Despite the long-standing hype, edible insects remain little more than a niche. They haven’t overcome the stomach-turning factor yet — and they’re also facing a mountain of regulatory hurdles.
But there is one area where edible insects are gaining popularity: animal feed. As meat and poultry supply chains seek to reduce their dependence on soy-based food systems marred by deforestation, the use of insects is becoming an increasingly credible solution. That was largely the message of a Tesco and WWF report last year, which spoke of the “huge potential” and environmental benefits.
Their joint Future of Feed report, published last July, suggested that the total demand for insect meal from the UK pork, poultry and salmon sectors could soar to around 540,000 tonnes a year by 2050. It foresees up to 16,000 tons of fishmeal and 524,000 tons. could be replaced – the equivalent of Tesco UK’s total soy footprint in 2018.
That potential was only highlighted this week, with the launch of what Morrisons claims to be the UK’s first carbon-neutral insect-fed eggs. Costing 30p each or £1.50 for a pack of six, Planet Friendly Eggs are initially available in 50 stores across Yorkshire and Morrisons’ new ‘low environmental impact store’ in Little Clacton, with a nationwide rollout planned for 2023 .
It’s the result of a project first reported by The Grocer last December, which saw the retailer partner with Better Origin, a Cambridge-based agritech company, to set up its ‘mini-farms’ insect traps, built in shipping containers, in a handful of Morrisons Egg Farmers. .
In what Morrisons describes as a “pioneering waste circular feeding system”, insects are fed food waste from Morrisons bakery and fruit and vegetable sites, before being served at the the retailer’s army of hens.
The first raft of these planet-friendly eggs comes from a farm that has plenty of additional environmental credentials to boot. It uses a large wind turbine, 50 kWh solar panels and a carbon sequestration program to offset the remaining emissions, while 20% of its land is planted with trees.
The final product has been confirmed to be carbon neutral by scientists at the University of Cambridge and will feature a green version of the normally red British lion egg stamp.
Morrisons believes this type of initiative could be a game-changer as it seeks to have all of its direct agricultural suppliers ‘zero emissions’ by 2030, five years ahead of the rest of the supermarket industry.
It says the new range of eggs is just the first to emerge from its new net-zero carbon farm models, which “aim to neutralize emissions across the life cycle and footprint of the closed”. Sustainable ranges of beef, lamb and fruit and vegetables will follow, he promises.
“We know our customers consider the environmental impact of the food they eat and want affordable zero-emission products,” says Sophie Throup, Agriculture Manager at Morrisons. “Eggs are a regular weekly purchase for most households, so we’re thrilled that after 18 months of hard work with our farmers, these eggs are finally arriving on our shelves.”
Given its fully integrated farm operation, it’s arguably easier for Morrisons to take the lead on these types of projects, as many in the food industry are still trying to figure out how to reduce carbon emissions. scope 3. But it also sets a standard for competitors. All eyes will now be on Morrisons’ retail rivals – and big egg brands for that matter – to see if insect feeding options become the norm.
Since soaring feed prices have crippled the egg industry for the past six months, adopting this type of feeding technology could not only have environmental benefits, but also provide greater safety. inputs for producers in long-term difficulty.
If this protects production in the UK egg sector and other categories of livestock reeling from the current crisis in production costs, that can only be a good thing.