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Mealworms: The Next High-Protein Food Source?

FRIDAY, Dec. 21 (HealthDay News) -- They'll never replace the traditional Christmas ham, but mealworms (beetle larvae) may someday offer an environmentally friendly alternative to meat, a new study suggests.

Researchers in the Netherlands used three factors -- land usage, energy needs and greenhouse gas emissions -- to compare the environmental impact of mealworm farms to chicken, pork, beef or milk farms.

Compared to the other types of farming, mealworm farming produced more edible protein using the same amount of land and less energy, according to the study in the journal PLoS One.

The same team of researchers previously found that mealworms produce less greenhouse gases than other meat-producing animals.

"Since the population of our planet keeps growing, and the amount of land on this earth is limited, a more efficient, and more sustainable system of food production is needed," study author Dennis Oonincx, of the University of Wageningen, said in a journal news release.

"Now, for the first time it has been shown that mealworms, and possibly other edible insects, can aid in achieving such a system," he added.

More information

The University of Arizona has more about mealworms.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: PLoS One, news release, Dec. 19, 2012

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