Lab-grown insect meat to soon be on your platter

Washington: Lab-grown insect meat — fed on plants, and genetically modified for maximum growth, nutrition and flavour — could be a superior green alternative for high volume, nutritious food production, a study suggests. “Due to the environmental, public health and animal welfare concerns associated with our current livestock system, it is vital to develop more sustainable food production methods,” said Natalie Rubio from Tufts University in the US.

Genetically modified livestock, for example that produce less methane or resist disease, can do little to relieve issues like land and water degradation, deforestation and biodiversity loss, according to the study. However, for meat-lovers, soy- or mushroom-based substitutes just don’t hit the spot — and some plant crops are as thirsty as livestock.

Insect farming has a much lower water and space requirement and twice as much of a cricket is edible than of a big-boned, big-bellied cow. Lab-grown meat could also squeeze water and space savings furthest of all, without compromising on taste, researchers said. Culturing beef, pork or chicken cells might require even more energy and resources than livestock farming, they said.

A better solution, said Rubio, may lie at the intersection of all these oons: lab-grown insect meat — fed on plants, and genetically modified for maximum growth, nutrition and flavour. “Compared to cultured mammalian, avian and other vertebrate cells, insect cell cultures require fewer resources and less energy-intensive environmental control, as they have lower glucose requirements and can thrive in a wider range of temperature, pH, oxygen and osmolarity conditions,” said Rubio.