Imagine being one of four members of a corporation that controls 80% of a resource in a $188.4 billion dollar industry (Grace, 2014). Specifically, an industry that is the largest single agricultural enterprise. Take a minute, enjoy it… feels pretty good doesn’t it? I mean after all it’s good to be the King! Sure you got your headaches, EPA, protesters, general unenlightened haters, but hey, it’s the cost of doing business. When you produce a resource which people consume fifty-six billion, eight hundred and eighty million pounds of a year (W, 2007) a bit of waste or toxic sludge is bound to occur 30 million pounds of contaminants in 2009 (EWG, 2014). Pay fines, dig a hole, hell, just fill a swimming pool with it. It costs, but in this game what it really costs is just a dent in profits. Now that you’re living high on the hog, what would you say if, I could, as you read this, end one of the most environmentally damaging, costly aspects of your business. In fact, if you were to humor me I could even save you, one of the noble quartet, an incredible amount of money. No, no, I’m not asking you to invest in junk bonds, an Arab prince or any sort of slick pyramid scheme. Imagine investing in a circle, yourself as a closed loop system. What’s more I can even show you how a small scale model works perfectly and is eminently scalable. What do you say would you say?
No, I don’t like profits and I want to bury the landscape in toxic sludge?
While I doubt that the second question is a likely comment, I can’t help but wonder, if the noble quartet, the meat industry, is even aware that there is a solution buzzing naggingly around their heads. Currently several billion a year is spent on feed grain:
- 80% of all corn grown in the U.S is used in animal feed (Johnson, 2013)
- Over 30 million tons of soybean meal is consumed as livestock feed in a year(Forman, 2002)
- 119 million tons of Hay per year(EPA, 2011)
- 499 million bushels of wheat(EPA, 2011)
Want to hear how to dramatically reduce these costs if not outright eliminate them? Well let me introduce you to a couple of my friends:
Hermetia illucens, (Black soldier fly ) Fig1.
Musca domestica (the common housefly) Fig2.
These two species of fly have a superb ability to consume waste. Specifically the larva have the ability to consume the waste and take in the nutrients the waste provides. To create livestock feed “…The larvae are cooked, dried and converted into a meal that is 40% protein and 46% fat. The oils can be extracted, which boosts the protein content to above 70%…” (Courtright, 2014). EnviroFlight, an Ohio based company, is in the business of capitalizing on the bug to feed business. In the slow five years the company has been in operation, the meat industry’s interest or even awareness of it has been largely lacking. Maybe it’s the idea of maggots that has got everyone squirmy, but even if the wriggly fellows are unappealing, how much more appealing can headache and cost of dealing with the never ending supply of waste be? The maggot flakes have a tremendous potential in the feed world that hasn’t even been scratched let alone nibbled at. Even outside of the slaughter house there are examples of how the feed could be used:
- In the fish and wildlife area; Frequently when maintaining the health of a river or waterway it sometimes become necessary to boost the nutrient flow so that fry can grow well and fast enough to adequately repopulate the schools. Traditional feed becomes expensive, and sometimes in my experience regular feed gets replaced with dried cat food. While this alternative works, it also introduces a whole set of additives that are not natural to the ecosystem. Maggots fed a steady diet of slaughter house waste are potentially the cheapest source of high nutrient feed, and are more natural to the environment. Think of what fish’s primary food is (hint: insect larva).
- Cat, dog and various animal food incorporate a sizable portion of grain and meat. The food could be instead be supplemented by dehydrated maggots. Our animals already actively eat several pounds a year of insects many of which are not readily edible. In contrast, brindle flakes are completely nontoxic, edible and safe.
We have a resource that can actively combat a gigantic pollution problem, costs nothing and adds money to our pocket in the form of feed and we’re not capitalizing on it? “Commercialized industry with your godlike power of overconsumption, I’ve counted on you for so long, why are you failing me now?” We have several billion a year of lost profits…how much more can we honestly lose before this choice becomes obvious? Imagine a worst case scenario, let’s say you have your maggot camps ridding your plants of sludge and suddenly disaster happens, storm, fire, earthquake and your maggot farm gets destroyed releasing them onto society:
What do maggots do? They eat dead things.
What will they pollute? Nothing. They are a noninvasive, harmless, if disgusting bug which if it somehow runs out of dead things to eat… well, they die.
How could the cost be managed to replace such a complex system of pollution management? Really? They’re one of the most common insects in the world, they repopulate very quickly and I don’t think anyone would miss them if you took a few million away. Not a big money drain.
There exists this resource so great and simple as to be responsible for ridding industry of its most noisome problem and adding a huge profit. Grain that could be used to feed people, turned into biodiesel, traded overseas, used more profitably than it is, it is being wasted. So why not accept a godsend boon when one exists and use it? So bite the bullet and let the era of the bug feed industry thrive.
Courtright, G. (2014). EnviroFlight. Retrieved 11 10, 2014, from EnviroFlight: http://www.enviroflight.net/our-process/
EPA. (2011). EPA. Retrieved 11 10, 2014, from EPA Major Crops Grown in the United States: http://www.epa.gov/oecaagct/ag101/cropmajor.html
EWG. (2014). Environmental Working Group. Retrieved 11 10, 2014, from Environmental Working Group: http://www.ewg.org/meateatersguide/interactive-graphic/meat-processorsslaughterhouses/
Forman, L. (2002, March). USDA. Retrieved 11 10, 2014, from USDA: http://www.ers.usda.gov/media/761260/sb974-4_1_.pdf
Grace. (2014). GRACE Communications Foundation. Retrieved 11 10, 2014, from GRACE Communications Foundation: http://www.sustainabletable.org/279/food-processing-slaughterhouses
Johnson, P. (2013). National Corn Growers Association. Retrieved 11 10, 2014, from NCGA: http://www.ncga.com/upload/files/documents/pdf/WOC%202013.pdf
W, H. (2007). Concentration of agricultural market. Missouri: University of Missouri, Department of Rural Sociology.