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You’ve probably heard of brands like Impossible and Beyond Meat making alternative plant-based “meats” for those of us looking for a more climate-friendly protein. But it turns out that, for the non-vegans out there, there’s another solution for curbing carbon-heavy meat habits – insects.
For people from the West, this may sound a bit weird. But eating insects like grasshoppers is pretty common throughout Africa and parts of Asia. They’re nutrient-dense and a great source of protein, and lots of people say they’re a crunchy and delicious snack. On top of that, they’re a lot better for the environment than some commercial meat options.
See, insects take up way fewer resources to cultivate. If we switched half of all meat consumption in the world from animals like beef and pork to insects like grasshoppers and mealworms, we’d cut farmland use down by about a third, or about 70 times the land area of the UK, according to a study by researchers at the University of Edinburgh. Plus, bugs can get rid of organic waste in a way cows and pigs can’t, and they produce significantly fewer greenhouse gases, such as methane, as a result.
Still, insects aren’t a foolproof solution just yet. There are fears that farming them could cause problems with their already declining populations due to climate change. But they could be the thing that steps in next, as meat prices are expected to go up by over 30% over the next three decades due to rising prices of feed and farming costs. On top of that, some believe these prices could go up around an additional 20% because of falling agricultural productivity and issues like climate change.
So, at the end of the day, crickets are unlikely to unseat your anniversary steak dinner any time soon. But maybe they’ll take the protein spot in your lunch to go, and for the environmental impact, it’s worth welcoming these crunchy critters into our diets.