Have you ever looked at a cockroach scuttling under your fridge and wondered, “I wonder if I could milk that?” Apparently, somebody did, because in 2016 a team of scientists discovered that a certain species of cockroach – the Pacific beetle cockroach – produces a milk-like substance packed with protein. Will it be the next superfood?
Most cockroaches don’t produce milk. That’s kind of a mammal thing. However, the Pacific beetle cockroach gives birth to live young, and produces a substance containing protein crystals. Scientists took a closer look, and figured out that just one of these protein crystals has three times the amount of energy found in the same amount buffalo milk, which itself higher in calories than cow’s milk.
Cockroaches can’t be “milked,” so the team figured out how to sequence the genes that produce the crystals. They succeeded. What makes this milk special is how nutritious it is. It’s full of protein, as we mentioned, as well as lots of fat and amino acids, which help repair muscles. The other notable feature is that the protein is time-released. As the milk is consumed, the nutrients slowly release in the body, giving you a more consistent source of energy.
Who would drink cockroach milk? Probably not most Americans .The milk is so high in fat and calories, it isn’t necessary for someone who’s already getting enough. However, it could be useful for people who are malnourished. It lines up with the theory that insects are going to become a staple part of most diets, as climate change threatens other species. It takes a lot of cockroaches to produce just one glass of milk, so it’s also a food that will likely need to be reproduced in labs, if it’s going to be a viable source of nutrients. If you’re excited about seeing a carton of cockroach milk in the store, don’t hold your breath.