The image shows crates of eggs for sale with a man seated behind

[Commentary] As India faces an egg scarcity, can bugs be a possible resolution for protein and vitamin?

  • India is without doubt one of the largest egg producing international locations on the planet after China and the US. Nevertheless, states in India are presently dealing with extreme egg shortages and rising costs.
  • With an egg scarcity and a hen flu epidemic, the provision of eggs decreases and their worth will increase, which leaves households who depend upon eggs as their major supply of protein, with a problem to satisfy their dietary wants.
  • Individuals might want to discover different sources to traditional proteins, write the authors of this commentary. One such choice being explored is bugs, that are excessive in protein, micronutrients, and iron.
  • The opinions on this commentary are these of the authors.

India overtook China because the world’s most populous nation as of Jan. 17, 2023, a indisputable fact that left us questioning whether or not to have a good time or fear. This was solely anticipated to occur by 2025, in response to projections made by the United Nations inhabitants division, however India’s fast inhabitants development has exceeded projections. With such fast inhabitants development charges, the larger query is: are we adequately ready to help the rising inhabitants with ample meals and vitamin?

On the identical day that India grew to become probably the most populous nation, the Indian state of Maharashtra was within the headlines for a vitamin disaster. The state has been dealing with a scarcity of a couple of crore of eggs a day. Many countries all over the world have confronted related egg shortages over the previous two years. That is largely attributed to the large-scale culling of poultry as a result of extremely contagious avian flu and the disruption of the availability chain as a result of pandemic.

This egg scarcity might be seen as the start of an impending protein scarcity. With human inhabitants anticipated to extend to 9.7 billion by 2050 and 10.4 billion by 2100, this downside is barely anticipated to worsen.

An egg vendor in Calcutta. India is without doubt one of the largest egg producing international locations on the planet. Photograph by Jorge Royan/Wikimedia Commons.

Egg scarcity in India

India is without doubt one of the largest egg producing international locations on the planet after China and the US. Nevertheless, states in India are presently dealing with extreme egg shortages. The rise in egg costs is especially alarming as eggs are the principle supply of protein for many individuals. In keeping with the Nationwide Household Well being Survey (NFHS) studies of 2019-2020, 74% of Indian households devour eggs.

With the restricted provide, the value of eggs is already on the rise, which has elevated by about 25% of the wholesale costs in India within the final 12 months (in Bangalore Rs. 466.6 in Jan 2022 to 565 in Jan 2023 ).

With the present ranges of worth inflation and shortages, the nation’s dietary safety is a trigger for concern.

Per capita consumption of eggs in India has doubled up to now 20 years and elevated greater than a hundredfold up to now 60 years. In the meantime, per capita meat consumption nonetheless stays low, accounting for simply 8 % of that in developed international locations, and hasn’t modified a lot within the final 60 years. Moreover, different protein sources equivalent to meat, fish, and plant-based sources, whereas out there, should not as accessible as eggs.

The present egg scarcity is because of a mixture of things such because the hen flu epidemic, latest heavy rains, floods and drought which have affected the state. Some research recommend that modifications in temperature, rainfall and humidity can create an atmosphere extra conducive to the unfold of some hen flu viruses. For instance, hotter temperatures could improve the survival price of the virus within the atmosphere and in wild hen populations, making it simpler for the virus to unfold. Moreover, modifications in precipitation patterns can result in wetter circumstances, which might create extra conducive environments for the virus to develop. These modifications in climate patterns may have an effect on the distribution and migration patterns of untamed birds, which might improve the possibilities of avian flu viruses and different ailments spreading to new areas.

Maharashtra is without doubt one of the prime egg producing states in India and the scarcity may have a knock-on impact on egg costs in different elements of the nation. The state authorities has additionally taken steps to extend egg provide by importing eggs from different states and international locations.

The picture shows a fried egg on an appam on a palm leaf plate
A plate of egg appam. The rise in egg costs is especially alarming as eggs are the principle supply of protein for many individuals. Photograph by Dethans/Wikimedia Commons.

Implications of egg scarcity

The present egg scarcity and the avian flu epidemic can have a major affect on the poorest sections of society. As the provision of eggs decreases and their worth will increase, households who depend upon them as a major supply of protein could discover it troublesome to buy sufficient to satisfy their dietary wants. This might result in higher dietary insecurity.

Moreover, individuals could also be compelled to hunt out much less nutritious different meals choices to satisfy their dietary wants, leading to a discount in dietary range.

A considerable variety of eggs come from free-range hens in village households, offering a useful supply of vitamin, notably for youngsters and pregnant ladies. Nevertheless, if egg costs rise, individuals could really feel pressured to promote their eggs to earn extra cash, which may make malnutrition amongst kids worse.

Poultry farmers could possibly be hit arduous by the scarcity, as they might need to cull birds or scale back manufacturing. This might result in lowered revenue for poultry farmers and, in flip, higher financial hardship for his or her households.

The picture shows chickens in a chicken coop
The present egg scarcity is because of a mixture of things such because the hen flu epidemic, latest heavy rains, floods and drought. Photograph by Varghese Ok James/Wikimedia Commons.

Consequence of elevated egg manufacturing

In keeping with FAO studies, world egg manufacturing has elevated by 150% to satisfy rising demand over the previous three a long time. In Asia alone, egg manufacturing has quadrupled. Whereas elevated manufacturing could seem to be a possible resolution, it’s not a sustainable resolution and has its personal environmental impacts. The carbon footprint of poultry alone is 12.27 kg of CO22and per kg representing 10% of world anthropogenic greenhouse gasoline emissions. Land and water useful resource necessities are additionally not far behind. The discharge of methane and nitrous oxide from manure and feed manufacturing additionally poses a risk. With such excessive emission charges, rising manufacturing to deal with shortages can have enormous long-term environmental impacts. On prime of all this, the poultry trade is a significant contributor to antibiotic resistance on the planet. Progress hormones and feed components generally used within the poultry trade have been related to varied hostile results on human well being, together with precocious puberty, most cancers, and many others., and environmental considerations, equivalent to contamination of soil and water provides with residual substances.

The picture shows a black bug sitting on a green leaf
Black soldier flies are one of many few insect species that may be farmed on a big scale for consumption. Photograph by Billjones94/Wikimedia Commons.

Are bugs a possible resolution?

With an egg scarcity, individuals might want to in the reduction of or discover different elements. This requires an pressing want to change to different sources to traditional proteins, particularly bugs. Anticipating this, FAO has been selling bugs as a future supply of protein since 2013. Whereas 50g of eggs gives 13g of protein, an equal quantity of cricket powder can present 35g of protein. Bugs generally are additionally wealthy in micronutrients and iron. The advantages of bugs over standard protein sources have been reported usually. Bugs are a sustainable different to traditional animal protein, with minimal useful resource necessities, negligible greenhouse gasoline emissions and a quicker feed conversion price. They are often grown on a wide range of substrates from natural facet streams to small containers. Since they produce a lot of offspring in a single cycle, and that too with quick technology occasions, they’re absolutely the protein options to cope with the protein disaster.

A major query to think about right here is why bugs are factored in over different plant-based protein sources equivalent to soybeans. The reply lies within the many benefits bugs possess, together with higher power effectivity, decrease carbon and ecological footprints, and minimal useful resource necessities. Bugs even have a bonus over soybeans as a result of they’ve all kinds of important amino acids, that are the constructing blocks of protein. Moreover, they are a good supply of fats and minerals, equivalent to zinc, copper, and iron, which are sometimes poor in plant-based diets. Nevertheless, you will need to notice that insect farming continues to be a nascent trade that faces many challenges. Moreover, there are cultural and psychological boundaries that have to be overcome for some people to just accept bugs as meals.

To know extra: [Explainer] Entomophagy or insect consuming could possibly be the way forward for meals


Davanzo, J., Dogo, H. and Grammich, CA (2011). Demographic developments, political influences and financial results in China and India as much as 2025. RAND CORP SANTA MONICA CA.

Nema, P., Nema, S. & Roy, P. (2012). An outline of world local weather change within the present state of affairs and mitigation actions. Renewable and Sustainable Power Critiques, 16(4), 2329-2336.

Dennis, S. and Fisher, D. (2018). Local weather change and infectious ailments: the following 50 years. Anna. Acad. med, 47(10), 401-404.

Lekshmi, M., Ammini, P., Kumar, S., and Varela, M.F. (2017). The meals manufacturing atmosphere and the event of antimicrobial resistance in human pathogens of animal origin. Microorganisms, 5(1), 11.

The authors are researchers of the Ashoka Belief for Analysis in Ecology and the Surroundings (ATREE).

Banner Picture: An egg vendor in Delhi. As Indian states face an egg scarcity, individuals may have to seek out different sources to traditional proteins. One such choice being explored is bugs. Photograph by Pallav.journo/Wikimedia Commons.

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