But what if I told you that you also needed to change your eating habits in order to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions? Would you make adjustments? What if I told you that you should put down that burger, and pick up a mealworm instead? Are you still onboard?
In a new study, scientists from the University of Edinburgh believe that even a small increase in eating insects could be extremely beneficial to the planet. So, like one cricket a day? One mealworm meal a day? How many bugs are we talking here?
You don’t have to go out and gorge on bugs, but they did find that if we replaced half of the world’s meat with insects like crickets and mealworms, we could cut the farmland that we currently use for livestock by a third. This would reduce greenhouse gas emissions tremendously. Did I lose you, or are you still listening?
Dr Peter Alexander from the University of Edinburgh’s School of GeoSciences and Scotland’s Rural College, explained what they found in a statement.
“A mix of small changes in consumer behaviour, such as replacing beef with chicken, reducing food waste and potentially introducing insects more commonly into diets, would help achieve land savings and a more sustainable food system.”
The research found was published in the journal Global Food Security. This is the first study ever done that compares meat production with alternative sources of food. These alternatives were insects as mentioned before as well as meat alternatives like tofu and lab-grown meat.
Not ready to give up that hamburger just yet? Livestock emissions account for a large portion of human-made greenhouse gas emissions. Cattle represents about 65 percent of that, according to the United Nations. So that hamburger is not only bad for the environment, but in the end, it is bad for you as well.
What if we just took a vow to only eat poultry from now on? That helps a little, but they still found that insects and meat-alternatives were by far the most sustainable. In the end, insects require the least amount of energy and the least amount of land to produce.
While lab-grown meat or “cultured” meat, is considered to be the next big thing for the meat industry and the environment, it also came up short in their research. They found that in the end, it was no more sustainable than chicken or eggs. It required the same amount of land but actually used more energy in the production.
The study suggests that “the benefits claimed for cultured meat may not be justified.” The whole process from the laboratory setting to the processing of the product, using sterilization and hydrolysis, ends up being no more efficient than poultry farming in the end. The big problem is that it is also extremely expensive to produce at this time.
This was the first experiment of this kind and there needs to be more research carried out in terms of large-scale insect production. The big problem for the food industry is trying to make people want to put down their juicy steaks and pick up some roasted crickets instead. What, you don’t think insects sound delicious?
The problem is that Americans see eating bugs as not only repulsive but also as primitive behavior. A study published in the Journal of Insects as Food and Feed in 2015 found that 72 percent of Americans are unwilling to consider eating insects. Ugh, live a little!
Let me try to entice you a bit. First of all, eating insects is nothing new. According to a 2013 report from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations (UN), around 2 billion people worldwide already eat insects as part their diet. So, if 2 billion people are already doing it, it can’t be that bad right? Right?!
The most popular bug to eat are beetles. Yum yum! People also eat caterpillars, bees, wasps, ants, grasshoppers, locusts, mealworms and crickets. There are more than 1,900 insect species that are considered edible. Oh, so many great choices on this deliciously bug-infested menu.
Insects are high in nutrients and rich in protein, healthy fats, iron, and calcium. They are also low-carb and the authors of the FAO report believe that insects are just as nutritious than commonly consumed meats, like beef. Because they are low-fat, some researchers have even found that eating insects may be a great way to combat obesity and its related diseases.
So, it looks like insects are not just good for the planet, but they are good for us too. Low-fat, low-carb… I think I see a new diet trend in our future. And they must be cheap too, because I can’t imagine there will be a high demand for wasp stew anytime soon.