Living With Micro-livestock Production II

argylesock says… Here’s a blog post about raising the American cockroach (Periplaneta americana) for food, medicine and livestock feed.

Living With Insects Blog

Feeding the population of the future will require more food than is currently produced on earth, especially new protein sources. Thoughts turn to insects (or “Micro-livestock“) as food. Insects can be a good protein source for traditional livestock and many are edible by humans. Many of the world cultures already utilize some insects in their diet. These cultures are leading the development of micro-livestock for human consumption; Western cultures that use little to no insects in the diet are behind.

Barbara Demick has an article in the LA Times about cockroach farming in China. The preferred species is the American Cockroach, Periplaneta americana. Cockroaches can be fed table scraps or other plant material that humans and livestock do not eat. Millions of cockroaches can be reared in a relatively small space. Cockroaches are harvested by dropping them in boiling water and drying them.

How are they used?…

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About argylesock

I wrote a PhD about veterinary parasitology so that's the starting point for this blog. But I'm now branching out into other areas of biology and into popular science writing. I'll write here about science that happens in landscapes, particularly farmland, and about science involving interspecific interactions. Datasets and statistics get my attention. Exactly where this blog will lead? That's a journey that I'm on and I hope you'll come with me.
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6 Responses to Living With Micro-livestock Production II

  1. Emma says:

    It’s good to see some level-headed promotion of entomophagy. I’ve kept compost worms domestically for many years, and often speculated about ways of gaining the protein value from them while avoiding whatever’s still lurking in their guts. The easiest would be to feed them to chickens – I had no idea that that was illegal. It seems a particularly perverse piece of legislation, as invertebrates are an important part of a chicken’s natural diet.
    In practise, I dote on my worms, and have never willingly killed a single one.
    My other invertebrate pets are my gorgeous colonies of honey bees. I adore them, and am mortified if I squash a single bee, but I will sometimes kill their grubs. “Drone sacrifice”, as it’s euphemistically called (the killing of male bee larvae), is used as a part of integrated pest management for controlling the varroa mite. It isn’t my ideal, but I use it in preference to using persistent acaricides, or to letting mite populations overwhelm the bees. So far most of my drone brood has gone to a varroa mite research project, but I have experimentally fried and eaten a few of the grubs. Bees waste nothing, so it seems wrong to waste what they’ve so painstakingly produced. There are practical challenges – like seafood, grubs degrade very quickly, so they need to be eaten very fresh – but it’s surely part of the answer to a sustainable human food supply.

    • argylesock says:

      Hi Emma, it’s good to see you here.

      The law against feeding invertebrates to chickens is indeed perverse. In fact I don’t understand it! Free-range chickens forage for insects as you say, and even when hens are kept indoors their housing won’t be sterile. Flies will fly and fly eggs will hatch. If you find out more about how this daft law is supposed to work, please let me know. Perhaps it isn’t enforced or something.

      What did your fried bee grubs taste like? It doesn’t sound as though you took any more food safety precautions than, say, anglers or game shooters take. There could be pathogens that the bees’ immune system doesn’t destroy.

      • cityforager says:

        Unfortunately I was ill when I had the chance to taste fried bee grubs, so I only nibbled a few. They were sweet (unsurprisingly), slightly disturbingly so, but it was hard for me to taste them properly. As with any food, it would take a bit of experimentation, or skilled guidance, to get the best out of them. I occasionally eat raw grubs, as well: the taste is bland, a little sweet, with something of the hive scent about them. I’m always sad at the death of a bee, so my impressions are mixed up with a lot of personal emotion.

        I’ve studied bee diseases quite a lot over the last few years, and I’ve never come across any mention of any diseases which bees and humans have in common, so I don’t think there’s any worry on that score. That leaves whatever’s in the gut, or that the larva has come into contact with.

        The bee diet consists exclusively of nectar and pollen, both of which are used as human food, and neither of which are prone to spoiling quickly. A grub hasn’t been anywhere except inside the brood cell in which its egg was laid, and the sisters which feed it generally have pretty clean habits, and will usually be too young to have left the hive yet themselves. I’ve heard a high-profile bee farmer confidently state that there’s no danger to human health in extracting honey from combs which have previously contained a colony’s brood nest. So all in all I feel safe eating fresh, healthy-looking bee grubs, but averse to eating ones which have been dead too long, simply because they’re moist and high in protein.

        Compost worms or fly grubs, both of which feed on all kinds of decaying matter, would be a very different matter.

        I like the fact that you’re thinking of these practicalities! There’s a useful factsheet from the FAO which gives more information on bee grubs as human food. Keeping bees for that purpose, however (as opposed to eating grubs which are killed as a by-product of management for colony health), is something I would never endorse.

  2. Please …. not those particular insects pictured in the picture. Yuck!!

    • argylesock says:

      Really? How about a farm animal, or farmed fish, that’s eaten them so that you can eat it? How about feeding vegetable plants with mashed cockroaches?

      • Roaches have an awful sickening smell, the male pheromones smell not unlike rotten almonds and I suspect meat fed EXCLSIVELY of roaches would be flavored and have added aroma. Gag. Of course the locusts should be netted and fed to fish and fowl, if they will eat them. Sea gulls will, so I suspect other fowl will, also. My chickens did not eat some grasshopper species, but the drab colored ones seemed palatable, to them. UK fowl are not allowed to eat such? Fish bait is already crickets, worms, etc in US. There is also a meal made from some kinda bug larvae used for worm, fish, and fowl food. Dunno what. I don’t keep chickens anymore. I do have composting worms. And armadillos are a constant problem.

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