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From Farm To Table, Mealworms May Be The Next Best Food

Food enthusiasts interested in sustainable farm practices may soon have a new meat alternative: insects. Beetle larvae (called ) farms produce more edible protein than traditional farms for chicken, pork, beef or milk, for the same amount of land used, according to research published December 19 in the open-access journal by Dennis Oonincx and colleagues from , Netherlands.

The researchers compared the environmental impact of on a farm to traditional animal farms using three parameters: Land usage, energy needs, and . From the start of the process to the point that the meat left the farm, they found that mealworms scored better than the other foods. Per unit of edible protein produced, farms required less land and similar amounts of energy.

Previous work by the same team, published in PLOS ONE in 2010, has already shown that mealworms themselves produce less greenhouse gases than other animals grown for meat. In this new study, the researchers elaborate on the sustainability of insect proteins as a food by showing that growing mealworms for animal protein requires less land and generate fewer greenhouse gas emissions than chicken, pork, beef or milk.

Commenting on their results, Oonincx adds, “Since the population of our planet keeps growing, and the amount of land on this earth is limited, a more efficient, and more sustainable system of food production is needed. Now, for the first time it has been shown that mealworms, and possibly other edible insects, can aid in achieving such a system.”


Citation: Oonincx DGAB, de Boer IJM (2012) Environmental Impact of the Production of Mealworms as a Protein Source for Humans – A Life Cycle Assessment. PLoS ONE 7(12): e51145. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0051145

Financial Disclosure: This study was directly funded by Wageningen University, Wageningen, The Netherlands as part of a PhD program. Wageningen University had no other role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript, than can be expected with the academic supervision of a PhD candidate.

Competing Interest Statement: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

Public Library of Science