Insects, imitation meat to cut environmental impact of livestock

Insects, imitation meat to cut environmental impact of livestock.

Insects and imitation meat are the best alternatives to real meat in tackling the huge and growing environmental impact of livestock on the planet, new research has shown.

The world’s appetite for meat is rising fast as incomes grow but the resulting greenhouse gas emissions, already 12% of the total, are also soaring and taming global warming will be impossible unless the trend is reversed. Rising demand is also leading to more of the world’s natural areas being converted to farmland, a key factor in the mass extinction of species currently unfolding.

Globally, twice as much land is used to raise cattle, pigs and other animals than is used to grow crops. Furthermore, a third of those crops harvested are fed back to livestock. The new research is the first systematic comparison of the environmental impact of various sources of food, and found that imitation meat and insects are vastly more efficient than raising livestock.

The work, published in the journal Global Food Security, found that if half of traditional animal products were replaced by imitation meat or insects the land required to produce the world’s food would be slashed by a third. However, the researcher found that another alternative – lab-grown meat – did not show such big advantages.

Peter Alexander, at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland and who led the new research, acknowledges that eating insects is a challenging idea in western nations. But more than 2,000 species of insects are eaten by people across 119 nations today, including crickets and mealworm larvae.

“It is very widespread, especially in Asia, and not seen as unusual in those cultures,” said Alexander. “We are not trying to mandate or even suggest some policy that you eat insects every day [but] our work indicates the potential benefits that are there.


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