In Daniella Martin’s hip treatise for eating bugs, Edible, she imagines a fantasy fast food restaurant where in addition to what you order, you also get the by-products of what it took to make your order. So when you get your burger, you also get…
- 1,000 gallons of contaminated water
- 4lbs of manure
- The carbon residue from the use of 1 gallon of gas
- 200 cubic ft of a feed lot that will take years to restore
Topped that off with a large toxic methane plume. Want to change your order? A McRib would also get you…
- 600 gallons of contaminated water
- 5lbs of pig shit
- Smaller methane plume
Finally, a McNuggets 10-piece comes with…
- 150 gallons of contaminated water
- 1lb of feces
- Less methane
This is all to say that our daily food choices have a significant environmental impact we do not appreciate. And of course conventional animal protein production overall adds up to a huge impact on our land and water…
- For the limited amount of land that can support agriculture, 70% is taken up with livestock production.
- 80% of water goes to agriculture for plants and livestock, and half of that goes to feed for livestock–because the animals we eat eat a lot of feed.
- And our remaining water resources are at risk from the consequences of industrial agriculture. Algae blooms that are currently rendering Toledo’s drinking water toxic are caused by the fertilizers to keep our depleted soil overproducing the subsidized corn we don’t need. (Pardon the Michael Pollan-inspired nano-rant.)
With a population set to grow almost 30% in the next 35 years, we’re going to need to double current food production (according to UN estimates). Not only is there not enough land to support this increase, the ecological impact to already-limited water resources would be devastating. Like Mad-Max-post-apocalyptic-water-wars-type devastating. What if we could increase food production while decreasing the environmental impact to land and water? Large-scale insect farming could be that solution. Although the exact numbers on the water to raise insects in a farm setting are unavailable (but Youngstown’s Big Cricket Farms may soon have answers…), it can be assumed they would be significantly lower. Consider the drought-resistance of mealworms and crickets. And consider Pat Crowley, a water conservationist who came up with his cricket energy bars—Chapul—to show how a protein source could be produced using minimal water resources. See their neat chart (and order some bars…Mark Cuban has…).
Awesome chart by Nick Hiebert at the University of Manitoba
And then consider land use. Crickets don’t need to be grown on the prairie, and perhaps it may be more risky to due to pesticide exposure. It’s already been shown the advantages of urban honey production. Insect husbandry may be a way to reclaim abandoned industrial and urban spaces. Tiny Farms has already designed and offers cricket farming structures you can setup in your own garage–and who knows, eventually in multi-story cricket protein production facilities. BONUS: Instead taking all the corn we’re so great at overproducing and putting it into obesity- and diabetes-inducing high fructose corn syrup, it can be fed to protein-enriching crickets who are efficient corn-processing machines.
So perhaps when you order your McCricket of the future (or of the now if you’re in NYC), you can avoid the methane plume, walk off with a fraction of the water. Don’t know about the cricket poop. Yet.