This is a special post for quick takes by ludwigbald. Only they can create top-level comments. Comments here also appear on the Quick Takes page and All Posts page.
Sorted by Click to highlight new quick takes since: Today at 8:21 AM

Do you have any takes on insect farming? There's a company that sells protein powder made from crickets, and they basically claim they feel no pain and are super efficient. Could that be on the same scale or even better than vegan protein powder, made from e.g. peas?

Tomasik 2019, Tomasik 2017a and Tomasik 2017b argue against this:

  • Even if insects are unlikely to be sentient, assuming marginally decreasing sentience with neuron count and nonzero probability of insect sentience imply that eating bigger animals is probably better.
  • The conditions of insects in insects farming are pretty bad.
  • Eating plants is usually more efficient.

I'm quite excited about cricket protein! Nutritionally it's superior to vegan protein supplements, especially for people who are otherwise vegan and won't get animal protein.

My intuition is that it very much comes down to whether one views an undisturbed cricket life as net-positive or negative. A cricket farm breeds millions of crickets in a 6 week cycle where the crickets are frozen to death not long before they naturally would die of old age.

Rethink Priorities recently incubated the insect institute who I think are exploring insect sentience. They're more qualified to speak on this than I am.

EDIT: turns out I don't know shit about crickets or nutrition. Rethink has a cool report on insect farming, also points out my claim on their death being soon before natural old age is likely wrong.

There’s nothing magical about “animal protein.” Plants and plant-based protein powders provide the same nutrients, minus the moral atrocity.

Insect sentience is debated, but I’m not sure why we’d take the risk when we can just go vegan.

I’m highly skeptical that farmed crickets would live “undisturbed” lives, given the historical track record of how animals are treated when we optimize their lives for meat production rather than their own welfare. Generally, we should treat sentient beings as an end in themselves, not as a means to an end.

They literally don't. Animal proteins contain every essential amino acid, whereas any plant protein will only have a subset.

This is a common misconception!

  • Several plants, including soy and quinoa, are complete proteins.
  • Vegan protein powders contain all the amino acids in appropriate ratios – just check the label of any pea protein powder next time you’re at the store. Pea protein powder is nutritionally identical to whey for all intents and purposes.
  • If you eat enough calories and a variety of legumes and grains as a vegan, it’s basically impossible to be deficient in any amino acid. It’s true that plant foods have amino acids in varying amounts, but they complement each other such that you easily get all of the amino acids, unless you’re on a black beans-only diet or something. For example, a peanut butter sandwich is a complete protein. I’d encourage you to check out this article for more info on vegan protein.,, and the guide are all great resources, I recommend looking into it!

I’ve been vegan for three years, and I’m in good health. Years ago I would have said that being vegan sounded impossible, but it’s much easier than I would have expected. Happy to set up a call to chat about vegan nutrition if you’re ever interested.

Ah, today I learned! thanks for correcting that. For what it's worth I was vegan for two years, and have been vegetarian for 6.

Do you happen to know about the bioavailability claims of animal versus plant protein?

Bioavailability stuff is pretty technical and I’m not an expert, but here’s the upshot according to me:

Bioavailability is sometimes slightly lower in plants but not enough to matter. For example, a recent review stated:

There is very little evidence at present regarding a marked difference in protein digestibility in humans. The more precise data collected so far in humans, assessing real (specific) oro-ileal nitrogen digestibility, has shown that the differences in the digestibility between plant and animal protein sources are only a few percent, contrary to historical findings in rats or determinations using less precise methods in humans. For soy protein isolate, pea protein flour or isolate, wheat flour and lupine flour, the figures were 89–92%, similar to those found for eggs (91%) or meat (90–94%), and slightly lower than those reported for milk protein (95%).

Additionally, combining multiple plant sources in one meal (e.g. soy and potato) often achieves bioavailability competitive with meat (I think this is one reason why many vegan protein powders combine multiple ingredients, e.g. rice & pea protein). So the generic vegan advice of “eat a variety of foods and supplement B12” has this covered.

In the rich world, we get way more protein than we need, so vegans are very unlikely to end up protein deficient due to bioavailability issues.

And if you’re an athlete or trying to bulk up, I think it’s generally advisable to err on the side of overshooting your protein intake targets, even if you’re eating meat. Slightly overshooting your protein target should more than compensate for any bioavailability gap.

We can also measure protein synthesis and muscle strength and mass directly instead of using bioavailability as a proxy, and such studies don’t find downsides to plant protein. Germany’s strongest man can confirm.

Also, things are more forgiving when one eats -- as the typical Westerner does -- significantly more overall protein than actually needed. On the other hand, the third bullet point might not always hold for those following low-calorie diets (which can be appropriate on medical advice) or who have certain medical conditions.

Hey, there's a new university around!

EAs have long floated the idea of starting or buying a university, but a group of sustainability activists and experts has actually done so. It's privately funded, accredited in Germany, offers bachelor's, master's and MBA degrees. Teaching is online-only, I suppose for cost savings and global inclusivity.

What do you think?

I think, on the forum, there should be a clearer distinction between people speaking privately or on behalf of their organization.

Maybe org updates should always be posted by an org account.

Is anyone working on summarizing the new German coalition agreement from an EA perspective?

Otherwise I'll do it soon™. I'm happy to take advice here!

Hey Ludwig, happy to collaborate on this. A bunch of other EAs and I analyzed the initial party programs under EA considerations; this should be easily adapted to the final agreement and turned into a forum post.

Local groups have an opportunity to do much more than just creating and connecting local effective altruists. Being local to a place, we have special knowledge and influence. A few ideas:

  • Fundraising for effective charities: Being local, we can promote effective organisations to local rich people.
  • Help existing local organisations to be more effective.
  • Manage a small fund and be forced to actually live and think through the challenges of prioritization.

Anything else?

See this post on "local priorities research" for more ideas. The author shares this "non-exhaustive list of examples":

  • Local cause area prioritisation
  • Local problem profile research
  • High impact local career pathway research
  • Risk assessment
  • Giving and philanthropy landscape research
  • Charity evaluation
  • Public policy research
  • Analysis of the convergence and divergence between EA and local culture/religion/ethics

Thanks, that's exactly what I've been looking for! :)

I have too many EA T-shirts from conferences. What should I do with them?