The mystery behind China’s secret cockroach farms

Cockroach farming is practiced in China on a large scale. At present, there are hundreds of cockroach farms in China, with the total number of cockroaches produced annually exceeding the world’s human population. The insects produced on these unique farms are mainly used in the production of cosmetics and medicines, or for animal feed.

In 2018, the Chinese pharmaceutical company Gooddoctor claims to have won $ 684 million of income through the sale of a “healing potion” made of cockroaches it is used by thousands of hospitals and millions of Chinese patients every year to treat respiratory, stomach and other diseases.

However, the use of cockroaches in China is not limited to the pharmaceutical and beauty industries. Insects rich in protein are also processed and fed as an organic meal for poultry farm animals, used to process food waste, and are often served in special recipes in some Chinese restaurants.

Why is cockroach farming popular in China?

Source: Aigerim Kalysheva / Unsplash

Raising cockroaches is a lucrative business in China. Unlike traditional breeding, the cost of setting up a small cockroach farm is weak and requires few resources. In addition, cockroaches reproduce quickly (in just one year, a single German cockroach and its offspring can give birth to 300,000 more cockroaches like them), they rarely get sick and have no special dietary requirements, as they can thrive on readily available kitchen scraps.

Wang Fuming, who is among the top cockroach producers in China, told Los Angeles Times in an interview in 2013, “I thought about raising pigs, but with traditional breeding, the profit margins are very low. With cockroaches, you can invest 20 yuan and get back 150 yuan.”

The world’s largest cockroach cultivation facility, owned by Gooddoctor, is located in Xichang. 2018 report reveals that Good Doctor’s AI-monitored cockroach farm produces six billion cockroaches every year. Insects, which are naturally rich in protein, are processed and used in the manufacture of animal feed and various medicines.

Many in China believe that these cockroach products are effective against scars, baldness, respiratory problems, stomach problems, and even cancerous tumors. Although there is little reliable scientific evidence to support this belief, sScientists recently discovered that cockroaches are able to spend their lives in dirty environments without getting sick because they produce their own powerful antibiotics. Some researchers believe they could prove useful in the development of drugs to eliminate superbugs like MRSA, which are resistant to many existing treatments.

And drugs from cockroaches have long been in demand in China. Gooddoctor’s most popular cockroach health product has been used by over 40 million patients to date.

In an interview with Initiated, Wen Jianguo of Gooddoctor says, “Cockroach oil is good for healing mouth and peptic ulcers, skin sores and even stomach cancer.”

In fact, crushed cockroaches, according to their scientific name American Periplanet can be found listed as ingredients in various types of Chinese medicine and medical cosmetics.

Interestingly, the cockroach trade has not only attracted large companies, but also small farmers, aid workers and entrepreneurs.

Li Bingcai, a cell phone vendor turned cockroach breeder from a remote village in Sichuan Province, owns a farm that is home to more than three million cockroaches. Li claims to make a good profit selling dried cockroaches to pig farms, fisheries and pharmaceutical companies. In 2018 he said Business Initiated, “People think it’s strange that I do this kind of business, but it has great economic value, and my goal is to lead other villagers to prosperity if they follow my example.”

Zhangqiu District in Jinan City is home to another large cockroach farm, which was originally built to deal with the problem of kitchen waste, but also later became a source of organic food for farm animals. . A green entrepreneur, Li Yanrong, is the owner of this farm and he believes cockroaches can be used as a healthier, high protein food alternative for fish, poultry, pigs, etc.

According to Yanrong, “If we can breed cockroaches on a large scale, we can provide protein that benefits the entire ecological cycle. We can replace animal feed filled with antibiotics and provide organic feed instead, which is good for the animals and the soil of the soil. “. He sYes this cockroaches on his farm feed on 50,000 kg of food waste every day, so the insects are very useful in dealing with food waste that would otherwise end up in landfills.

Risks associated with breeding cockroaches

The mystery behind China's secret cockroach farms
Source: MKKennedy / Pixabay

Imagine that a farm with millions of cockroaches is left open by mistake, and you will soon see that the city’s roads are more crowded with cockroaches than with humans. How would you feel You will probably be running for your life cursing the owner of the cockroach farm. In 2013, a similar incident actually happened when a greenhouse nursery in Dafeng District of China was damaged by an unidentified culprit.

As a result of the damage, more than a million cockroaches escaped and infested nearby corn fields, homes and buildings. Locals panicked after seeing thousands of cockroaches around them. In order to control the infestation, the Jiangsu Health Council had to carry out a large-scale disinfection campaign in the zone.

To avoid a similar unfortunate event, the farm run by Gooddoctor is equipped with a ditch filled with cockroach-eating fish.

Breeding cockroaches is not a widespread practice, normally people only see cockroaches as parasites that spread disease. If they find a cockroach farm nearby, they could file a complaint as there is always a risk of a catastrophic cockroach infestation from a cockroach farm (like the one that occurred in 2013).

This is the reason why many cockroach farms in China operate in a secret way. You are unlikely to find a facility with “cockroach farm” or “cockroach factory” in its name or on its signs. You also won’t find any mentions of cockroaches used as an ingredient in promotional materials from cosmetic and drug companies.

Cockroach farming is not an illegal business practice in China, but if such a business setup attracts too much public attention or is in a densely populated residential area. It is possible that the owner of the farm faces various problems in running the business.

However, despite these risks and concerns, cockroach farming is still viewed as a profitable business by many companies and entrepreneurs in China. Meanwhile, other cockroach products, such as cockroach milk (produced by the Pacific cockroach and touted by some as a “superfood”) are gain popularity in different parts of the world and researchers are trying to find other ways to make cockroaches more useful.

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