Eating insects to save the environment

Eating insects to save the environment
© IStock/MichalLudwiczak

Consuming foods of insect origin is encouraged as a response to the environmental impact of meat production, but how do vegans and vegetarians feel about this?

According to the University of Eastern Finland, many non-vegan vegetarians and omnivores are open to including insects in their diet, however, for vegans, this dietary choice is not an option.

Is eating insects the new food craze?

Foods made from insects have a relatively low ecological footprint, and due to their high nutrition content, they can be a sustainable supplement to our existing sources of protein. Therefore, consumption of foods of insect origin is encouraged.

In the Western world, eating insects isn’t traditionally regarded as a meal, and consumers’ willingness to eat foods of insect origin is weak. However, the likelihood of accepting insects as food tends to increase with consumers’ awareness of the environmental impact of food production.

Researchers at the University of Eastern Finland and the University of Helsinki analysed the intentions of consumers to eat foods of insect origin among vegans, non-vegan vegetarians and omnivores.

They examined the attitude, subjective norm, perceived behavioural control and food neophobia towards consuming insects, as well as the conditions for eating insect-based foods among these dietary groups.

Details of the study

Altogether 567 people participated in the study by filling out an online survey. Out of the respondents, 73% were omnivores, 22% were non-vegan vegetarians and 5% were vegans.

Vegans held the firmest negative attitude toward consuming foods of insect origin, and their subjective norm to eat insects was weaker compared to that of omnivores and non-vegan vegetarians.

Vegans’ perceived behavioural control over their eating of insects was stronger compared to that of omnivores and non-vegan vegetarians. Furthermore, vegans were significantly more determined than others that they would not eat insects, even if they were nutritious, safe, affordable, and convenient.

Non-vegan vegetarians, on the other hand, held the most positive attitude toward eating insects, and both non-vegan vegetarians and omnivores thought that insect consumption is wise and offers a solution to the world’s nutrition problems. By contrast, vegans thought that insect consumption is irresponsible and morally wrong.

However, it is important to note that the findings can’t be generalised to all people representing the studied dietary categories.

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