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Cockroach Milk: The Future Superfood

Bottled milk on the table / Photo by Pixabay

 

“The best is yet to come”. One of the dairy products that we consume every day is milk. Regardless of being lactose tolerant, this beverage is a vital part of the food pyramid which contains protein and other essential nutrients for the body.

Now, we all know that the primary source of milk is from cows. And yet, we also get milk from other sources from livestock to plants. We have milk from goat, coconut, soy, and almond among others.

The future of superfood is on its way. We could soon be consuming milk from little cockroach critters - Yes! Cockroach milk is the new non-dairy source of milk.

Before you gross out from this whole idea of drinking cockroach milk, this crawling insect is already considered a delicacy in some countries. They are a part of cuisines all over the world and gives a variety of benefits to the body.  There are 1,900 species of insects considered to be edible, according to the United Nations. And while not super-popular in the U.S., insects are part of the traditional diet of 2 billion people around the world.

Edible insects are hoped to be a turning point in providing alternative food source because of their role in challenging the meat industry. The farming and processing of animal livestock is destroying wild nature and releases thousands of tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere.

For starters, these aren’t just your average cockroaches. The milk-producing roaches are the Pacific beetle cockroaches, or Diploptera punctata, which are found in Australia, Myanmar, China, Fiji, Hawaii, and India. Unlike most insects, these Pacific roaches produce live young instead of eggs, so they have to feed their young something as soon as they are born.

Milk found from this Australian native Pacific beetle cockroach was found to contain protein sequences with all the essential amino acids, plus proteins, fats, and sugars and three times the energy of dairy milk, the 2016 study found.  

 

Edible and Creamy

That milk is a yellowish fluid that crystallizes in the baby roach’s stomach into food. This extremely nutrient-dense food is packed with three times the calories as the milk from a Buffalo, the highest amount of calorie found in any milk from a mammal.

Sanchari Banerjee, a researcher at the Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine in India, also mentioned that “The crystals are like a complete food – they have proteins, fats, and sugars.” This milk provides a full meal for the little baby roaches.

 

 

Will you drink it?

There are a lot of benefits in switching to roach milk from cow's milk. To start, there’s no lactose in roach milk, so vegans and a growing number of lactose intolerant folks could chug it down without any issue - well unless you are gross out by it.

What's more, cows account for up to 18% of all global greenhouse gas emissions, not to mention the enormous amount of land needed to cultivate them.

But there are a few problems with switching to roach milk. The biggest and most obvious problem is safety since there hasn’t been nearly enough research done to see if it’s safe for human consumption. Second is taste, which according to NPR, is "like pretty much nothing."

Then there’s also the whole “farming” aspect. You can’t actually hook up a bunch of tiny insects to a milking machine. Instead, Health reports that researchers are looking to genetically engineer a type of yeast that will produce the exact same chemical substance as the Pacific roach's milk.

A milk coming from a bunch of bacteria sounds marginally better to drink than milk that came from a cockroach, but only marginally.

 

Packed with Nutrients

Cockroach milk is sourced from the Pacific Beetle cockroach, a type of roach that gives birth to live offspring and produces 'milk', which it feeds its embryos through a 'brood sac' (essentially a cockroach womb). Scientists need to carve out the cockroach’s gut in order to access the milk, which is in the form of crystals.

Dr. Leonard Chavas, one of the study's co-authors tells BBC Three: “If you want to do that in mass production, it’s not easy. It takes time, it’s labor-intensive, and you don't get much for your efforts."

She also claims that scientists in India are now developing a yeast that can produce a form of these energy-rich milk crystals which could, in turn, be used to make bread and beer.

According to The Daily Mail, South African company Gourmet Grubb is already selling 'Entomilk' created from sustainably farmed insects.

'One of the most pivotal benefits of Entomilk is that it has a high protein content and is rich in minerals such as iron, zinc, and calcium,' the site's description of the product reads.

Roaches seem to be the culinary gift that keeps on giving. People on backpacking trips through Asia often have the opportunity to sample local street foods like cockroach kebabs. Their high-protein content makes them a healthy snack, with the added benefit that chowing down on a roach or two could even help the environment.

Still, despite all this, we're not quite ready to embrace the idea of having cockroach milk into our cereals or even coffee. There's just something about this superfood that really bugs us.

 

A cockroach in a nearly empty glass of milk / Photo by Shutterstock

 

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