Guest essay by Eric Worrall
A new study suggests that people could be eased into an eco-friendly insect protein diet by slipping insect protein into pre-packaged foods.
Edible insects could play key role in cutting harmful emissions
May 4, 2017
Eating insects instead of beef could help tackle climate change by reducing harmful emissions linked to livestock production, research suggests.
Replacing half of the meat eaten worldwide with crickets and mealworms would cut farmland use by a third, substantially reducing emissions of greenhouse gases, researchers say.
While consumers’ reluctance to eat insects may limit their consumption, even a small increase would bring benefits, the team says. This could potentially be achieved by using insects as ingredients in some pre-packaged foods.
Using data collected primarily by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, scientists have compared the environmental impacts of conventional meat production with those of alternative sources of food. It is the first study to do so.
Researchers at the University of Edinburgh and Scotland’s Rural College considered a scenario in which half of the current mix of animal products is replaced by insects, lab-grown meat or imitation meat.
They found that insects and imitation meat—such as soybean-based foods like tofu—are the most sustainable as they require the least land and energy to produce. Beef is by far the least sustainable, the team says.
The Abstract of the study;
Could consumption of insects, cultured meat or imitation meat reduce global agricultural land use?
Peter Alexandera, Calum Browna, Almut Arnethc, Clare Diasa, John Finnigand, Dominic Moranb, e, Mark D.A. Rounsevella
Animal products, i.e. meat, milk and eggs, provide an important component in global diets, but livestock dominate agricultural land use by area and are a major source of greenhouse gases. Cultural and personal associations with animal product consumption create barriers to moderating consumption, and hence reduced environmental impacts. Here we review alternatives to conventional animal products, including cultured meat, imitation meat and insects (i.e. entomophagy), and explore the potential change in global agricultural land requirements associated with each alternative. Stylised transformative consumption scenarios where half of current conventional animal products are substituted to provide at least equal protein and calories are considered. The analysis also considers and compares the agricultural land area given shifts between conventional animal product consumption. The results suggest that imitation meat and insects have the highest land use efficiency, but the land use requirements are only slightly greater for eggs and poultry meat. The efficiency of insects and their ability to convert agricultural by-products and food waste into food, suggests further research into insect production is warranted. Cultured meat does not appear to offer substantial benefits over poultry meat or eggs, with similar conversion efficiency, but higher direct energy requirements. Comparison with the land use savings from reduced consumer waste, including over-consumption, suggests greater benefits could be achieved from alternative dietary transformations considered. We conclude that although a diet with lower rates of animal product consumption is likely to create the greatest reduction in agricultural land, a mix of smaller changes in consumer behaviour, such as replacing beef with chicken, reducing food waste and potentially introducing insects more commonly into diets, would also achieve land savings and a more sustainable food system.
From Table 2 of the full study;
… Consumer acceptability barriers in some regions. A lower level of uptake in combination, perhaps as an ingredient, e.g. in pre-packaged foods, seems more likely. …
Read more: Same link as above
Packaged food is already substantially contaminated with insect waste, the FDA allows shocking levels of insect contamination in everyday foods. So it could be argued that they are simply allowing the insects to have a bit more of a munch on the goods before they reach the consumer.
Nevertheless I don’t think intentionally eating insects is going to catch on, even amongst greens. Greens seem to be mostly hypocrites, WUWT frequently showcases the amount of petroleum based synthetic fabric on show at your average anti fossil fuel eco-protest.