As upsetting as it may sound, cockroach milk might just be the flavour of the future as soon as it can be transformed into an edible food supplement.
According to a report by the BBC, research by scientists has revealed that a certain species, the Pacific Beetle Cockroach, feeds its bug babies a formula which is remarkably rich in protein, fat and sugar.
The species, also known as Diploptera punctata, nourishes its growing embryos with a nutrient-rich liquid secreted in its uterus-like brood sac. Unlike most cockroaches that lay eggs, the Pacific beetle gives birth to live offspring by the dozen and produces food for them with the liquid formula.
According to the research published in July in the journal, International Union of Crystallography, as soon as the embryo ingests the liquid, protein crystals develop within its midgut.
Leonard Chavas, one of the scientists behind the research, explained that the crystals have a whopping three times the energy of an equivalent mass of buffalo milk and about four times the equivalent of cow’s milk.
He also said, “The protein crystals are milk for the cockroach infant. It is important for its growth and development.”
After extracting one of these crystals to learn more about it and its potential nutrition, Chavas and his colleagues determined that it was a complete food. “It is what one would need: protein, essential amino acids, lipids and sugars,” he said.
He further explained that the energy content is so high that it helps infants within this unique species grow much bigger than cockroach babies of other species.
He said that before humans can start to reverse bioengineer cockroach milk, researchers must first understand the exact biological and chemical mechanisms underlying the process.
“For now, we are trying to understand how to control this phenomena in a much easier way, to bring it to mass production,” he said.
On tasting the cockroach milk himself, Chavas describes it as having “no particular taste”, but also imagines “a flavor with honey and crispy pieces.”
Subramanian Ramaswamy, a biochemist at the Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine in Bangalore, India, also told The Washington Post in 2016 that his colleague who once ate a sprinkling of the crystals said, “It doesn’t taste like anything special.”
While it’s currently inconceivable that cockroach milk will enjoy widespread acceptance, you can’t bet against it appearing on shelves at your local food stores in the future.