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Exploring the potential of insect-based protein food products for their contribution to lower carbon footprints

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Title: Exploring the potential of insect-based protein food products for their contribution to lower carbon footprints
Author(s): Vauterin, Aleksis
Contributor: University of Helsinki, Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry
Degree program: Master's Programme in Food Economy and Consumption
Specialisation: Consumer Economics
Language: English
Acceptance year: 2020
Many European citizens have growing concerns over climate change. This seems to go together with the debate about the impact of consumers’ personal dietary choices on climate change. Novel food protein sources are entering the European food market to replace or compensate meat protein sources. One protein food alternative are insect-based proteins. However, there is limited research as to how choices of alternative insect-based protein products may influence consumers’ carbon footprints. This study explores the potential of insect protein to reduce the carbon footprint associated with European food consumption. Three scenarios were formed to identify and describe options for reducing current levels of carbon footprints associated with the consumption of conventionally produced chicken meat. In the scenarios, soybean meal-based feeds used in conventional chicken production are replaced with insect-based feeds, and chicken products are replaced with protein food products from insects. Further, two different insect feeding sources are considered and compared to each other. A number of existing global warming potential values from a variety of Life Cycle Assessment studies focusing on chicken and insect production were collected to create a database for use in the scenario analyses. The database was utilised to assess the global warming impact of producing alternative insect protein on the carbon footprint of European food consumption. The results from the three scenarios indicate that the carbon footprint of food consumption can be reduced by replacing conventionally produced chicken meat with insect-based protein food products. However, insect-based protein products would have a positive impact on the carbon footprint only if the insects that are produced for use in feed or food are farmed with low-value side streams. Currently, the shift to an increased use of side streams in insect-based food production faces regulatory challenges in Europe. In the light of European efforts to encourage sustainable food alternatives, and considering the environmental benefits insects could offer as alternative proteins over options of conventional protein sources, there is a need for continued research on the environmental sustainability of insect eating and insect feeding, as well as the safety and regulatory issues related to the use of insect protein in food consumption.
Keyword(s): Carbon footprint Consumer Food Insects Life Cycle Assessment Poultry Protein

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