Saturday, January 08, 2011

News you want to know: insects produce less gas

There is nothing like cyber-surfing to find interesting stories and getting educated about stuff one would otherwise never know. Things like edible insects produce smaller quantities of greenhouse gasses than cattle AND pigs. I mean - go figure! Teeny-weeny insects some of which are barely visible to the human eye, to put it bluntly, fart less than people.

Be that as it may, this fact came to light in the Science Daily with scientists of Wageningen University who recently joined together with government and industry to look into whether the rearing of insects could contribute to more sustainable production. Moreover, insect meat could therefore be an alternative to your regular type meat products. Cattle farming worldwide is a major producer of greenhouse gases.

Far be it to criticize the scientific community but speaking as your "average" human, the idea of eating insects somehow has little appeal. In fact, most of us averages find insects worthy of elimination. Let's just leave it at that.

Why they did this is anybody's guess but the research team for the first time quantified the greenhouse gases produced per kilogram of insect product. This leads one - me - to ponder how they accomplished this. Take your ordinary house fly - please - and try to catch it, never mind assessing the amount of gas it produces. Never even occurred to me that insects - well - fart. The gases involved were methane and nitrous oxide (isn't the latter the laughing gas that dentists use for nervous patients?). The results demonstrated that insects produced much smaller quantities of greenhouse gases than conventional livestock. Duh!

An additional advantage of insects over mammals is that they convert their food into meat quicker. Is this information we need to know? There is, however, some interesting facts one rarely thinks about like did you know that a pig produces between eight and twelve times as much ammonia per kilogram of growth, compared to crickets, and up to fifty times more than locusts. Can't speak for others but this is a revelation to me!

Further research is required to ascertain whether the production of a kilogram of insect protein is also more environmentally friendly than conventional animal protein when the entire production chain is taken into account. This makes one - me again - wonder how much money the scientists received for working on this exciting project. The university, by the way, is located in the Netherlands.

A while back and in the name of science and a TV taping, I ate some chocolate covered grasshoppers. Actually, they were quite good until one of the grasshopper legs became visible after biting into the chocolate. That was it for me! Just thought I'd throw that in since the story focused on insects. thing is and realistically speaking, it's doubtful whether farmers will give up cattle raising et al, in favor of insects. Would love to hear from any insect raisers reading this.

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