From Mongabay: Scientists in the Netherlands have discovered that insects produce significantly less greenhouse gas per kilogram of meat than cattle or pigs. Their study, published in the online journal PLoS, suggests that a move towards insect farming could result in a more sustainable — and affordable — form of meat production.
The rearing of cattle and pigs for meat production results in an estimated 18 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. With worldwide consumption of beef and pork expected to double by 2020, alternatives are being investigated. Of these, perhaps the most notable has been the development of “in-vitro meat” which is lab-grown tissue not requiring the production of a whole organism. Initiated by NASA as a form of astronaut food, in-vitro meat production took its first steps in 2000 when scientists used goldfish cells to grow edible protein resembling fish fillets. Since then, turkey and pig cells have been used to create spam-like substances, and Time Magazine has included in-vitro meat in its list of the top 50 breakthrough ideas of 2009.
Here’s the fixins:
Five insect species were studied: fifth larval stage mealworms Tenebrio molitor L. (Coleoptera: Tenebrionidae), fifth and sixth nymphal stage house crickets Acheta domesticus (L.) (Orthoptera: Gryllidae), third and fourth stage nymphs of migratory locusts Locusta migratoria (L.) (Orthoptera: Acrididae), third larval stage sun beetles Pachnoda marginata Drury (Coleoptera; Scarabaeidae) and a mix of all stages of the Argentinean cockroach Blaptica dubia (Serville) (Dictyoptera: Blaberidae). Currently, T. molitor, A. domesticus and L. migratoria are considered edible, while P. marginata and B. dubia are not. The latter two species were included since they are a potential source of animal protein, for instance by means of protein extraction. These two species can be bred in large numbers with little time investment and are able to utilise a wide range of substrates as feed
Here’s the paper:
Oonincx DGAB, van Itterbeeck J, Heetkamp MJW, van den Brand H, van Loon JJA, et al. (2010) An Exploration on Greenhouse Gas and Ammonia Production by Insect Species Suitable for Animal or Human Consumption. PLoS ONE 5(12): e14445. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0014445
Greenhouse gas (GHG) production, as a cause of climate change, is considered as one of the biggest problems society is currently facing. The livestock sector is one of the large contributors of anthropogenic GHG emissions. Also, large amounts of ammonia (NH3), leading to soil nitrification and acidification, are produced by livestock. Therefore other sources of animal protein, like edible insects, are currently being considered.
An experiment was conducted to quantify production of carbon dioxide (CO2) and average daily gain (ADG) as a measure of feed conversion efficiency, and to quantify the production of the greenhouse gases methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O) as well as NH3 by five insect species of which the first three are considered edible: Tenebrio molitor, Acheta domesticus, Locusta migratoria, Pachnoda marginata, and Blaptica dubia. Large differences were found among the species regarding their production of CO2 and GHGs. The insects in this study had a higher relative growth rate and emitted comparable or lower amounts of GHG than described in literature for pigs and much lower amounts of GHG than cattle. The same was true for CO2 production per kg of metabolic weight and per kg of mass gain. Furthermore, also the production of NH3 by insects was lower than for conventional livestock.
This study therefore indicates that insects could serve as a more environmentally friendly alternative for the production of animal protein with respect to GHG and NH3 emissions. The results of this study can be used as basic information to compare the production of insects with conventional livestock by means of a life cycle analysis.
No mention if the authors chow down on locusts at lunchtime. My advice: you first.
Of course, if this becomes widely acceptable, I’ll gladly send Al Gore a box of hornets and some ketchup. It’s the least I can do.