Which one is better for the Environment: Edible Insects or Soy?


Climate change is a worldwide topic and people are trying their best to make a positive difference on the environment by living a more eco friendly lifestyle. From bamboo toothbrushes, to period cups, plastic free living and meat substitutions such as eating Soy, people are starting to see the desperate need for change. 

Some of the big issues currently affecting climate change are deforestation, water shortages and pollution. Unfortunately livestock farming has a big impact on all of these. In fact, livestock alone causes 91 % of deforestation. In a report, the Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, outlined how our eating habits are impacting on the environment and how livestock farming is having a drastic impact on climate change. Meat alternatives have thus been booming and have become crucial in the hopes of adjusting our diets and fighting climate change. 

Currently, one of the most common meat alternatives is Soy. Its popularity comes from its versatile use allowing it to be used to form a number of Soy products such as soya milk, tofu, flour and meat-free burgers. Soy is also known for its great nutritional profile, packing a high protein content and also consisting of a complete amino acid profile.

However, as close of a substitute Soy may be, it is also important to look at the effects of Soy on the environment and whether consuming Soy is as environmentally friendly as it appears to be. The question is, whether Soy can be a nutritional and sustainable meat substitute in the long term, especially if more and more people become meat free or at least reduce their meat consumption and substitute this with Soy.

 

consuming Soy as meat substitute

 Getty Images 

In the hopes of finding various alternatives to traditional meat, people have started looking for other meat alternatives one of them being edible insects. Entomophagy has in fact begun growing quite popular with celebrities regularly eating them and star chefs such as Gordon Ramsay cooking with them.

Soy and Edible Insects both have a similar nutritional composition and are great meat alternatives. They can both be used in a variety of dishes and take on many forms. Crickets for example can be used as roasted crickets, cricket powder, cricket pasta and can be used in smoothies, baked goods and cooked dishes. Many have in fact started substituting their regular beef patties with a portion of crickets, reducing their daily meat consumption.

The question at hand is however if one of them is better for the environment than the other.

In this blog we will take a look at the nutritional profile of Soy and Crickets and the impact they have on the environment to see which meat alternative has a greater sustainability in the long term. We will also review how they compete nutritionally especially as a high protein food.

 

1) Soybean and Crickets have a similar Nutritional profile but Crickets have nearly 4X more Protein

 

soy and edible insects as a sustainable meat alternative

Nutritional values per 100g serving 

 

As seen in the table, Soy and Crickets perform very similarly in terms of their nutritional profile. They are both amino acid complete and are rather similar in most nutritional aspects, except their Protein content where Crickets have nearly 4x more Protein than Soybean. Thus, although they are both nutritious, if one is looking for a traditional meat substitute that also has a very high protein content, then Crickets would definitely be the better option. Cricket protein shakes and bars have in fact grown in popularity especially due to their easy digestibility and nutritional composition.

Adding onto that, many individuals who follow a plant based diet, are also concerned and focused on eating Natural foods. Finding Natural Soy that has not been overly processed is often rather tricky whereas Crickets are 100 % Natural.

 

2) Crickets are 100 % Natural whereas 90 % of Soy is genetically modified 

If an important attribute in ones diet are Natural ingredients than Soy may not be the best meat substitute. It is in fact rather challenging to find Soy that has not been heavily processed and packed with GMO’s. GMO Soy production has reached 80 million hectares and as of 2014, it is almost 80 % of total acreage worldwide. These developments make it extremely difficult to find GMO-free Soy. It is thus important to always take a close look at foods purchased and to read the labels vey closely when purchasing Soy.

Edible insects on the other hand, such as Crickets are 100 % Natural and completely GMO free. If you are thus seeking a traditional meat alternative that is 100 % Natural, a high protein food and packed with nutrients then Crickets may just be the better choice. However it is also important, especially if not purchasing whole dried crickets or cricket powder, to ensure that that the Crickets or other types of edible insects are in fact GMO free and Natural.

 

3) Crickets are more environmentally friendly than Soy 

Many have become aware of the devastating effects that livestock farming has on the environment and climate change. Farmed animals such as cows, pigs and chickens are all responsible for significant amounts of greenhouse gases, water usage and deforestation, not to mention the horrid cruelty that goes on in many farms and factories. 

Soy and Crickets are both a lot friendlier on the environment as they use a lot less of our precious resources such as land and water and produce fewer greenhouses gases. They are interestingly also more nutritious, than livestock, in many areas. 

The question is though are Crickets and Soy equally environmentally friendly or does one of them have a greater sustainability than the other?

The 2 main areas we will look at are space and water required for farming. 

 

Space required for farming

There have long been serious concerns about the extent to which Soy plays a role in deforestation in the Amazon and surrounding regions. 

The United States, Brazil, and Argentina together produce about 80% of the world’s Soy. These are places known for their lush forests but also their unbelievable rate of deforestation. 

Soy farms just like livestock require outdoor fields to be farmed on. These farms can also only grow horizontally. Individual Soy plants also require enough space to grow healthy and tall and thus need to be planted with enough space between each other.  UK consumption alone requires an area the size of Yorkshire to be planted with Soy every year.

An important factor to consider, is that majority of Soy is eaten by livestock and not by people. In fact, currently around 80% of Soy is used in animal feed. However, Soy consumption by people is increasing steadily as more people are seeking alternative meat products. Thus, if we simply replace our livestock meat consumption with Soy, we will definitely see a significant and incredible difference in land usage but land, which could otherwise be used for reforestation, will still be used for Soy farming. Along with deforestation, there are also concerns about the use of agrochemicals in Soy production and it has been suggested that Soy production is risking pollution to water supplies and soil.

Cricket farming on the other hand requires a lot less space as Crickets themselves require quite little space to live comfortably. Cricket farms can also grow vertically taking even less space away. Cricket farming is especially interesting as it does not occur on large field where otherwise forests would thrive. Cricket farms, and edible insect farms in general, can be built anywhere and rather take up space in areas where there is no forestry.

An important element with Insect farming, is that although they require less space than Soy, farms should be built in areas with a warm and humid climate allowing farmers to use less resources to manage temperatures. Insect farming is not as efficient if done in countries with cooler climates as more resources are required for the farming procedures. 

edible insect farm for sustainable eco friendly meat alternative

Soy is really an excellent meat alternative and a step in the right direction but insects are proving to be even more sustainable and eco-friendly and could thus have a greater effect on climate change than Soy.

Water required for farming

We are aware that livestock uses an immense amount of water. In fact, to   produce 100g of beef 22000 liters of water is required. This is a significantly large amount of water that is being given to livestock. What's even worse, is that livestock is in fact often fed human grade water while many people don’t even have access to clean water. 

Soy uses a lot less water than livestock and is definitely a lot more efficient in terms of water usage than livestock farming. To produce 100g of Soybeans only 275 litres of water is required. That is a significant difference to beef.

However, crickets required even less water than Soy. In fact they require <1 liter of water to produce the same amount - 100g. 

At this point, with climate change every good difference is a really good one. We need to thus be looking at the best and most sustainable traditional meat alternatives to have the best possible and quickest impact on climate change and environmental issues. 

Of course we are not saying that Soy is not a good meat substitute because it is. However, when comparing insect farming and Soy farming, insect farming appears to have a greater sustainability as well as being more eco friendly whilst also being exceptionally nutritious, amino acid complete and packed with an easily digestible high protein content.

In conclusion 

Not everyone will be open to Entomophagy, but the reality is that everyone has a responsibility in making a positive difference on our environment. It may seem to be a unknown and strange food but 2 billion people are already eating edible insects. Furthermore, insects such as Crickets are actually very similar to foods we are already eating such as prawns.

 

edible insects - crickets

 

Interested in joining Chirp Nation in challenging societies norms, becoming part of a counter culture and making your mark on this planet with a nutritious high protein food? Try out our Chirp Nation Gluten Free Cricket Protein Powder Superfood which can be incorporated into everyday cooked dishes, baked goods and smoothies. 

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