flat lay photography of vegetable salad on plate

A solution for food waste AND global warming?

Bug eating birds – food waste and methane reduced by flies.

Back about ten year ago there was trend towards vegetarian fed eggs and chickens. This was due to a negative reaction to the use of animal fats, often derived from the same species, in feed. However, around the same time, humane concerns drove transition from caged birds to cage free, free range and pasture raised birds. A little anticipated consequence was that eggs from free range and pasture raised chickens (‘outdoor birds’) had a richer flavor. Eggs from poultry has flavor that is, for many, better when they eat a ‘natural’ diet which includes bugs, worms and frankly whatever they find on the ground.

The wheel may be turning again. Black soldier fly larva have been approved to use as feed for chickens. This is a very interesting project. The fly itself is not considered a pest or a vector. It is small and avoids humans. But black soldier fly larvae consume human food waste. The larvae eat the waste and all but eliminate the methane emissions. The larvae then mature out of their garbage eating phase and are harvested for feed. (They kind of self-harvest which is really cool.)There are some challenges in terms of starting colonies but the scientists are hopeful the use of greenhouses will make this easier. Some are promoting the eating of the fly, the opportunity is for use animal feed and aquaculture.

In the US, food waste makes up more than 30% of the food supply, about 133 billion pounds. This waste produces 15% of methane emissions and methane is a much more serious greenhouse gas (25X) in terms of global warming. This chart from the NRDC shows how expensive the waste is

Policy changes would certainly help; there are almost no federal or few state initiatives to reduce food waste. Agribusiness, growing at large scale, leads to higher levels of waste and economically will be very hard and take a while to change. Consumer awareness seems to be growing but home composting and other measures are hardly popular. Large food service companies like Compass and Sodexo have initiatives and are probably the best actors; restaurant chains lag far behind.

Perhaps the bugs can save us.

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