A new report reveals using insect meal to feed fish and livestock could cut the UK’s future soy footprint by a fifth, protecting critical landscapes like the Brazilian Cerrado.
The research, commissioned by WWF in partnership with Tesco, highlights the huge potential for insect farming in helping to tackle the climate and nature crisis.
A soy replacement
‘The Future of Feed: a WWF roadmap to accelerating insect protein in UK feeds’ projects the total demand for insect meal from the UK’s pig, poultry and salmon sectors could reach around 540,000 tonnes a year by 2050.
This could result in about 16,000 tonnes of fishmeal and 524,000 tonnes of soy being replaced – equivalent to one fifth of the UK’s projected soy imports in 2050, or Tesco UK’s entire 2018 soy footprint.
Around 150,000 hectares of land is required to produce this amount of soy annually, almost the size of Greater London.
‘Livestock plays a crucial role in the global food system but producing feed for the 80 billion animals reared for human consumption each year is putting immense pressure on our planet’s resources. With nature in freefall and our climate in crisis, it’s vital that the food we eat here in the UK isn’t driving deforestation overseas.
‘We encourage the UK government and retail industry to take urgent action to get environmentally damaging practices out of our supply chains and off our shelves. This includes scaling up the use of alternative proteins such as insect meal and supporting calls for a circular feed system here in the UK.’
Executive director of science and conservation at WWF
Soy and deforestation
Animal feed accounts for around 75% of soy production, but cultivation of the crop is fuelling climate change, deforestation and habitat conversion in several key ecosystems, including the Brazillian Cerrado, where more than 100,000 hectares of precious habitat is lost each year to make way for soy production.
In addition to reducing deforestation risk, insect farming has the advantage that many insects are biological waste processors, helping to recycle and decompose material.
They can be reared from a vast range of feedstocks, or substrates, and can process surplus food, by-products and other raw materials which might otherwise go to waste.