like copper, iron, and magnesium. It’s not surprising that they are consumed by humans in many world regions today.

Insects can also convert their feed into more energy than livestock. Adult crickets and mealworm larvae require 5–10 times less feed than cattle to produce the same weight gain. Insects are also cold-blooded and so don’t use their metabolism to heat/cool themselves, further reducing food and energy consumption.

You can also eat a greater proportion of the animal than conventional livestock. Only 45 per centThe cow and 55 per cent of a chicken is consumed on average. The whole larva of an insect is consumed. 80 per cent of an adult cricket can be eaten. Insects reproduce faster than vertebrates and can produce many generations in a single year.

To provide the same nutritional value, insect cultivation  uses a fraction of the land, energy and water used for conventional livestock farming.

Mealworm larvae are required to produce one kilogram of protein. 14kg of CO₂eqIt is far less than the 500kg of CO₂eqAverage emissions from beef production. 70 times less agricultural land than beef.

eating insects

Many markets around the world serve crickets as a snack. Image: Jeremy Bezanger

It is important not to ignore plant-based food

Every food production has its environmental costs. There is a lot of variation in this. Beef, as an example, produces 100 times more greenhouse gas emissions than pea production.

Insect cultivation falls somewhere in between these extremes. It is less environmentally harmful than meat production but has a greater footprint than most plant-based foods. Pea production produces only 0.2 grams of protein per kilogram. 4kg of CO₂eqTofu, however, requires approximately half the agricultural land needed for insect cultivation.

The protein they replace will determine if insects are a climate-friendly or friendlier food. This could lead to significant gains if insect-based foods can be used to replace conventional meat. However, plant-based alternatives could offer significant benefits.

Consumer’s diet can dramatically alter their environmental footprint. The average American diet uses more than 10 times more land per person than the average Indian diet, primarily due to the types of food consumed.

A plant-based diet is generally more carbon-efficient than dairy and meat. Megan Thomas

Use of insects in a circular food chain

1.3 billion tonnes of food produced for human consumption is wasted each year. Another area where insects could prove useful is in the production or animal feed. food byproducts or food waste. Black soldier flies were raised on byproducts like almond hulls can be converted into feed for livestock or farmed seafood.

But, you should not feed insects. organic byproducts requires careful management to avoid risks of chemical and microbial contamination. There are many insect species that can be used to make honey. digest certain contaminantsBut there is the possibility of bioaccumulation. Therefore, manure and catering waste can be harmful. prohibited as a feed for farmed insects in Europe.

Over time, the acceptability of foods can change. For over 200 years, British citizens considered tomatoes to be poisonous. Image: Edgar Castrejon

Will Europeans eat a greater number of insects?

The market for edible insects is growing in America and Europe. Despite this, there are still many edible insects on the market. 10.3 per cent of Europeans stating they would be willing to replace meat with insects, the edible insect market is projected to reach US$4.63bn (£3.36bn) by 2027.

Food acceptance can change over time. For over 200 years, tomatoes were considered poisonous in Britain. Lobsters are now a rare delicacy. They were once so plentiful in the US that workers and prisoners could eat them. They were also used as fertilizer and bait for fish.

The popularity of lobster as a food was only apparent in the middle of the 18th century. Its popularity has risen, and the global lobster market is expected reach US$11.1bn (£9.7bn) by 2027.
The normalization of insect consumption in Europe could also be a possibility. Western consumers are increasingly willing to consume. processed insect based foods. One way to improve their taste is to incorporate insects into familiar foods like flour.

However, edible insects are not the only way to create a more sustainable food system. They are a healthy and sustainable alternative to traditional meat. Because of their versatility and diversity, they are likely play an increasing role within a more circular system of food production.

Peter Alexander is Senior Lecturer in Global Food Security at The University of Edinburgh

This article has been republished by The ConversationUnder a Creative Commons License Read the original article.

Main image: stockphototrends / iStock

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