Why Are Edible-Insects More Expensive Than Meat?
Edible insects are on the rise in the Western world. Increasingly, people are becoming aware of the potential for insects to help save the planet from climate change, and feed our population with high protein and nutrient-rich meals. However, insects currently appear to come at a price.
If you've ever compared the price of 100 grams of edible insects to the price of the same amount of meat, you might have noticed that insects are significantly more expensive. And there's a good reason why you need to spend more on your grub.
So if insects are meant to be the future of food, why are they so expensive?
Edible insects are not cheap to farm (yet!)
Whilst eating insects is common across the globe, the scale of farming (particularly in Western countries that do not have a long history of eating insects) is in its early stages. Insect production has not yet grown to a sufficient scale or received sufficient investment to build and optimise these systems, with most still relying on manual labour.
One way to reduce the price of insects, is through farming them in purpose-built, well-insulated facilities. This can significantly reduce the costs of heating which are currently one of the most costly inputs, due to the fact that insects are cold-blooded.
Automation is likely to greatly increase the efficiency of farming systems and has already been demonstrated to drive down prices by farms in Europe. These farms have dramatically reduced the price of insect powders to less than a third of their original cost!
Utilising waste food streams from local plant agriculture is key to shaving costs in insect production. Think carrot peels, seed husks and rough grains! Cereal and vegetable waste byproducts can provide a highly sustainable and affordable feed for insects. Due to the exceptionally high conversion of feed to insect mass (they need as little as 1.7kg of feed to create 1kg of insect!), insects are almost guaranteed to be the most efficient and therefore economical and sustainable use of plant agricultural waste. The fact that they turn this waste into a superfood is simply icing on the (bug) cake!
Processing edible insects adds extra costs
Most insects you buy in the Western world have been processed by roasting to form a dry but incredibly tasty and nutrient-dense superfood.
The roasting removes around 75% of the total weight of the insect (mainly fats and water). This means that the final product is absolutely packed with nutrients – 69% protein (that's 3 times the amount of protein in a steak!), calcium, zinc, vitamin B12, and all sorts of key vitamins and minerals.
However, the roasting process adds additional production costs that contribute to the price of crickets on the market today.
Are edible insects really more pricey?
Although the average portion of insects may only weigh between 10g-30g, they are very filling! If you compare the protein and micronutrients in 100 grams of insects to 100 grams of beef, you'll notice that edible insects are much richer in protein, zinc, potassium, calcium, and more! For example, steak is only 27% protein while roasted crickets are 69% protein.
This means that to get the same amount of nutrition as in a steak from bugs, you can eat 3x less, and therefore it is important to consider this when comparing the price.
Alongside concentrating all of those tasty nutrients, roasting insects also allows you to keep them on the kitchen shelf for up to a year, meaning that you don't have to worry about your protein source going out of date before you get a chance to cook it.
To summarise, edible insects may appear to be more expensive than meat because their production has not grown to a sufficient scale and mostly still relies on manual labour. Additionally, edible insects usually go through an additional roasting step, which helps elongate their shelf life and increase the amount of protein and nutrients per 100 grams of the product.
If you want to give edible insects a try, click the link below and enjoy all of its nutrients and proteins!
Until next time,
Leo & Aaron