Forget beef or even milk. If you’re looking for a sustainable and substantial source of protein, mealworms may be the way to go.
Compared to a kilogram of edible protein in meat from cows, chickens or pigs, production of the same amount of mealworm protein emits fewer greenhouse gases and requires much less land to grow. The findings support the argument that environmentally conscious eaters may do well to include beetle larvae in their diets.
“This study demonstrates that mealworms should be considered a more sustainable source of edible protein,” the team writes in a paper published yesterday in the journal PLoS ONE.
The idea that insects may be more sustainable than livestock is not new. But the new study was the first to quantify the environmental impact of munching on mealworms compared to the consumption of more traditional livestock.
To come up with hard numbers, biologists from Wageningen University in The Netherlands analyzed the production of two mealworm species at a local farm. They calculated protein content and assessed environmental effects by quantifying global warming potential, fossil energy use and land use.
Compared to the production of milk or traditional meats, mealworms came out on top in most measures.