You may have seen the recent slew of articles lauding the supposed benefits of cockroach milk. Yes, that is milk made by cockroaches to feed their young.
Understandably, you might have some questions. Here's everything you need to know.
So, is this a real thing?
Yes! But if you're thinking it's crushed up cockroaches somehow made into a liquid you're going to have to pour into your cereal — like a really gross almond milk — you're way off the mark.
This all stems from a study published in 2016 in which researchers analyzed the milk produced by the Pacific beetle cockroach or Diploptera punctata.
This species is found in parts of Asia, Australia, and Hawaii, and the females produce a nutritious liquid, aka milk, that their young — technically 9 to 12 developing embryos — eat in the brood sac. Yum.
Although they're far from being a mammal, this species is unique in that it's the only cockroach species to feed live young this way.
"Your ordinary garden-variety cockroach doesn’t do this," Stephen Tobe, a study coauthor, told BuzzFeed News. Tobe is based at the University of Toronto and it's his cockroaches that were used in the study.
How do you collect cockroach milk?
It's a bit more complicated than milking a cow since the bugs don't excrete the liquid. To conduct the analysis, the researchers had to carefully slice open dead female cockroaches that were carrying babies. Then they took an embryo, snipped off its head and the end of its abdomen, removed the midgut, and finally used a pipette to take out the milk, which was in a crystallized form.
Is cockroach milk actually super healthy?
It's definitely nutritious. Sanchari Banerjee is one of the study's authors and is a postdoctoral fellow at the Institute of Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine in Bengaluru, India. She told BuzzFeed News the milk is made up of proteins, nonlactose sugars, and lipids, which are fats.
"It serves as a complete food for the embryos. The proteins are made up of all the 20 amino acids, while the lipids contain essential fats," she said.
"In terms of nutrition, it provides three times more energy than cow and buffalo milks."
Sounds delish, where can I get it?
You can't. Although some media coverage has made it sound like cockroach milk will be next to the coconut milk at your local Whole Foods, that's not the case.
Although the research is a promising start, those milk crystals aren't actually available for human consumption right now.
So all those articles suggesting cockroach milk is coming to stores near you are just plain wrong. Cockroach milk isn't the next trendy food, because it's not even a food yet.
Can I have cockroach milk with my Froot Loops or what?
Theoretically, yes, said Tobe.
"Presumably you could drink it if you got a lot of cockroaches," he said.
But it would take a lot of dead cockroaches to make a cup of milk. in fact, mass-scale production would take millions of the bugs. One of the study author's told Inverse it would take more than 1,000 cockroaches to harvest 100 grams of the milk, which is 3.5 ounces, or one-fifth of a pound.
"It's not going to feed the world, for sure," said Tobe, adding that it's very doubtful cockroach milk will ever make its way to your local grocery store.
Banerjee said if the milk is produced for human consumption, it would probably be in pill form "considering its stable crystalline nature and ease of packaging of the supplement."
Okay, but is cockroach milk a superfood?
I mean, yeah? If you want?
There's no ~scientific~ definition of "superfood," which is why the term gets tossed around so much. It's really just a marketing term, because brands would really like you to think their products aren't just normal, but super.
Practically speaking, "superfood" refers to foods that have high nutritional content and are thought to be particularly healthy. By that definition, Banerjee said you could indeed call cockroach milk a superfood.
"It is definitely a next-generation food considering all the advantages associated with it. Due to its multi-purpose use, it can be called as a superfood," she said.
Tobe, on the other hand, wouldn't use the term.
"Yes, it’s more potent," he said, but "to call it superfood? I wouldn't call it that, but I can’t dictate what’s trending."