Cornish student suggests protein alternatives

A pupil at Cornwall’s Duchy College Stoke Climsland has suggested that insect larvae could soon replace traditional meats as a main source of protein. 

Jean-Pierre Barendse, also known as JP, has been conducting research into protein levels found in insects and compared them to more conventional methods of obtaining protein, such as consuming chicken or beef, as part of his FdSc in Food Studies. He said the future of his children were the inspiration behind this project.

“Thinking that this planet could sustain the food needs for the exponential growth rate of humans would be naïve,” he explained. “Sustaining animal protein farming is not viable when it comes to feeding a global population.”

Research indicates that about 70% of all farmland is used up by livestock, with the demand for animal protein growing on a global level. It is thought that this will increase by 80% between now and 2050.

“When considering that producing one kilogram of beef may use as much as 15,000 litres of water and could produce as much as 28 kilograms of CO2 gas,” he said, “these are just a few reasons why considering supplementing meat consumption with alternative protein sources, such as insects, is important.”

Studies have shown that growing mealworms releases fewer greenhouse gases than producing chicken, pork and beef does, while raising the insects takes up significantly less land.

“Mealworms should be a great supplement to the human diet as they use far less resources to rear,” continued Barendse. “They use a fraction of the land required to raise free-range chickens and other livestock. Yes, they are worms and the thought of eating them may be offputting, but they could help ensure a future for our children. Eighty percent of the world population supplements their diets with insects, so they can’t be all bad.

“The reality is that insects may never take the place of beef or chicken. However, it may alleviate the pressure on earth’s resources. There will always be a market for meat products but if we supplement our intake of these for one day a week it would make a major difference. Developing products that would be acceptable to western societies would be a challenge, a challenge with new job opportunities and a whole new medium to work with.”

According to the student, mealworms are particularly tasty when toasted in the oven, tasting like nuts or seeds.

Andrew Counsell, principle of Duchy College, added: “As a human race we do need to look at an alternative food source and this research has shown that mealworms are a viable alternative. It has been a pleasure to work with JP on his research and hopefully his findings could turn into a bigger piece of research.”

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