Photo: Ville Säävuori
Almond milk, soy milk, hemp milk and now… cockroach milk? You may soon have a daring option for diluting your morning coffee, and it makes other trendy milks pale in comparison as far as nutritional value is concerned.
While most species of cockroach bring their broods into the world by laying eggs — not by giving birth to suckling youngsters — the Pacific beetle cockroach (Diploptera punctuate) is the nightmarish exception to the rule. The insect is viviparous, which means it delivers live, fully formed young. Naturally, these babies rely on their mothers’ milk (yes, that would be cockroach milk) to survive.
Researchers at the Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine recently decoded a protein crystal found in the milky substance pumped from mother Pacific beetle cockroaches to their offspring. They discovered that it was four times as nutritious as cow’s milk, and contained three times as much energy as high-calorie buffalo milk.
“The crystals are like a complete food — they have proteins, fats and sugars,” Sanchari Banerjee, one of the authors of the study recently published in the International Union of Crystallography, told the Times of India. “If you look into the protein sequences, they have all the essential amino acids.”
It’s that bit of information that has scientists wondering if cockroach milk is the superfood solution that could sustainably feed a growing population, and help the 795 million undernourished people who don’t have enough food to lead a healthy, active lifestyle.
If you’re beginning to imagine warehouses converted into urban insect farms where cockroaches are milked by the billions, you can relax. Scientists took the time to decode the protein crystal so it can be replicated at scale in a lab — no cockroaches necessary. That means that instead of pure cockroach milk, you’d actually be drinking a synthetic protein plagiarized from Mother Nature.
Is that enough to convince you to bust out the Oreos or take a sip? Considering that at least half of all humans eat insects, it shouldn’t be too much of stretch, especially in a world starved for protein.