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image: Sven Anders found that environmentally conscious consumers were more likely to buy poultry raised on insects or algae if they were told about the health and environmental benefits.
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Environmentally conscious consumers are likely to buy into the idea of ​​using alternative proteins like insect meal in poultry feed if they receive enough information about the health and environmental benefits, a new University of Alberta study shows.

Alternative poultry feeds can provide noticeable differences in meat appearance – in this case, more intense red and yellow hues – which makes consumer education important.

The use of these unusual proteins is still experimental, but when they become commercially viable alternatives, food producers and policymakers will need to be ready, said study co-author Sven Anders, an agricultural economist and professor. to Faculty of Agricultural, Life and Environmental Sciences.

“Producers have to adjust labeling as these foods are developed. If you want consumers to believe in these alternative products, you have to educate them about it, and then they can decide – and hopefully we can overcome their rejection,” he said.

Anders said there are currently no regulations governing mandatory labeling of food ingredients in the European Union or any other market, including the United States and Canada, but interest is growing in finding sources. protein alternatives for animal feed.

Soy feeds the majority of the world’s livestock, but also gobbles up huge amounts of arable land and water resources. Insects and algae can be grown a lot more sustainably. But people won’t begin to digest the idea that insects or algae are part of their food chain if they don’t get reliable information beforehand, Anders added. This is a crucial step in gaining consumer buy-in.

In the study, 1,197 German consumers saw photographs of raw chicken breasts. Some of the chickens had been fed a standard diet of soybean meal. Others had been fed either insect meal containing blackfly larvae or spirulina, a known dietary supplement made from blue-green algae. Both alternative protein sources produced more intense red and yellow hues in the meat.

Half of the participants also received information on the nutritional and environmental benefits associated with each food. The other half received no such information. Both groups were asked to repeatedly choose from random pairs of chicken products that differed in price, diets and labels with information on sustainability and health attributes.

Although participants’ preferences were mixed, those who were already interested in sustainability and had received information about insect- and algae-fed meat were more likely to buy it, Anders said. These environmentally conscious consumers were also drawn to package labeling that promoted high levels of beneficial omega-3 acids in alternatively fed chicken samples. When asked about insect meal or spirulina in chicken, consumers who did not identify as environmentally conscious said they would not buy it.

“The results show that providing information is a double-edged sword,” Anders said. “This may cause mainstream Western consumers to react with disgust to foods derived from insects or algae.”

Package labeling combined with large-scale education campaigns would help raise consumer awareness, he suggested.

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