Do we have a meat problem? Maybe. It depends on what you consider a problem. Some people think meat could one day make our whole planet unlivable. Sounds like a stretch? Read on and make up your own mind.
The amount of meat we eat is increasing.
There is more of us than ever before.
And the population boom is far from over.
We are getting richer.
Meat consumption goes up in countries where incomes rise.
We live longer.
These three factors put a lot of stress on our food system. We have managed to keep up so far because animals living in concentrated animal feeding operations are paying the price. Their suffering is how we pay for a widely available and affordable source of protein – meat.
We are next in line to pay.
The way we produce meat today is unsustainable.
Conventional meat production is responsible for a LOT of greenhouse gas emissions. It’s on par with transportation.
In fact, if all cattle were a country, they would have the third highest CO2 emissions in the world. Interestingly, they would also have the lowest meat consumption per capita.
Meat production also requires a LOT of resources.
If we continue doing it this way we might end up making our own planet unlivable.
Do we have a meat solution?
More and more people are noticing that something is not right and preferences are starting to change.
The food industry is starting to adapt, and as a result there are more potential solutions on the horizon than ever. Unfortunately, none of them are flawless.
There are plant protein sources that tick a lot of the right boxes, but they do not offer the same range of nutrients and flavour as meat. Plus, the monoculture farming required to produce them has its flaws. Then there is lab grown meat that promises the real thing without animal suffering. Unfortunately, it’s still far from being widely available and affordable, and relies on monoculture too. Another option is sustainable approaches to farming, like permaculture, that takes care of our soil and promotes ecosystem longevity. But this has downsides also. These farms are relatively scarce and have potential issues with scalability. And then there are edible insects with their pros and cons but we will get to those in a moment.
The thing is, it will probably take a heroic, combined effort of all of these approaches to make sufficient improvements to our food system in time. The good news is that most of them can not only co-exist, but perhaps even benefit each other.
This is the edible insect solution
Insects farming is sustainable. It requires a LOT less resources.
And it produce a LOT less greenhouse gasses.
Insects contribute to a circular economy.
It is estimated that 30 % of all food is wasted, with fruits and vegetables having the highest wastage rates of up to 50 %. Insects can be reared on low-grade bio-waste and turn it into high quality protein, upcycling nutrients that would otherwise be wasted. In addition, the byproduct of insect rearing, frass, can be used as an organic fertilizer to enrich soil and it serves as a natural biopesticide.
Insects are amazingly nutritious.
Insect farming is ethical.
Insects don’t need antibiotics to survive concentrated farming; in fact, they thrive in dense populations. And thanks to their ability to hibernate, truly humane slaughter is possible too.
What’s the hitch?
The “yuck” factor. Currently, most of the western world considers insects something unpleasant and certainly not a food. But we know the fear of insects can be overcome.
We are seeing it happen in front of our eyes. And the market seems to reflect this trend too.
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