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Friday, February 20, 2015

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The wriggly beetle larvae known as mealworms could one day dominate supermarket shelves as a more sustainable alternative to chicken, beef, pork and milk, researchers say.

Do you think you could bring yourself to sink your teeth into a mealworm-burger? One day you might have to...and it might not even be that bad.

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Conventional livestock take up so much in the way of environmental resources that some have long suggested that creatures lower down in the food chain - insects - might in theory provide just as much protein in a more environmentally friendly way. However, little data are available on the environmental impacts associated with insect production, said researcher Dennis Oonincx at Wageningen University in the Netherlands.

The researchers found that growing mealworms released less greenhouse gases than producing cow milk, chicken, pork and beef. They also discovered that growing mealworms takes up only about 10 percent of the land used for production of beef, 30 percent of the land used for pork and 40 percent of the land needed for chickens to generate similar amounts of protein.

The biggest objection this idea faces is probably the squeamishness the public has toward eating insects.

"We need to promote a campaign along the lines of, 'If it's okay to eat sushi, it's okay to eat insects,'" Fisher said. "If you eat lobster, eating insects is pretty much the same thing."

Moreover, people might not have to eat the insects directly. Rather, they could be ground up and used as protein-rich supplements to food, Fisher noted.

As to what mealworms taste like, "it depends on what you fed them, but most times they're a bit nutty-flavored," Fisher said. "People love them if they're cooked right.

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