Insects on the menu as EU approves two for human consumption – DW – 01/24/2023

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The maggot-like larvae of crickets (a type of shiny black beetle) and house flies come in third and fourth. insect It can be marketed as food for people in the European Union. In addition, he has eight applications pending approval.

On Tuesday, the EU gave the green light to selling larvae in powder, frozen, paste and dried form. Crickets can be sold as a partially defatted powder.

For many Europeans, the idea of ​​eating a wriggling or crawling creature is not at all appealing. part of a typical meal. Countries from Mexico to ThailandThey are also attracting the attention of scientists and companies looking to clean up agriculture and feed people. global population growth.

Insects are more commonly eaten in Asia, Africa and South America than in Europe and North America.Image: AFLO/adult image

Reducing meat emissions is a ‘big challenge’

Most of the global warming pollution from food, which accounts for about a quarter of global warming, is meat and dairy products.cow and sheep burping methaneis a powerful but short-lived greenhouse gas that farmers cut down forests to create pastures, grow soybeans, and feed three-quarters of them to livestock.

If fried crickets and mealworm salad replace steaks and hamburgers, stop species extinction and suppression climate change.

“Meeting the growing demand for livestock products is a huge challenge,” said Tim Sarchinger, technical director of the food program at the World Resources Institute, a US environmental research institute. We must pursue all means of

Cows being milked in a rotating milking shed
The meat and dairy industry is responsible for most of the food-borne greenhouse gas pollutionImage: Mark Baker/AP/picture Alliance

“No one can feed insects”

While the European Commission’s approval of two new insect species as food does not appear to be part of the impetus to change diets, insect consumption is seen as “positive for the environment, health and livelihoods.” influence,” he said.

Instead, the new rules clarify that crickets and crickets are safe for people without allergies to eat. They also ruled that foods containing them must be labeled.

The European Commission tweeted last week that “no one will be forced to eat insects.

Still, the move could accelerate the transition to a less environmentally destructive diet. In Germany, for example, about half of the population plans to eat less meat, while in the United States, people eat more meat but replace beef with less polluting meats such as chicken. increase. insect protein It can provide cheaper alternatives, especially in processed foods.

35% to 60% of the insect’s dry weight is made up of protein. The lower end of the range is higher than most vegetable protein sources, and the upper end is higher than meat and eggs. They also breed quickly and gain weight quickly.

gnaw edible insects

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Only a handful of studies have attempted to elucidate the environmental damage of eating insects. A life cycle assessment published in 2021 found that yellow mealworm protein uses 70% less land and releases 23% less greenhouse gases into the atmosphere than the same amount of protein from broiler chicken. I understand.

Previous studies have also found that insects are better for the environment than meat, but worse than plants.

Disgust remains ‘biggest hurdle’

Still, convincing people in the EU and US to eat more insects may be difficult.

Three-quarters of European consumers are unwilling to replace meat with insects and a further 13% are unsure. 2020 report From the European Consumer Organization, an umbrella group partially funded by the EU. In Germany, 80% of people say they are disgusted with the idea of ​​eating insects. 2022 report From the German environmental agency, UBA.

“The biggest obstacle to the introduction of insects into the Western food market is aversion,” the authors write.

The Western diet includes other foods associated with spoilage, such as moldy cheeses and fungi, but research into whether these barriers can be overcome is still in its early stages.

Ah study A study released in December found that people were more willing to eat insects after being told about their environmental benefits.

another study In 2020, it was shown that social norms have changed how open people are to eating locusts.

“Humans are a particularly social species, so exploiting their social nature could prove particularly useful,” the authors write.

Insect feed as grain substitute feed for livestock

A more likely role for insect proteins could be feeding livestock. If were raised on organic waste (as some mealworms and fly larvae are suitable), this process could effectively recycle some of the vast amounts of food that is wasted each year.

But raising insects to feed animals adds an extra step to the food production process and means more energy is lost inefficiently. reaches insect-fed chickens, and only a fraction of those calories reach chicken wing eaters.

If insects are fed crops such as soy or cornand if those insects were used as livestock feed, the planet could be worse off than if the animals ate the grains directly.

“The problem is that it has to go through two conversions,” says Searchinger. “There is a possibility [for feeding insects manure] However, it is ultimately not as effective as producing feed directly. ”

Editor: Jennifer Collins

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