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Edible insects could cut harmful emissions

Categorie(s): Climate, Food for Mankind, News

Eating insects instead of beef could help tackle climate change by reducing 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 .

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.

Alternative 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 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.

In contrast to previous studies, lab-grown meat was found to be no more sustainable than chicken or eggs, requiring an equivalent area of land but using more energy in production.

Land savings

The team, (including scientists involved in the N8 Research Partnership’s AgriFood programme), says halving global consumption of animal products by eating more insects or imitation meat would free up 1680 million hectares of land – 70 times the size of the UK. Similar land savings could also be made by switching from the current mix of animal products to diets higher in chicken and eggs, the team says.

They found that the land required to produce these was only marginally greater than for insects and imitation meat.

Environmental impacts

As well as being a major contributor to human-induced greenhouse gas emissions, current livestock production has other environmental impacts.

Globally, pasture covers twice the area of cropland, and livestock consume around a third of all harvested crops, researchers say.

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.

Dr Peter AlexanderUniversity of Edinburgh’s School of GeoSciences and Scotland’s Rural College

Source: The University of Edinburgh
May 4, 2017

Eating insects is also a way to solve food problems where proteine rich food is scarse and/or expensive. Read also: Bugs can help solve the food crisis