Climate change is one of the biggest issues of our time. 97% of scientists agree that it is a real threat and a very serious one (1). But it’s not just the scientific community that is talking about this; more and more people are getting involved. Just this past weekend, National Geographic released a documentary called Before the Flood, where Leonardo DiCaprio acting as a UN Messenger of Peace explores climate change. It shows where and how climate change affects us today and what can we expect in the future. It also identifies actions everyone can take to help prevent the worst case scenario. Changing our diet is one of the important steps mentioned, and that’s where entomophagy and SENS Foods can offer the best solution.
Palm oil and beef are a problem
The documentary highlights two significant issues related to food and nutrition that affect climate change. The first one is the mass production of palm oil, the cheapest oil used in food production today. For example, nearly 80% of rainforests in Indonesia have been burned down and replaced by large mono-crop plantations of palm oil. With a decreasing size of world’s rain forests, we are losing an important factor in climate stabilization.
The second issue is mass cattle farming. In the USA, 47% of land is used for food production. Of that, 70% is used solely to grow feed for cattle, whereas fruits, vegetables, and nuts make up only 1%. The methane that cattle produce contributes up to 12% of the total greenhouse gas emissions in the US.
Gidon Eshel, Ph.D., a research professor in environmental physics, commented:
His advice was to switch to chicken, which requires only 20% of the space reserved for cattle, or eat tofu and avoid meat altogether. But we know there is a much better option: Insects!
Insects are a part of the solution
If we compare, for example, crickets to cattle and chicken in terms of farming efficiency, it becomes apparent that they are the superior choice.
- To produce the same amount of protein crickets need 12x less feed than cattle, and half as much as chickens.
- Crickets also only need 15l of water compared to the 30 000l of water that cattle need and 2300l that chickens need.
- Crickets will require only 15m2 of farm land compared to the 250m2 for cattle and 45m2 for chickens.
Compared to cattle, weight for weight, insects also emit 80x less methane, which would make them the best choice regardless of the farming superiority (2). We also know that cricket flour is superior to tofu when it comes to ethics, as we’ve shown in one of our previous articles.
But this is not just us at SENS Foods that have come to the conclusion that insects need to become a part of our everyday diet. In 2010, Jeffrey Sachs, the director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, published a study (3,4) in which he argued that agriculture was the leading cause of anthropogenic induced climate change, and that the world will need new agricultural technologies and patterns of food consumption based on healthier and more sustainable diets. He said that feeding future populations will require the development of alternative sources of protein such as, among others, insects.
Also the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) highlights some benefits of insect consumption in their 2013 report (5) that make it a relevant alternative to meat eating, and therefore something that will help in the fight against climate change.
- They have high feed-conversion efficiency (an animal’s capacity to convert feed mass into increased body mass, represented as kg of feed per kg of weight gain).
- They can be reared on organic side streams, reducing environmental contamination, while adding value to waste.
- They emit relatively few greenhouse gasses and relatively little ammonia.
- They require significantly less water than cattle rearing.
- They have few animal welfare issues, although we still don’t have a definite proof whether insects experience pain and to what extent.
- They pose a low risk of transmitting zoonotic infections.
What hinders the transition to a more sustainable diet?
FAO mentions that the largest barrier to the mass adoption of insect eating is consumer acceptance. And that’s where SENS Foods offers a solution. We recognize that not everyone is ready to chow down on bugs. Unfortunately, we associate insects more with annoyance and bad sanitation than with food. To help overcome the ick factor, SENS offers products based on cricket flour. Cricket flour is relatively easy to disguise because it doesn’t have a distinct taste, but at the same time it carries nearly all the nutritional benefits of consuming whole crickets. A protein bar is the ideal gateway food, something that can help everyone realize that eating insects is not only normal, but can even be tasty.
Protein and energy bars are just the beginning. We at SENS believe that a change on a much larger scale is needed to positively influence our current food system. That’s why we want to offer a new, alternative diet to the western world. We envision a diet where insects are a part of our everyday meals, a diet where we enjoy eating them. With insects, common foods can be healthier and more nutritious. Our mission is to excite passion for entomophagy and to offer products that allow us to make choices that are better for our health and for the future of our planet as well.
What can everyone do to fight climate change?
Leonardo DiCaprio, the passionate guide in the moving National Geographic documentary Before the Flood, urges everyone to make a change. And we at SENS Foods want to join and do the same. Everyone can contribute by voting for the right representatives that will make changes on a global scale. And everyone can also do something in their own home, on a personal scale.
Change how you get your power (switch to renewable sources of energy)
Change what you buy (eliminate highly processed foods with palm oil)
Change what you eat (substitute at least some beef and meat in general with alternative protein sources like insects)
1) The Guardian, ‘Survey finds 97% of climate science papers agree warming is man-made’, 2013, https://www.theguardian.com/environment/climate-consensus-97-per-cent/2013/may/16/climate-change-scienceofclimatechange
2) Dennis G. A. B. Oonincx et al., ‘An Exploration on Greenhouse Gas and Ammonia Production by Insect Species Suitable for Animal or Human Consumption”, 2010, PLOS ONE, http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0014445
3) Sachs J. et al., ‘Monitoring the world’s agriculture.’, 2010, Nature, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20671691
4) Jeffrey D. Sachs et al., ‘Effective monitoring of agriculture: a response’, 2011, Journal of Environmental Monitoring, http://www.millenniumvillages.org/uploads/ReportPaper/c2em10584e.pdf
5) FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN), ‘Edible insects – Future prospects for food and feed security’, Rome 2013, http://www.fao.org/docrep/018/i3253e/i3253e.pdf