So, what are you having for dinner tonight? Some grilled chicken? Yet another steak? Allow us to change your mind.
Researchers at the University of Oxford put together a new study published in Nature in which insects and some of our more traditional livestock options (chicken, beef, or pork) battle it out for the title of most nutritious. Two meats enter, which one will leave?
To determine what “nutritious” in this particular instance meant, researchers used two measures: the Ofcom model and Nutrient Value Scores. The Ofcom model uses a scoring system where the amount of energy, sodium, saturated fat, and sugars in an 100 gram sample of a particular food is used to come up with a score from 1 - 100. The higher the Ofcom score, the more nutritious food. NVS also uses energy, protein, and fat levels in an amount of food, but it also throws in points for things like vitamin and calcium levels.
So what they did they find? For round one, with the Ofcom scores, friends, we have ourselves a draw. Neither meat (either the traditional cuts or the offals) nor insect scored significantly higher than the other.
When we look at the score that takes vitamins and minerals into account though, chicken and beef are both handily beaten out by their tiny foes, crickets, palm weevils, larvae, and mealworms:
Of course it’s not just about nutritiousness. Livestock tends to grow slowly, over years. And in those years, they need plenty of food, space, and water to grow. Insects lives, though, are typically measured in days, not years, and the resources they use in tiny in comparison. In other words, Ofcom levels may be at a tie, but I think insects can still claim victory.
Charts via Nature, Top image via Nordic Food Lab