Can rodents provide a sustainable alternative to meat?  - Food Tank

Can rodents provide a sustainable alternative to meat? – Food Tank

Rodents and other small mammals may serve as more sustainable alternatives to industrially produced meat. But barriers, including agricultural challenges, health and safety regulations, and cultural aversion may pose challenges to scaling up consumption.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), commercial animal production produces 14.5% of all human-caused greenhouse gas emissions. Industrial animal farming is also associated with issues including Poor animal welfare, deforestation, and resource pollution.

But Chefs and farmers are considering promising alternatives, such as rabbit. Other small rodents such as cane mice, squirrels, and guinea pigs may play similar roles. in Francerabbit is a mainstay on restaurant menus while in BoysRodents including porcupines and squirrels provide a source of food security. Over the Peru, Bolivia, and Ecuadorguinea pigs, known as presserIt is a familiar ingredient in many home-cooked meals.

There is evidence that some of these animals may provide more sustainable protein options. A recent study from the journal IOP Conference Series on Earth and Environmental Science found that rabbits It emits less greenhouse gases than other livestock. FAO found it too Rabbits are particularly effective at converting feed into protein. in Peru, Policy makers and farmers are noticing that guinea pigs need very few resources to thrivewhich avoids the common animal farming issues of deforestation and land conversion.

Hunting invasive or densely populated species may also lead to environmental and financial benefits. Dr. Heather Ives, professor of wildlife conservation at Virginia Tech, tells Food Tank that many African farmers hunt cane mice in their fields. As a source of food, income and pest control, Ives says hunting these animals “is very important to the people who live on the margins of our world. It provides them with the basics of survival.”

Despite the popularity of these animals as food sources in some countries, they remain less common in others, including the United States. It is not known how many of these animals Americans consume each year. The last US Department of Agriculture (USDA) survey of rabbit production in 2007 found that Just under a million rabbits were sold for meatCompared to 167 million chickens that year. without widespread demand, Selling these animals can be a challenge for farmers.

British chef and cookbook author Valentine Warner says many who see this meat as unfamiliar or new may also associate it with poverty. He told Food Tank that choices about what we eat “get down to a very emotional level.” He says foods with negative connotations may discourage eating, which may prevent them from making more sustainable or diversified food choices.

In the past, Warner often prepared meals featuring the animals he hunted, including rabbits, deer and small birds, stressing the value of “creating an environment on a plate.” But he expressed deep concern about the pressure humans are placing on these animals to meet the needs of their eaters. Warner states that he is now very selective about the way he hunts: “I would never raise a gun to an animal that has no other choice but to cross my path.”

Production challenges may also increase barriers to increased consumption. Ives explains that experiments in growing sugar cane mice in West Africa have largely failed, despite attempts over several decades. She says farmers are struggling to cope with the need for training and the cost of supplies. “if [farming cane rats] Profitable, feasible and sustainable, it would have taken off a long time ago,” she told Food Tank.

Another challenge is the high rates of disease among farmed mammals. A recent study conducted on rabbit farms in the European Union (EU) determined mortality rates among 25 and 30 percent.

The lack of regulations for the breeding of these animals may present risks to public health. Ives, an expert in the bushmeat trade, notes that raising many of these animals requires their domestication. “We keep mixing wildlife with pets and people, and this soup causes disease,” Ives tells Food Tank. Without extensive regulations and inspections, she says, these animals can bring zoonoses that lead to outbreaks like COVID-19.

Rabbit farming practices in Europe are now just as appalling as chickens in the past [the United Kingdom] 40 years ago,” says Warner, lamenting the large-scale industrialization of animal farming.

Eves also questions how to maintain ecological health while expanding production practices: “How do we continue to support people’s needs, yet live in the landscape in a way that is healthy for that landscape’s ecology?”

“As everywhere, sourcing things is absolutely key,” Warner tells Food Tank, proposing a guideline rather than a quick fix for eating more sustainably. The key to eating more sustainably, Warner says, whether that’s mice hunted for meat, or rabbit legs packed from the supermarket, is to start respecting how one’s food arrives on their plate.

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Image courtesy of Aswathy N, Unsplash

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