The buzz around insects: solving the meaty issue

What about insects? Generally we think of insects as pests which need to be killed through the use of pesticides in order for us to grow the food we need to eat. They are a pain, eating our crops and causing us problems. But now people are looking at them from another angle. How can we use them in our food chain?

The more radical amongst us think that we should just bite the bullet (or insect in this case) and start eating them. There is actually a start-up company in London called ento which is trying to get us to try insects and integrate them into our diets. It may sound strange to us at first but there are two billion people in the world who already count insects as part of their diet so why not?

In some ways it does make sense. Breeding insects is very efficient. For example it takes 1.7kg of feed to produce 1kg of crickets and when compared to the 10kg of feed it takes to produce 1kg of beef it does sound good. But there is a small problem. We have no history or tradition of eating insects. Most of us think that they look disgusting and won’t even try them. This may sound ‘silly’ but it has to be taken into account. We wish ento the best of luck but we believe they might find converting people a bit of struggle!

There is another option however. There are companies which are creating animal feed from insects. One South African start-up, AgriProtein is doing just that. This means that land which was used to grow crops which would be fed to animals can be used for growing other crops for direct human consumption. The insects are bred on vegetable and animal waste which would otherwise have no purpose and be a potential environmental hazard. This all sounds really good news.

Things in the EU are slightly different due to our experiences with mad cow disease and as such insects can’t be used to rear animals which are going to be fed to humans. Maybe this will change if this idea takes off.

So you are probably thinking this sounds great. We can carry on eating meat, business as usual! And this is where there are still concerns. When you raise an animal whether on grass, corn or insects, it still produces greenhouse gasses. It still requires incredible amounts of water — it takes about 16,000 litres of water to produce one kilo of beef.

Insects may be a great way to free up land but things still need to change more fundamentally. Insects can’t been seen as a miracle solution, they are simply a small part of the change required. Ultimately, we need to cut down on our meat consumption as we have argued many times before.

Lets look at using insects, but lets not pretend they are silver bullet.

Thanks for reading!

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Originally published at on December 12, 2014.

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