Mealworms have the potential to meet the increasing global food demand and play an important role in global ecosystems. The energy required to produce 1 kg of mealworm protein is lower than beef and pork and slightly higher than chicken and milk (Source: FAO). Insects produce substantially less ammonia and greenhouse gas emissions than cattle and pigs; for example, pigs produce 10–100 times more greenhouse gases per kg of weight than mealworms. In addition, the land and water usage of insect rearing are extremely low compared to that of livestock rearing.
According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), livestock produce 7.1 gigatons of CO2-eq per year of all human-induced greenhouse gas emissions, which is 14.5% of all global greenhouse gas emissions. Currently, most of the protein comes from the livestock industry. Around 70% of agricultural land and 30% of the total land on earth is used to raise livestock to meet the protein demand. On a global scale, chicken meat and eggs produce around 790 million tonnes of CO2 equivalents per year.
Moreover, the global livestock industry already takes an enormous toll on the environment, particularly land and water resources. This industry emits more greenhouse gases than planes, trains, and automobiles combined. Thus, it is vital to reconsider the current eating habits, and the adoption of high-quality alternative protein sources, such as mealworms, has become of utmost significance. The adoption of mealworms as an alternative source of protein can significantly reduce the amount of pollution, habitat destruction, and exploitation of natural resources.
According to the Population Reference Bureau (PRB), the global human population is expected to grow by 75 million annually or 1.1% per year. By 2050, the world population is expected to reach 9.9 billion, increasing 33% from 7.4 billion in 2017. This population growth is expected to increase the food demand. Hence, considering the world’s growing population and the increasing demand for traditional meat production, edible insects such as mealworms could solve many of these problems, as insects are full of protein and rich in essential micronutrients, such as iron and zinc. The rearing of mealworms offers several environmental benefits, such as the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, water pollution, and land use impacts. Mealworms require less feed, land, water, and produce fewer greenhouse gasses to produce the same amount of protein as cattle.
Further, mealworm meals could also replace some of the expensive ingredients, such as soybeans and fishmeal for feed applications, potentially lowering the cost of livestock products and increasing feed crops for human consumption. In addition, mealworms can be reared on food scraps and animal manure; thus, mealworm farms could increase the world’s protein supply while reducing and recycling waste.
Thus, edible insects such as mealworms are an important alternative to protein sources, which increases the demand for mealworms and mealworm-based products worldwide. A Dutch study found that mealworm protein generates about half as much greenhouse gas emissions as protein from milk, pork, or chicken and about a tenth of protein from beef.
Meticulous Research®, in its latest publication on the Mealworms Market, states that the mealworm market is expected to reach $1.27 billion by 2030, at a CAGR of 25.8% during the forecast period of 2022–2030. In terms of volume, the mealworms market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 28.6% from 2022–2030 to reach 367,491.7 tons by 2030.
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