When you think of livestock, cattle, pigs, and sheep are probably the first animals to spring to mind. But it might be time to start thinking smaller. No, not chickens. Even smaller: Insects.
Entomologist, and edible insect expert, Arnold van Huis joined us today to take our questions about why (and how) we would all be adding bugs to our diets in the future, and also gave us a run-down of some of the environmental perks which are move towards "mini-livestock" would bestow.
They (as mini-livestock) are much more sustainable than conventional livestock: 1. They have a high feed conversion efficiency because they are cold blooded (e.g. for one kg of beef you need 25 kg of feed and for one kg of edible cricket you only need 2.1 kg of feed); 2) they produce much less greenhouse gases (methane and nitrous oxide); 3) they produce much less ammonia (causing acidification of the environment and eutrophication of waterways); 4) they can convert low value organic side streams into high value protein products.
But their potential use isn't just as livestock, but also in raising livestock. Or, to put it another way, as food for food:
Concerning insects as feed for livestock and fish, I expect a bright future. Fishmeal, currently used, is getting too expensive (overexploitation of the oceans) and therefore the feed industry is really looking for alternative protein sources. Housefly and Black Soldier Fly are excellent candidates. These species can transform low value organic side streams into high value protein products.
Of course, there's still the queasiness-barrier to overcome before insects starts to rival chicken or beef for America's hearts, minds, and stomachs. Though, that time may not be quite so far away. van Huis tells us that in his own blind taste tests, mealworm meatballs are currently beating the traditional version nine to one.
Image: Fried spiders in Cambodia, Mat Connolley