Can insect proteins compete environmentally with crop-based proteins?

As a part of the SYLFEED project, Ingunn Saur Modahl og Andreas Brekke at NORSUS have published a study on insect proteins. In this article, life cycle assessments for six insect protein cases are examined. The studies are on mealworms and black soldier fly larvae used for fish feed, farmed and fed in different countries and with different diets. As this study combines inventories found in literature, special attention is paid to obtain consistent system boundaries, method choices, background data, and indicators. The results show that the insect diet is heavily affecting the environmental results if the insects are fed a diet of high economic value vegetables. Protein from insects fed on ‘waste’ (as is most often the case), has a climate change burden which is equal to or much lower than the most common crop-based fish feed protein ingredients. This difference in environmental burdens for the insects’ diet is caused by the economic allocation of burdens in LCAs of farmed crops. Insect proteins can cover 10 to 15% of the volumes of feed crude protein currently imported to the EU. The study also shows that transport of insect protein from countries such as The Netherlands, France and Germany to the west coast of Norway makes only a marginal contribution to the environmental burdens of the proteins. Read the full paper here.