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  (Source: John S. Dykes)
Insects may replace livestock meat such as beef and chicken by 2050

Those accustomed to the Western world tend to consume livestock like cows and pigs as a protein-rich meal source. But with the human population on the rise, it's becoming more important to seek out new nutritional food sources that can satisfy a large population without being as harmful, expensive, and hard to raise as livestock. The solution? Insect meat.

Marcel Dicke and Arnold Van Huis, professors of entomology at Wageningen University in the Netherlands, have already started promoting the consumption of insects in the Netherlands. They started their work in the 1990's, and at that time, many citizens of the Netherlands laughed at the idea of eating bugs. But as time went by, they became more accustomed to the idea, and in 2006, a "Wageningen - City of Insects" science festival was created to encourage the consumption of insects. Approximately 20,000 visitors attended the festival. 

Now, Dicke and Van Huis are making the argument for Westerners to jump on the bug-eating bandwagon as well. It may not seem obvious, but insects are already apart of our daily diet. In the United States, the average citizen consumes approximately one pound of insects annually through foods such as chocolate (which the FDA allows 60 insect fragments per 100 grams) and peanut butter (which the FDA allows 30 insect fragments per 100 grams). Insects are mixed into other foods as well, such as fruit juices. 

Even though insects are already part of our diet to some degree, Dicke and Van Huis see bug meat as being an alternative to meats such as beef and pork. Between 2020 and 2050, researchers predict that Westerners will consume insects regularly as an answer to our increasing population needing more meat-related resources. In fact, beef may become a luxury food item like caviar by 2050.  

In 2000, the human population was at six billion people. This number is expected to grow to nine billion people by 2050, which means there will be greater need for meat production. The problem is that livestock poses many problems as it is, and increasing the amount of livestock will only make environmental and health issues worse for humans. 

Increasing livestock production would have several environmental consequences, such as having to increase the amount of agricultural acreage "at the expense of rain forests and other natural land." Pastures already use up 70 percent of all agricultural land. Also, livestock produce greenhouse gas emissions like ammonia per pound of body weight, resulting in at least 10 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions. Insects, on the other hand, are comfortable in close living conditions, which means that raising them would not require as much space, and insects do not produce a large amount of greenhouse gas emissions. 

Many believe that eating bugs would be a worse alternative, since they are known for being dirty and disease ridden, but according to researchers, less than 0.5 percent of all insects are harmful to humans and over 1,000 species have been identified as edible. Besides, bugs raised for food are grown in hygienic conditions.  

In addition to environmental and health-related consequences, increasing livestock production would be costly. According to The Wall Street Journal, ten pounds of feed produces one pound of beef, three pounds of pork, five pounds of chicken and as much as six pounds of insect meat. Since insects are cold-blooded, they do not require as much food as livestock, who need to eat more in order to keep a warm body temperature. Not only does livestock require more food, but more water as well. It takes about 10 gallons of water to produce two pounds of meat. 

Yet another problem with livestock is that it can be wasteful. After processing the meat, 30 percent of pork, 35 percent of chicken, 45 percent of beef and 65 percent of lamb is inedible. Only 20 percent of a cricket is inedible after processing. 

While some U.S. restaurants, such as the Mexican restaurant Toloache in New York, serve an insect-related dish, more are expected to do the same throughout the country, slowly replacing meat in sauces and meatballs as well as other foods like quiche. Many who have had insects to eat describe the taste and texture as "nutty." 





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