Cockroach farmers getting rich in China

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

baby roaches
These baby roaches are almost cute… almost. I can practically see the dollar signs squirming around inside of them. Hmmm, come to think of it, they’re looking pretty gosh darn beautiful now! Mwahaha.

Before you smash that cockroach underneath your boots, you just might want to bag it up and sell it to your local grocery store! Why? Well, in China, the roach farming industry is on the rise, with the price of dried roaches growing from $2 per pound in 2010 to $20 today! Whoa!

Okay, so what’s the deal? I mean, cockroaches seem like the last thing someone would want to buy. Well, not only are they popular among medical providers in China who crush them into experimental treatments for cancer and baldness, but they’re also being advertised as delicious morsels in restaurants!

One of these specialized Chinese farmers, Wang Fuming, used to keep chickens in a concrete building. Now, however, he’s filled it with huge squirming bunches of the dark-brown bugs! The 43-year-old Fuming is currently the largest cockroach provider in China, with a grand total of six farms that hold about 10 million roaches. Sounds like a nightmare to me, but he’s living the dream, pocketing massive amounts of cash.

Fuming says, “I thought about raising pigs, but with traditional farming, the profit margins are very low.” In other words, you might make good money with regular ol’ farming, but it’s also expensive to run things. Cockroaches, though? Super cheap. He explains, “With cockroaches, you can invest 20 yuan and get back 150 yuan.” In dollars and cents, that’s like paying $3.25 and getting $11 back! Talk about megabucks.

Because neighbors kind of freak out about cockroaches being produced next door, the farmers are pretty secretive about it all. They often grow the creatures in hidden or out-of-the-way places. “We try to keep a low profile,” said Liu Yusheng, leader of the Shandong Insect Industry Assn. group that helps organize the buggy trade.

yummy roaches!
Delicious or disgusting? Who cares, as long as the money keeps rolling in.

What’s really funny, is half these mega cockroach farmers left low-paying jobs at factories to become successful. I’m sure their co-workers laughed when they did, but who’s chuckling now?

Okay, but why are the creepy crawlers used in medicine? Well, partially because they’re one of the toughest buggers around.

Li Shunan, a professor of traditional medicine who’s considered a major cockroach expert, says, “Cockroaches are survivors. We want to know what makes them so strong – why they can even resist nuclear effects.” That being said, Shunan is doubtful about the bugs being able to cure things like baldness.

Well, gee, maybe I should start farming these things on the side! If I go to the pet store and ask them for a cockroach cage, I wonder if I’ll get funny looks…

Featured image courtesy of Steve Snodgrass on Flickr. Image of baby cockroaches courtesy of Mark Dumont on Flickr. Image of cockroach meal courtesy of Vijinathkv on Wikimedia.