If you want to eat well and minimize your impact on the environment, one study suggests that you should eat bugs.
Some have been arguing just this very thing for years. In fact, one restaurant in the Netherlands has even gone so far as to add insects onto the menu. However, this study published in PLoS One is the first to quantify exactly why insects are environmentally worth eating.
Indeed, livestock takes up three-quarters of the world's agricultural land. In addition, livestock amounts to 15 percent of the world's human-made carbon emissions and greenhouse gases. With the global population increasing, the researchers note that we will need to start cultivating new food sources for protein with less environmental damage.
The study focused on the larvae of the mealworm beetle. Common to nature, they are widely used as fishing bait and sold in pet stores as food for lizards. Dennis Oonincx and Imke de Boer measured the level of land use, energy consumption, and greenhouse gas emissions for the mealworms, comparing them to the needs of pigs, chicken, and cows which, in turn, provide pork, chicken, and beef.
Mealworms required just 10 percent of the land needed to produce beef, 30 percent of the land needed for pork, and 40 percent of the land needed for chickens in order to provide comparable amounts of protein. The findings included the land needed to produce food for mealworms that munch happily on carrots and grains.
However, the news for mealworms was not universally positive. Mealworms need warmth to grow, so the heated temperatures required a fair amount of energy. The energy needed to grow mealworms was 46 to 88 percent more than that needed for chicken and similar to that needed for pork. However, it was still half of what was necessary to produce beef. Even still, researchers concluded that mealworms should be considered a sustainable alternative to beef, chicken, and pork.
You may not be convinced, but bugs apparently taste pretty good, holding a nutty flavor. They also are under consideration to be used as emergency food for refugees. In addition, proponents note that you will not necessarily need to eat the bugs themselves; they can be ground up as a protein supplement to food. One entomologist said that he had met some success using the ground-up mealworms as part of his brownie recipe.