Author: Heidi Hudson
Large-scale problems often require many small creative solutions. When it comes to climate change, there is not one set answer. Throughout the years, various ideas and processes have been researched and proposed to impact the fight against climate change. One rapidly emerging solution is insect farming.
There are two industries at play here: insects farmed for human consumption and insects farmed for animal feed production. Since 2014, companies have been racing to sustainably farm insects like crickets, mealworms and fly larvae for the animal feed market. This insect start-up industry began in South Africa with Agriprotein and has continued to grow. This is especially true following the pandemic. The two largest of these companies are Protix, a Dutch company located in Dongen, Netherlands; and Innovafeed, a French biotech company.
These start-ups have begun to work with companies in the food industry. Archer-Daniels-Midland Company (ADM), is a multinational American food processing company that has been partners with Innovafeed since 2020. This October, Tyson Foods followed suit and partnered with Protix. This partnership is part of a Protix global expansion campaign and will result in the first facility in the United States to produce high-quality proteins and lipids for pet food, aquaculture and livestock industries. Insect farming is popular in the United States, but these farms usually target human consumers and do not follow the same sustainability protocols as the aforementioned start-ups. As Time Magazine puts it, insect farming is “a system that wastes more food than it produces”.
Through the Tyson and Protix partnership, a new, larger insect farm will be built in the United States. According to the Tyson Foods press release, “The to-be-built facility in the U.S. will house an enclosed system to support all aspects of insect protein production including the breeding, incubating, and hatching of insect larvae.” Tyson hopes that this new plan will grow the company towards more efficient and rich protein production in the future. This new facility will cut back on food waste by using local food waste sources to farm the insects that will then be used to produce livestock feed in an effort to combat the generally wasteful practice of farming insects.
According to an article published in early 2023 by Time Magazine, about 36 percent of edible crop harvest is used for animal feed. Companies like Protix and Innovafeed aim to reduce this by sustainably producing animal feed from insect farms. At these farms, insects are attended to 24/7, located near processing facilities, and fed local food waste. Since the insects are fed local food waste, sustainability efforts are improved because 30 to 40 percent of the world food supply is considered food waste according to the USDA. This means more than half of the world food supply is either food waste or used for livestock feed. Without using local food waste, the insect farming industry would continue to generate waste similar to that of the meat industry.
If companies like Protix continue to use food waste to produce animal feed, their goal is to reduce carbon emissions from the food industry. According to Our World in Data, food is responsible for approximately 26 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Farmers continuing to seek creative solutions, like farming insects with food waste, give hope that worldwide producers, like Tyson, are on the track to cutting back on practices that are harmful to the environment.
So, next time you bite into Tyson chicken, you can be confident that the company you are supporting is supporting the planet you live on. Large problems require creative solutions and it is clear that large corporations are beginning to seek these solutions, even through the tiniest creatures that roam the earth.