Want to fight global warming? Start eating insects

Animal agriculture has been on the climate change radar since (at least) 2006, when a report by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization claimed that “the livestock sector generates more greenhouse gas emissions as measured in CO2 equivalent – 18 percent – than transport. It is also a major source of land and water degradation.” The common response to this news: eat lower on the food chain.

You probably understand “lower on the food chain” as “plants,” but Belgian entomologist Arnold van Huis has a different take on this phrase: he thinks more people should eat insects.

Insects? What might sound strange to someone with a Western palette (except maybe for escargot or chocolate-covered ants) is pretty common around the world: according to the UK’s Meat Info trade journal “Around 80% of national diets around the world involve some insect content, with over 1,000 species consumed.” Van Huis has focused on the climate impact of eating insects vs. traditional Western meats, and found, according to Worldchanging, that

Breeding commonly eaten insects such as locusts, crickets and meal worms, emits 10 times less methane than livestock. The insects also produce 300 times less nitrous oxide, also a warming gas, and much less ammonia, a pollutant produced by pig and poultry farming.

Insects also convert plant matter into protein much more efficiently than warm-blooded animals, and carry lower health risks… apparently, there’s no such thing as “mad ant disease.” The UN is paying attention: in 2008, the FAO held a meeting on the topic of insects as food, and is considering a policy paper by van Huis on the topic.

But still… insects? Ewww, right? Check out Felicity Cloake’s Daily Mail column on her taste testing of a variety of bugs… some of them don’t sound that bad… And New York’s Gastronauts treat insects like fine wines…

You a bug-eater? Or enjoyed insect cuisine in other parts of the world? Share your experiences with us…


  • Think you know water? Check out these facts about the world’s most precious resource.
  • Not quite ready for bugs on your plate? Check out our current selections of natural foods.

Image: Edible insects for sale outside a Bangkok McDonald’s Credit: Barnaby at Flickr under a Creative Commons license