How Cockroaches Are Reshaping The Food Industry

A crawling cockroach. Image from

Well, you read that right. The not so tiny bug that walks on six legs and always seem to survive no matter the season, can actually be made into food? According to cockroach breeders in China, cockroaches are delicious and when cooked, apparently they are crunchier and a healthier snack than crisps or Cheetos.

The irony being that this resilient insect is actually known to cause allergies, spread germs and bacteria rather than provide health benefits.  Not forgetting the following several facts that you might not be aware of about cockroaches.

  • Cockroaches are cannibals

They not choosy and can survive on pretty much anything. From food, fruits, hair, books, stool, decaying matter, to other cockroaches.

  • They can cause asthma

Their shed body parts, faeces, and saliva have been linked to triggering asthma and other allergies.

  • They can live headless

Yes, a cockroach can survive for a week without a head. It doesn’t need a nose to breathe. It has spiracles. Neither does it need a mouth to feed. It can survive for a month without food. Actually, the only reason why it survives for a week without a head instead of making it to the end of the month is that a headless cockroach cannot drink water.

A bunch of cockroaches. Image from

You wonder how they are reshaping the food industry, here’s how.

An international team of scientists and researchers from the Institute of Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine in India claim that a protein crystal located in the midgut of cockroaches contain four times the nutrients a cow’s milk contains. In addition, a type of cockroach species known as Diploptera punctata also known as the cockroach with mom genes has been shown to pump out milk that contains these crystals which it feeds its young ones. Scientists think that this could be the key to feeding growing populations.

“The crystals are like a complete food – they have proteins, fats and sugars. If you look into the protein sequences, they have all the essential amino acids,” said Sanchari Banerjee, one of the team, in an interview with the Times of India back in 2016. (Adapted from Science alert)

What’s fascinating is not only is the milk a source of nutrients, but it is time released. This means that with the digestion of the milk more protein equivalent to the milk is released to continue the digestion.

This type of protein source is definitely not ideal for someone trying to lose weight. However, for someone who wants to gain weight and with adequate calories per day, this source can guarantee them that, due to the richness in nutrients and calories.

The crystals are also a fantastic protein supplement.

Cockroach farming

In China, about 6 billion cockroaches are bred in a year from over 100 farms across the country. They are kept in good conditions and in proper hygiene to ensure that they do not feed on anything synthetic or other waste matter. What they’re fed includes, fruits, vegetables and cornflour and later they’re sold to restaurants for food.

According to Gooddoctor, a company that rears billions of cockroaches for medicinal extraction Cockroaches have a high medicinal value due to their perceived detoxifying quality. This is one of the reasons medicine formed from cockroaches has been used by the Chinese since the 16th Century to cure skin wounds, stomach and respiratory diseases.


Cockroach business is big in China. The farmers supply the cockroaches to restaurants dead and dried, or when alive.  Li Bingcai is an example of a cockroach breeder in China.

The bred cockroaches are said to differ from the ones found at home or any other place. They are perceived to lack bacteria and that is why the Chinese take advantage of their nutritional value to make sumptuous and healthy meals from them. They can also be eaten raw as a snack or cooked depending on the preference of the eater. The preparation is also not complex. When cooked under high temperature they become a crunchy, crispy treat while when mixed with spices and other delicacies they become a side dish.

A plate of cockroaches a day will keep the diseases away – A Chinese proverb.

Other uses include making cosmetics, curbing food waste and providing nutritious food for livestock after they die.

Related: 5 weird things you will hear foodies from around the world say

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