Buzzing: Reflections on waste
Dear all, I hope you’ve had a good week. It was a good one here: Buzzing was nominated for Newsletter of the Year at the Freelance Writing Awards. I didn’t win (Christina Newland did for Sisters Under the Mink, her masterful essays on women and womanhood in crime movies), but it was wonderful to get the recognition, to attend (even a virtual) award ceremony and make new connections.
Now on to business: I’ve finished analysing the results of my survey (thank you to everyone who replied) and I decided to replace “The Q&A” with a new section called “In Other News”: it will have one visual story (an image or a chart, with a long caption) and a series of links to relevant articles/posts published in the past fortnight. I hope you’ll like it.
This week in Buzzing:
Reflections on waste
In Other News: Insects to the rescue in Madagascar, Africa & the UK
Test Corner: Thai cricket salad
This week, WWF and Tesco launched a roadmap for the UK to accelerate the adoption of insect protein in animal feed. The report concluded that the UK could reduce its imports of soy by 20% by 2050, which is significant.
The report also predicted that the UK would be producing 240,000 tons of insect meal by 2050 (the current figure is less than 6,000), and that in the process, insect farms would help process 3.4 million tons of substrate (insect feed) per year.
I have written before about how insects could help solve the waste crisis, so it was interesting to see that impact quantified, and to see substrate numbers featuring prominently alongside protein figures.
To me, it suggests that people in the industry want to highlight the value of insects’ bioconversion potential. I’m not sure that was necessarily the case before. Perhaps it’s just a factor of how insect farming works: substrate is an input, the insects are the output, and the output is where the monetary value is.
Over the past few months however, I have come across various businesses who prize their waste management service as the real value of their business. In April, I spoke to Olympia Yarger from Goterra, who proudly describes her company as a waste management structure, not a Black Soldier Fly (BSF) enterprise. Similarly, Sanergy, a Kenyan company that uses BSF to process organic market waste and human waste, think of themselves as a waste and sanitation business. And just the other day, I spoke to Joe Halstead of AgriGrub, a BSF company based in the UK, who told me that they measured their output in waste processed rather than in protein produced.
All these businesses do produce (and sell) insect protein and frass; the point is that their raison d’être is insects’ bioconversion potential, not protein production per se. It’s a subtle difference, but as the list of permitted substrates opens up, it will become more meaningful.
In the UK and in the EU, insects are considered farmed animals so they can only be fed animal feed. Yet insects could feed on a far broader range of ingredients, including manufacturing surplus, household waste (which Goterra is allowed to use in Australia) or even animal manure or human waste (Sanergy being a case in point).
The WWF-Tesco report calls for the range of substrates to be broadened (and includes a fascinating analysis of 22 potential substrates), a call echoed by the International Platform of Insects as Food and Feed (IPIFF) in Europe. Regulators will, understandably, want to move cautiously because of the legacy of the BSE (mad cow disease) crisis.
I think we should keep an open mind about what we could use insects for (who says it has to be the food chain?) and marvel at the possibilities of insects contributing to zero waste.
In Other News
This unusually pretty table is taken from Cortni Borgerson et al’s first paperon sakondry (Zanna tenebrosa, which you can see illustrated by Joel Borgerson on the left handside), a tasty forest insect from Madagascar. Borgerson and her team tested the viability of farming the insect as a way to improve malnutrition amongst rural communities, whose food security depends heavily on hunting of endangered animals. The study found that sakondry was highly nutritious and that its production could alleviate pressure on unique habitats. Since Z. tenebrosa is found in many parts of Africa with similarly high levels of malnutrition and biodiversity (see table), the study concluded that farming the insect in these area could be part of solutions to alleviate malnutrition and biodiversity loss.
The EU is one step closer to adopting the use of insect protein in poultry and pig feed (IPIFF).
WWF and supermarket chain Tesco publish their roadmap to accelerate the adoption of insect protein in animal feed in the UK (The Guardian).
The Woven Network predicts that by 2025, UK-based edible insect companies could generate around £60 million in revenue.
I liked this detailed piece on insect protein in pet food, especially the concept of a “carbon pawprint” (CNBC).
Test Corner: Thai cricket salad
I’ve had two tubs of whole crickets languishing on my shelves for the past few months. I’ve lacked inspiration of what to do with them, so I went back to basics. What do they taste like and what would go with that?
Crickets are close cousins of prawns, so I tried to think of something I used to enjoy with prawns. I also remembered that most crickets consumed in Europe are farmed in Thailand, which led me to this week’s stunner: Thai cricket salad (I feel the picture doesn’t do it justice - I need a food stylist!).
The salad itself has been one of my vegan greats (save for the spoonful of fish sauce) for a while, so it really wasn’t much of a leap of faith to add crickets to it. The pièce de résistance is the dressing, which is eye-wateringly zingy and more-ish. I think crickets actually work better than prawns in this dish because they are bite-size and crunchy (I always felt the prawns were an awkward size).
This is definitely an adult dish: the sauce is too strong for the kids, and the salad just a step too far from cucumber slices and carrot sticks. Which is fine, sometimes it’s good to be able to enjoy grown-up food 😊
The salad itself is endlessly customisable; have fun with it (recipe serves 4).
For the dressing:
2 tbsp smooth peanut butter
1 thumbnail-size piece of fresh ginger, grated
1 clove of garlic
Juice of 1 lime
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp soft brown sugar
1 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tbsp fish sauce (leave out for vegan)
3 tbsp sesame oil
Blend all ingredients together in a blender. Set aside.
For the salad, any raw, crunchy vegetables will do, all finely chopped (aim for 500g). I usually have a base of cabbage (red and/or white) and carrots. Depending on what’s knocking about in the fridge, I will also add: peppers, cucumber, radishes, bean sprouts or sugar snap peas.
I will then add 1 or 2 fresh chillies, 3 spring onions and a bunch of coriander (all finely chopped); 2 handfuls of dry-roasted or plain peanuts. And this time, one generous handful of whole crickets too. Mix everything and serve. Thai salads are often served with noodles but for me, it’s all about pairing it with warm coconut rice.
Borgerson, C., Fisher, B. L., Razafindrapaoly, B. N., Rasolofoniaina, B. J. R., Randriamanetsy, J. M., Razafindrapaoly, B. L., Rajaona, D., Herrera, P., Van Itterbeeck, J., Martinez, K. M., & Aardema, M. L. (2021). A nutrient-rich traditional insect for improving food security and reducing biodiversity loss in Madagascar and sub-Saharan Africa. Conservation Science and Practice, e480. https://doi.org/10.1111/csp2.480