Hello! This is a “pre-script” from your favorite Aly Moore.
It’s been a while since I’ve blogged; I’ve been working on some new content, and a mini-series is developing on Instagram. I’m most proud of this one, as I think my “Dear Insect-Industry-Ignorant Journalists…” series can serve to counteract some harmful misrepresentations of the insect industry.
To end the pre-script, I’d like to encourage you to check out the *post-script*✍️
“Is insect farming a solution to factory farming…. OR AN EXTENSION OF IT?!?!” 🙄
Am I the only one who has noticed an uptick in some of the articles written by people that are either misinformed or paid by industries that stand to lose money when insects solve a lot of problems that their chemical products currently do?
They do that thing where:
- they take a soundbite that sounds logical,
- add some nonsense logic to it,
- and sound credible by citing scientific journals that are related to (but not cohesive with) the points they’re trying to make. 🙅🏻♀️
It’s gaslighting. 💨✨
This series of content is dedicated to the journalists who need to do more homework or put the future of agriculture ahead of their own next paycheck. 🖐️
⭕️ Insects close the circle on food production. ⭕️
👉 The insect farming industry is critical to support all other parts of the existing agricultural landscape. Here’s why:
- 🪰 We scaled up so many parts of agriculture, but forgot about insects: nature’s waste management system, feed/soil production, and bio-filter technologies.
- ✨ Companies like Chapul Farms raise insects on agricultural byproducts that would otherwise go to landfills or other, less circular outcomes.
The biggest misconceptions I want to set straight might be redundant and boring (I hope they are, in fact). I’m not sharing new information. I’m just re-stating truths, very directly, to counteract the harmful smear campaigns that I’ve noticed are on the rise. I’m guessing that these articles are influenced (upstream) by big players across the food/ag value chain that stand to lose a lot of money if people start using more nature-based methods to fertilize soils, feed animals, and manage waste.
There’s a lot of money at stake here.
- No, I’m not paid by any organization like the United Nations or the World Economic Forum.
- No, I’m not telling YOU to eat bugs.
- I feel confident in saying the insect industry is not trying to get YOU to do anything.
- The insect industry is scaling up to catch up to the rest of modern agriculture. To support businesses across the value chain by doing all of the things that insects do in nature (upcycle waste, bioremediate, produce fats/proteins, etc.)
👉 I’m not going to validate the specific author of the article that set me off by naming them or linking to the article. But I am going dismantle the nonsense of that article point-by-point.
MISCONCEPTION 1: 📈 There’s not going to be enough demand for the products insect farming makes (frass fertilizer & proteins/fats).
🐟 In particular, the article I’m referencing mentions that there will not be the demand expected from the aquafeed side.
- 🐛 Insect larvae makes an incredible alternative to fishmeal.
- ✨ Fish eat insects in the wild.
- 🐟 And aquaculture is the quickest growing protein sector.
- 📈 The demand will be there.
- Check out this Forbes article with the headline, “Black Soldier Flies are the new superstar of sustainable aquaculture.”
I’m 99% sure that the authors writing these articles are paid by someone high up in the food industry.
I want to be careful about making the next point. If you’re a vegan for ethical reasons I can’t tell you how to value a soul. But I can point out some glaring hypocrisies / misalignments with the arguments of people arguing that insect farming may be a harmful extension of factory farming.
If you want to go down that rabbit hole of weighing souls and suffering, make sure you understand some key points where insect farming and the farming of other livestock differ.
MISCONCEPTION 2: “Just one cricket farm could have 20 – 29 BILLION insects alive at any time… that’s about the same as the total of all chickens, cows, other vertebrate land animals alive on all farms globally…if the industry’s forecasts continue to come true it could be one of the biggest genocides across animal history…”
As I hedged, there are many ways to approach this line of thinking. Many of them involve weighing the value of a soul.
- But here’s the thing: insects are MADE for mass-rearing.
- Where cows/chickens would suffer in tight living conditions, shorter life-spans, slaughter… insect farms work.
- Insects NATURALLY live on top of each other. They don’t need a lot of space. They have short life spans. It’s possible to humanely raise insects.
Even if you don’t agree with something I’ve said above… if you’re NOT being paid by BIG FOOD, then start your crusade with the companies gassing insects to death: pesticide companies. Please take your petitions to pest control companies and other companies gassing insects from homes, beds, fields, and more before crusading against a form of farming that supports the overall improvement of animal, plant, and human welfare.
Here’s my better-informed picture I’d like to paint for you if the scale-up insect industry forecasts come true:
- We’ll make a dent in our organics waste problems
- We’ll have a way to feed animals what they eat in the wild instead of ultra-processed corn pellets
- We’ll have a way to bioremediate our water/land (insects can filter out toxins/heavy metals from soils and water)
- We’ll improve local/national food security
- We’ll improve biodiversity
- We’ll lower our reliance on imported fertilizers/feeds
- We’ll lower our need for antibiotics
All of the forecasts I made have something in common: very powerful companies that are very well-funded stand to lose significant market-share if a nature-based, economically advantageous and sustainable alternative to soil health, animal feed, or whatever were to be popularized (insect farming).
🌈 Let’s debunk more insect-industry-ignorance:
🧐 MISCONCEPTION 3: From an article, “…nor are these insect companies producing meat for human consumption.”
🙄 I don’t even know where to start with this one.
- 🥩 In a sense, it’s helpful commentary when there are many conspiracy theories saying too many insect farms ARE making meat for human consumption
- (The conspiracy is that people like me are paid by the World Economic Forum to persuade Westerners to meaningfully lower their standard of living by eating more insects and less red meat – now the conspiracies contradict each other.)
- 🐣 On the other hand, mostly for suppliers/investors/impact, the insect industry is focusing on shifting messaging toward: insects are a gold mine because they upcycle low-value biomass (food waste) into high-value biomass (premium ingredients – proteins/fats – for pet food, fish/poultry feed…), rather than focusing on the human consumption markets
👉 Next, these insect industry ignorance/smear campaigns will attempt to undermine the net positive environmental impact scaling up the insect industry will have.
MISCONCEPTION 4: Insect farming isn’t really that good for the planet.
Why am I being so bold as to make a sweeping statement like this?
- 🌸1)Impact is really hard to calculate. Period.
- 🧠2)There are still some things we can say with confidence.
- Like: YES, in fact, insects do have a smaller environmental footprint than cows/pigs/chickens.
- 📈It’s for a simple reason: the higher an organism is on the food chain, the less efficient (more wasteful) it is.
- 👉Analogy: in a small company, there’s no wasted money/humans/time. Think: scrappy startups.
- 📉 Big corporations, in contrast, might have entire departments that can slack off.
- ⭐️Increasing scale means losing efficiency.
🐛This is why insects are so dang efficient at the bottom of the food web.
MISCONCEPTION 5: Aly Moore (me) must be paid by the United Nations or some group to promote eating bugs.
… *eye roll* …
I’m not paid by some organization to produce Bugible content. These opinions are my own.
I’ll admit, it was a lot more fun blogging before the U.S. became a very polarized, political landscape. I haven’t had the emotional bandwidth to tiptoe around the increasingly volatile internet ecosystem full of people with opinions about food production.
10 years ago I could whimsically write about my adventures in eating bugs without anyone questioning my sincerity (my sanity was fair game!) Today, however, when I put content out about eating bugs, the comment section becomes a hotbed of conspiracy theories.
- “Are you paid by the United Nations??”
- “How much did the World Economic Forum have to pay you to convince Americans to eat bugs??”
Honestly I wish I WAS getting paid by someone to make Bugible content – that would be a dream come true.
Alas, nothing more than my deep curiosity and playfulness has led me to grow my Bugible brand. I took my foot off the gas pedal as the internet required a thicker skin (and most of my emotional energy has gone into healing from an intense spine injury.)
I know, I know … “stand up for what you believe in” and “you have to have thick skin to be a blogger”… there’s a lot that I could say about my reluctance to put a lot of personal content out these days.
But now I’m going stop talking about why I haven’t been blogging and dedicate the final section of this article to the thing that inspired me to write for the first time in a while.
I read an opinion article that was pretty pivotal in my own mental framework for how I approach entrepreneurship in the oldest industry there is: food.
The article paints a vivid picture as to why climate friendly food systems must start with a different values, not technologies. If we want to transform our relationship with food, we need to think about more than just productivity and carbon metrics.
While most of the public dialogue around ‘how we will feed our growing population’ is hyper focused on unit economics, scalability, the various market leaders in each category, or even well-intentioned obsessions over carbon or other greenhouse, gas impact scores… we run the risk of gamifying the future of how we will feed ourselves and missing the actual point.
I tip my hat to the author Philip Loring for getting me to think differently, especially when the temptation is to just sling the same jargon all of the investors are.
Loring posits a refreshingly honest values-based framework for making decisions about the future of food. This framework is especially helpful when considering “complicated” topics like: is the future where we all eat ultra processed plant-based lab meat actually better for us and the planet then eating sustainably raised cattle or chickens?
Western food systems are undergoing transformations today in light of their adverse impact on things like climate, biodiversity, and health outcomes.
Two questions must be asked more often if we want to transform our food systems in service of society and the planet:
- How does a solution impact the connection between people, their food, and where that food comes from?
- How does it affect who has control over and who can participate in food production and distribution?
Let’s explore consumers’ connection to food:
- What will a food solution mean for the relationship between people, their food, and where it’s produced?
- Will the solution further disconnect people from where, when, and how food is made?
- Or will a solution empower consumers to be more closely involved and invested?
- Distancing and disconnection are two of the most fundamental problems in our current food systems. (these are also tactics that emotionally abusive partners will use to isolate their partners…)
- We lose so much when we don’t interact with the plants, animals, people, places, and more involved in growing our food.
- If we cannot see the mistreatment of animals, soil, or water, we can’t speak out against it. The reverse is also true: if we are disconnected from where our food comes from, we can’t celebrate the success stories.
Now let’s explore the idea of food empowerment:
- What will a ‘food solution’ mean for peoples’ rights and empowerment?
- Will it make it easier for those with power and wealth to enclose or control, land, natural resources, food production, and the supply chain?
- Enclosure and consolidation in the food system creates inequity, erodes rights, and disempowers people from having a say in their food system.
- The more food is enclosed and commodified, the more people are transformed from citizens to consumers.
- Moving more and more aspects of how our food is produced into privatized labs using proprietary processes and technology clearly poses a threats to peoples’ rights and well-being.
From these two questions, we can perhaps better intuit if a future full of lab-grown meat is a good thing.
Something I agree with, “Emancipating our food systems from enclosure, and reconnecting consumers with ecosystems and the people working in and with those ecosystems to produce food, go hand in hand.”
Let’s make this article more cohesive: recently, I have not been blogging about eating bugs. My time and energy have been invested in growing insect agriculture more holistically (my work at Chapul Farms). I realized that it was unlikely that Americans would meaningfully adopt insect protein into their diets in my lifetime. It was also unnecessary.
The best use of my time, and the path of least resistance, would be to scale insect farming as a means to support other agricultural sectors.
- Grow Insects to feed Chickens, fish, pets
- Use the natural waste management “technologies” (insects) to transform food, waste into animal feed, and fertilizer
- Shorten food supply chains
- Improve food, security
- Enhance biodiversity
- And solve a bunch of other problems
In other words: use insects to close the loop on food production.
What does that even mean?
It means taking something that already works and has worked for a long time in nature (insects) and letting them perform their ecosystem services within our existing food system to solve some of our biggest challenges. So let insects upcycle problematic organic waste and reduce what we send to landfills.
There’s something very threatening about a solution like insects.
Insects solve many of the challenges we’re facing in modern agriculture. They do so in a way that has positive externalities (as opposed to the negative externalities from the chemical solutions of the 1970s). Insects represent some of the truest “nature-based” (buzzword investors look for) solutions, and we don’t need to lab test or run clinical trials. We know ‘insect solutions’ work (are effective) because they are already *working* all around us: in nature, in your backyard, in some farms…
Humans scaled up many parts of the agricultural system, but left this core piece of ”machinery” out of our food systems.
So why is there any hesitation at all? Why isn’t everybody jumping to integrate insect solutions?
Because solutions like insects ARE already working in nature, market-creators (media outlets that try to convince us that a certain company is dominating a market category to increase share prices and make investors rich) can’t be fabricated. Insects cannot be patented like certain seed genomes, or chemical fertilizers or lab meat formulas.
Access to nature-based solutions that are effective and free/affordable means sales drop for costly inputs like synthetic fertilizers. The 1%, many of who made their millions/billions from farming equipment inventions or chemical crop inputs, are threatened. Certain very powerful people stand to lose a lot of money.
THESE powerful people are the people I think are paying journalists to assemble some flimsy arguments against scaling the insect industry.
(It’s not dissimilar to how certain political parties trick less educated populations to vote for them and continue to give tax cuts to billionaires rather than small businesses…)
It’s kind of crazy when you think about it, but if you live in a modern society, it’s really hard to avoid giving money to billionaires on a day-to-day basis (indirectly or directly).
When we elect to use solutions that are so natural and accessible, we threaten that current status quo.
Insect farming empowers people and that’s a very threatening thing.
Quite randomly, I received an email from Sticker Mule (I used to give out stickers to people who tried their first bugs). They requested a shoutout of their custom stickers page. They inspired me to blog again, so please check out the link!
(Also I apologize for the stream-of-consciousness tone of this article; my goal was to publish something instead of letting it rot in blog-draft-limbo for eternity.)