Before you smash the life out of that big fat cockroach, running up and about in your kitchen, think twice. Cockroach-rearing has become a booming industry in China as there are over 100 large-scale cockroach farms.
One farmer, Li and other Chinese Breeders are turning cockroaches into turning them into a business niche with some selling cockroaches for medicinal purposes and some breeding them as animal feeds to get rid of food waste, only to sell them into restaurants for food.
Pulverized roach powder is patented as a Traditional Chinese Medicine ingredient and cosmetics companies use the insects as a cheap source of protein, listed as Periplaneta americana, the scientific name of the American cockroach, the reddish-brown insect that can fly when mature.
The insects are made into a liquid concoction that millions of Chinese patients use to treat respiratory, gastric, and other illnesses with doctor prescriptions, according to a local government report. A bottle of 100 ml of the medicine costs about ($4) Ksh 400.
His roaches live between spaces and square wooden frames held together by pipes, stored in racks lining two rooms. The rooms are equipped with rows of shelves lined with open containers of food and water in a large concrete building, which is kept warm, humid, and dark all year round, with a simple system tracking how individual cockroaches are growing.
Every three months Li harvests the cockroaches. To keep the population under control, he drops some of them into a vat of boiling water, before dehydrating the carcasses. Last year he sold a tonne of dried cockroaches to the pharmaceutical industry for nearly ($13,500) Ksh 1,350,000.
Li wants to start turning his roaches into a delicacy and is working with the local restaurant. The local restaurants fry them in popular spicy Sichuan sauce for gutsier eaters. He is also working on expanding his line into cockroach laced medical cream, cockroaches medicated plasters and insole inserts containing cockroaches essence.