Cockroach milk: the next big ‘dairy’ alternative?

You’ve probably heard about the most popular alternative “dairy” products: soy milk, almond milk, rice milk, coconut milk, and so on. These sound fairly palatable to most people, but one of the latest alternatives generating discussion might make you do a double take: insect milk.

It’s not as gross as it sounds — insect milk, otherwise known as entomilk, isn’t made from ground-up spiders. The milk product is based on 2016 research showing that Pacific Beetle cockroaches create milk crystals and store them in their body. Although the crystals are meant to feed their own offspring, the crystals contain nutrients beneficial to humans.

By extracting the crystals, food processors can make cockroach milk-based products. In all honesty, harvesting enough crystals to make a full carton of entomilk is inefficient, so experts say it’s far more likely that we see a cockroach milk pill on the grocery store shelves. It’s speculated that it would take about 100 cockroaches to produce a single pill, as opposed to 1,000 required for making 100 grams of liquid milk. It might also be used to supplement protein powders and drinks.

The health benefits

If you can compartmentalize thoughts of wriggly cockroach legs and antennae, and lock them away deep, deep in your mind long enough to enjoy entomilk, you’d actually enjoy significant nutritional benefits. Described as a “powerhouse” of nutrients, cockroach milk has four times as much protein as cow’s milk and contains essential amino acids and energy-fueling sugars.

It’s not the first time insects have been proposed as alternative protein sources. Cricket-based flour, and insect-based burgers are already produced by several companies, and insect-based feed and pet food is also being considered. Insects as ingredients and street snacks have been popular in parts of the world for ages. And entomilk is already used to produce ice cream at one shop in South Africa.

Will the parts of the world that don’t regularly consume insects be able to set aside the yuck-factor enough for entomilk to make it big time? Only time will tell.

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