Eat Bugs, Save the World: The Ecology of Nutrition
As the world’s leaders convene to discuss the all-important issue of climate change, I wonder if there is room to consider the potential environmental benefits of adopting insects as a food source. Insects are the true “Eco-protein” — the most environmentally-efficient animal protein on the planet. This is because many food-insects, such as crickets, convert food and water much more efficiently into usable nutrition than cattle or other livestock.
For instance, insects require up to 20 times less food than cattle, meaning that per pound of food they are given, they produce several times the amount of protein. This is partly because insects — unlike their more complex, warm-blooded brethren — are cold-blooded creatures, so they “waste” far less energy warming up their blood. This energy is, instead, converted directly into increasing their body mass. If cows could do this, they would be enormous.
Also, hundreds of times less water is required per pound of usable protein. While cows may require up to “869 gallons of water to produce a third of a pound of beef (a large hamburger), a quarter pound of crickets only requires a moist paper towel, refreshed weekly,” says ecologist Nina Munteanu.
Currently, the livestock sector is one of the top contributors of greenhouse gases — some have said it rivals that of automobiles. Additionally, insects require far less grazing land per pound of protein output than cattle. Also, by more effectively utilizing the insects on our crops, we could reduce the amount of pesticides in our environment.
Yes, utilizing insects as food to help alleviate our planet’s problems may be an unusual approach to consider. But in this global climate, can we really afford not to?