China breeds Cockroaches for sustainability
Many people consider cockroach as a pest that can potentially destroy documents and rugs in the house. Again, for some, the cockroach is a terrifying thing, and it is an indicator of lack of general hygiene. China, however, is breeding cockroaches in a big way. Nations such as Nigeria, Tanzania, and some countries in Asia also breed cockroaches for various reasons. China breeds cockroaches for many reasons and has taken the top spot among cockroach-farming nations in the world.
China started cockroach farming as a means to eliminate food waste. Feeding pigs on waste was banned because of the outbreak of diseases. Subsequently, raising cockroaches on the wastes has become an alternative business. The statistics might surprise you. Cockroach farms in China consume 50 tonnes of waste a day. China breeds cockroaches for the pharmaceutical and food industries as well.
Cockroach Cultivation in Asia
The use of cockroaches in Asia for various needs is not new. However, the cultivation of the insect is a relatively new enterprise. In Asia, demand for the insect is high considering its use in the food, pharmaceutical, and cosmetics industries. Traditional medicines mainly use extracts from cockroaches for their purported benefits, while modern cosmetics industries use the insects for the thick exoskeleton it has.
Moreover, cockroaches are a good source of protein. The protein content of cockroaches in equivalent weight is much more than that of buffalo meat. In India, researchers have developed techniques to tap a specific type of cockroach (Pacific beetle cockroach; Diploptera punctata) for its ‘milk’, a crystal-like compound, which is a superfood.
Other reasons why China breeds cockroaches
While cockroach farming has been less eventful in other parts of the world, China has taken the breeding of cockroaches to industrial levels. In 2013, the nation had about 100 such farms2. Recent figures show that the industry has grown. It now has huge facilities powered by modern technology to farm the insects on a commercial basis. Obviously, such an initiative indicates copious demand. Undoubtedly, the Chinese are using cockroaches for food and extensive use in the pharmaceutical industry.
China’s Cockroach farms: A treasure on wings?
From the anecdotes available from the literature around the world, it seems that cockroaches have much to give to human beings and is not a useless pest. For example, Chinese medicine practitioners would go to any length to press their point that cockroaches are an excellent source of chemicals that can cure many diseases. They would even claim that it is a magic potion that can cure many diseases at one shot. Unconfirmed reports even go to the extent of claiming that derivatives from the insect can cure cancer and AIDS. While that might seem a bit exaggerated claim, universities in China have published papers that highlight the idea that cockroaches contain chemicals that are anti-carcinogenic. Whether they are true or not, millions of people in China rely on potions made from cockroaches to cure many of their ailments, and they claim remarkable success with it.
China’s Tryst with Cockroaches
Perhaps it is the people’s obsession with traditional medicine that has prompted authorities to launch cockroach farming in a big way in China. Since the conventional Chinese -medicine components are getting rarer and more controlled, people had to turn to something that could replace these compounds. Tiger and deer penises have become virtually unavailable because of strict rules on wildlife management, while bear-gut fluids and similar extracts have come under the scrutiny of animal-law activists. The purported benefits of cockroaches gave farmers a cheap and easy alternative that they could use to keep their business running. The additional advantage is that it can supplement food resources. The cosmetics industry also has a high demand for the exoskeleton of the insect. With demand coming in from the food, pharmaceutical, and cosmetics industries, it is no surprise China breeds cockroaches in a big way, making it a multimillion-dollar industry.
Cockroaches: not harmful after all?
China breeds cockroaches because it is a vital source of protein, and other chemicals it involves are not as vile as we may think. According to the BBC1, a report from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization states that out of the 4500 species of cockroaches available in the world, only 30 are carriers of diseases or obnoxious substance. Therefore, the potential for the industry is vast and unexplored.
China breeds Cockroaches to build a stable economy
As discussed already, the demand from some of the main pillars of the economy has made cockroach farming very lucrative. Hypothetically, in 2013, a pound of dried cockroaches could earn you USD202. Considering that the hardy insects can grow well on waste without much care, it was not long before investors focussed on the systematic culture of the insects. The largest cockroach farm is now near Xichang, Sichuan, South Western China. Surprisingly, China breeds six billion cockroaches a year in this facility alone. Run by a private enterprise, the Good Doctor Pharmaceutical Group, the farm uses artificial intelligence to maintain the critters.
Cockroach farming is easy
Evidently, the insects are relatively easy to grow and can thrive on waste. The only requirement would be to provide a constant temperature of 30 degrees Celsius. Since the insect is a hardy, fast grower, the profit would soon accrue to entrepreneurs. Processing the grown-up insects is also not a problem because they can be easily vacuumed into vats where they are drowned in boiling water. Sun drying the insects is the last step in bringing out the finished product.
In short, China breeds cockroaches with intent to meet its food requirements and thrive cost-effectively by generating quick profits from waste.
Tanzania: Cockroach business don ‘open my life’, BBC News, Retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/pidgin/tori-41237203
Demick, Barbara (15 October 2013). “Cockroach farms multiplying in China”. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 22 April 2018.