We are a growing population. Food security is an issue stretching beyond the borders of developing countries; it is now a global cause for concern. According to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization: “The challenge is to provide the world’s growing population with a sustainable, secure supply of safe, nutritious, and affordable high-quality food using less land, with lower inputs, and in the context of global climate change, other environmental changes and declining resources.” It has been predicted that by the year 2050, we will need to double our food production to meet the demands of our growing population.
The environmental impact that animal agriculture has had on our planet is astounding. Did you know that it is responsible for 18% of all greenhouse gas emissions? The cumulative exhaust from all forms of transportation, globally, clocks in at about 13%. This means that animals are a larger contributor to greenhouse gas emissions than our planes, trains and automobiles combined. If these numbers aren’t staggering enough for you, did you know that every single day, cows produce 150 billions gallons of methane? Over a 20 year time period methane will be between 25%-100% more destructive than carbon dioxide. Over that same 20-year period, the global warming potential of methane will be 86 times more than that of CO2!
Animal agriculture isn’t just bad news in terms of harmful emissions. It is putting a drain on our natural resources as well. It is recommended that the average human consume roughly 8 cups of water a day, or 2 litres. To produce one pound of meat requires an astronomical 11,000 litres of water. That’s enough water to hydrate one human for 15 years! It is widely accepted that animal agriculture, conservatively, is responsible for 1/5 of global water consumption. What about fresh water? That depletes roughly 1/3 of our Earth’s resources. How about land mass? Livestock and their feed takes up 33% of our planet’s ice-free real estate.
To say that these numbers are daunting would be an understatement. The current state of animal agriculture is not a scalable model for doubling our food production requirements over the next 30 some-odd years. Multiply any of the above numbers by two and think about what that would mean for our planet. Livestock and feed occupying 2/3 of our inhabitable land mass? 66% of our global fresh water being allotted to animal agriculture? This is quite clearly not a sustainable option. The environmental impact on our planet would far too great to continue down this path.
So, what are our options? For example, insects! These taboo little creatures, that 2 billion people worldwide are already consuming, tick all of the boxes. They are a sustainable option, have a negligible carbon footprint compared to cows – producing 80x less CO2 than cattle and requiring 2250x less water than cattle to produce one pound of meat. As you might imagine, the square footage required to produce 1 pound of beef far exceeds the amount required to yield the same amount of cricket flour. What about the nutritional profile of cricket flour? Crickets are an incredibly healthy option. They are high in dietary fibre and are a great non-dairy source of calcium for anyone lactose intolerant or following the paleo diet. They’re also high in of iron and omega 3’s. Some have even coined cricket flour as the new protein powder. Per 100 calories, crickets contain 4 more grams of fibre, and 4 less grams of fat. Cricket flour is also gluten, dairy and soy-free as well as being relatively low in carbohydrates.
The inherent challenge that comes with introducing a new food concept (and again – I’d like to stress that ‘new’ is only as it relates to the Western world), is the stigma or mental models that people have about it. Automatically, people equate insects to pests, and therefore nothing that we would, or should ever eat. In reality, nothing could be further than the truth. Crickets are not only far more eco-friendly than any other meat option on the market, but are also more nutritious. Another added bonus? Cricket flour is a great compliment to both sweet and savoury recipes alike. Try replacing 10-15% of the flour or nut meal you might use in your recipes with cricket flour for a nutritional boost. Good for you. Good for the planet.