Why Insect Protein?

Entomophagy, or the practice of consuming insects, has been around for millennia. Even today, bugs are a staple food in Southeast Asia, Africa, and South America. As humankind looks to the future of protein production, insect proteins, like Manna Sustainable Protein Flour, are at the forefront of sustainable development.

The planet simply doesn’t have enough land to produce the protein that our growing population will demand. By 2050, there will not be enough land to produce protein through conventional means. Furthermore, our current methods of protein production are often less than carbon-friendly. In the case of beef (which we still love), a single pound requires about 17,600 square feet of land and 29 gallons of water. That might seem hard to believe, but there’s more to just providing the cow with space to grow and water to drink—there’s the resources that go into producing their feed—and beyond that, the labor to farm and process beef.

There’s many dimensions to what makes insect protein such an exciting future for food production and we’ll cover those reasons in future posts. For now, we’ll cover two of those reasons:

1: Feed Conversion Ratio

Insects have a very efficient feed conversion ratio (FCR). FCR is pretty easy to understand—for every pound of feed you give livestock, it’s how many pounds of meat you get back. Academically, feed conversion ratios are notoriously inconsistent (just about everyone reports different numbers), but even with broad ranges, the performance of insect protein is pretty clear.

For cattle, we’re going to be kind and take one of the lower FCRs reported, 6:1. That means that for every 6 lbs of feed, there is a yield of 1 lb of beef. By comparison, the darkling beetles that Manna uses to produce our flour has an FCR of about 2:1. That’s 3 times more efficient than cattle, and that’s before we consider how much less space and water we need.

2: Labor

With the rise of automation, insect protein requires far less labor than other animal proteins to produce. For one, the physical size of the livestock makes farming more manageable, but also the predictable nature of certain species allows for precise production cycles. This is where Manna stands out, even in the realm of insect protein production.

At Manna, we’ve engineered technologies that allow us to largely leave our darkling beetles to themselves. They’re called darklings for a reason, they like being left to their own devices. Our patented technologies help handle the feeding, sorting, and harvesting in streamlined cycles. The darkling is provided with their preferred environment and conditions, in return we are able to harvest incredibly low labor-demanding protein that is ethically sourced.

So, there are two very academic reasons for consuming insect protein. There are several other more practical ones, for example, Manna Sustainable Protein Flour tastes great (kind of like sunflower seeds), but we’ll cover those in future posts.

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