Image credit: Takeaway / CC BY-SA 3.0Image credit: Takeaway / CC BY-SA 3.0Eating bugs instead of beef could reduce the harmful emissions associated with livestock production, according to researchers at the University of Edinburgh and Scotland’s Rural College.

According to the researchers, substituting crickets and mealworms for half of the meat consumed worldwide would reduce the amount of land used for farming by one-third, which would go toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Researchers believe that even a small decrease in animal product consumption would have an impact.

Researchers even suggested (as a possible solution to the worldwide activation of gag reflexes) adding bugs as an ingredient in prepackaged foods that would typically call for an animal product.

Imagining half of the current supply of animal products being replaced with insects, imitation meats (tofu) or lab-grown meats, researchers found that insects and imitation meats were the most sustainable using the least amount of land and energy to produce. In comparison, beef is considered the least sustainable while lab-grown meats fall somewhere in the middle.

Lead author Dr. Peter Alexander, of the University of Edinburgh's School of GeoSciences and Scotland's Rural College, said: "A mix of small changes in consumer behavior, such as replacing beef with chicken, reducing food waste and potentially introducing insects more commonly into diets, would help achieve land savings and a more sustainable food system."

The research is published in the journal Global Food Security.