Let’s talk about food of the future
Up to a third of global greenhouse gas emissions stem from food production. When it comes to specific food products, it is beef that, by far, has the highest carbon footprint. Meanwhile, the per capita meat consumption has almost doubled since the early 1960s. As the global population grows, the environmental pressure is greater than ever. Exploring alternative food sources has thus become essential when our planet grapples with sustainability and food security issues.
Farming edible insects to feed people and cattle is often mentioned as part of the solution. Insects are already on the menu in many parts of the world. Two billion people eat insects regularly in Asia, Africa, and Latin America; the range is diverse. The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) classifies over 1,900 types of insects as edible, including beetles, caterpillars, bees, ants, grasshoppers, locusts, cicadas, termites, dragonflies, and flies.
A highly nutritious source of food
Edible insects are a healthier food source than most people realize. They not only contain high-quality protein, vitamins, iron, zinc, essential amino acids, and omega-3 fatty acids, the American Heart Association said. Insects’ food conversion rate is also high. Crickets, for instance, need six times less feed than cattle, four times less than sheep, and twice less than pigs and broiler chickens to produce the same amount of protein, FAO data show.
Environmental advantages exceed minimal carbon emissions
Switching from a juicy steak or lamb cutlet to insect protein could also radically offset carbon emissions. The carbon footprint of one cricket is unbeatable, a mere 1 gram of greenhouse gases per kilo of protein, compared to beef’s 2.9 kilos and a pig’s 1.3 kilos. And it does not stop here. Insects require only a fifth of the water needed to produce beef, produce far less ammonia than conventional livestock, need little space, and can be farmed nearly everywhere.
Switzerland at the forefront of Europe
Switzerland was the first European country to allow the sale of three types of insects – crickets, locusts, and mealworms – for human consumption in 2017. The country’s largest grocery chains soon had bars, burgers, and balls made from insect protein on their shelves. After an initial craze among people eager to try these new products, interest waned. Migros has gradually removed insect-based food from its national assortment. Competitor Coop concedes that, while demand is constant, its insect-based food product line remains a niche segment.
The biggest obstacle remains: disgust
Consumers have little appetite for substituting red meat with insects even though they see the need. More than half of respondents in a survey conducted by the Open University of Catalonia expect that insects will become a typical food in the future. However, only 16 percent of respondents said they would be willing to include insects in their diet. Disgust, lack of custom, and concerns about food safety are the main reasons for avoiding eating insects. Only one-tenth of those polled had tried insects-based products, with flour being the most accepted format. Are you among those who have already tried, or are you ready to test?
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