Inside China’s Edible Insect Industry (Part 2)

By | January 21, 2020


These are expensive. Right now one egg is worth
five mao [8 cents]. Five mao for such a tiny egg? Yes. Because an adult doudan worm
can be sold for 10 yuan [$150], the profit margins are high. The first step of doudan farming is to stick the doudan moth’s eggs
onto this paper. Then we staple the paper onto
the soybean leaves, and let the doudan grow. Let’s go see. Here are the adult doudan worms. In a few days they’ll be
big enough to sell. Yeah, that one is pretty much
ready to eat. The worms are under the soil. The yellow fungus produces spores. They’re considered a kind of
traditional medicine in China. But the fungi are harmful to doudan. Oh, here’s a pupa. It has a strong tail. -So the pupa is going to…
-The pupa is going to bore out of the soil. It keeps turning. It’s a spiral movement
to the surface. To the surface? Until it reaches the surface because
the pupae are soft and vulnerable, they have to get out of the soil
to become moths. The basis of
our moth farming industry is to divide up the different
developmental stages of the doudan moth. Then we control each stage separately. It’s different from
the original farming methods. I was born in the 70s,
in 1973. Back then, we were poor.
To feed ourselves, we ate whatever we could find. Later, in the 90s, we moved from the
countryside to cities. Food is no longer a worry. But it feels good when I recall the childhood memory of eating insects. So we brought this tradition
into the city. That‘s where the demand for the
worms comes from. As a result, restaurants started buying insects from the countryside to make insect dishes. Gradually, insect dishes
were accepted more widely. But in the past, people only gathered wild doudan? Yes. They only caught wild doudan. They caught them in
huge quantities. People ate about 80
thousand tons a year. But it wasn’t sustainable, and now wild doudan are
much more scarce, right? Yes. Wild doudan numbers are decreasing. It’s been this way since 2012. So, because of the
high demand of the market, the wild population
of doudan is shrinking? To some extent, yes. But human activity is only one factor. You could say, “we’ve eaten them
to near-extinction” -Hello.
-Hi. Shall we have a look inside? Sure. Remember to stick to the middle. It’s dark inside. I’ll bring a flashlight. Are the bugs afraid of light? Yes. They stay in the shadows. We usually work in the darkness. It’s completely dark in here. -Be careful.
-I’m fine. Follow me and watch your step.
There are other beetles on the ground. They’re more active later in the day. The room gets swarmed
by cockroaches. This kind of cockroach can be eaten raw. -What?
-You can really eat these raw. This one just shed its shell,
it’s fine to eat it raw. But what does shedding the shell
have to do with eating it? When the cockroach molts,
its impurities get excreted. What’s left is basically pure protein. At first I farmed Tu Yuan,
[another kind of Chinese cockroach] because they’re often used as medicine. Then I found out regular cockroaches
go well with the Tu Yuan. When I breed the beetles in the soil,
and cockroaches above them, I don’t even need to change the
temperature, humidity, or the feed. It’s a win-win situation. It’s been five years
since I started this job. At the beginning I could see
why people consider them pests, killing them without hesitation. But now I feel a closeness with
my cockroaches, because I know them well. How many cockroaches are in here?
Or what is the mass of cockroaches in here? I don’t know the exact number. But I think there are about 500
catties of cockroaches in this room. So how much are
these cockroaches worth? About 50,000 yuan. How did you find out that cockroaches
could be used like this? I watched some reports on TV,
and I saw that people were raising cockroaches. Now I often receive phone calls asking whether I have
cockroaches for sale. They want cockroaches
alive or dried. People get prescribed cockroaches to cure their
medical conditions. So, it’s like the doctor tells them “you have to eat cockroaches
to get better”? Exactly. Do you know what exact part of
the cockroach helps cure cancer? For that… they extract something
from the cockroach’s cells. I can’t really explain more,
I’m not that clear on it. I’m not the expert. I see. Well, if you get an order
for hundreds of kilos, how profitable is that? Basically, as a cockroach farmer, except for the cost of feed,
and our initial startup costs and manpower,
everything else is pure profit. The cockroaches eat
almost everything out here. They can eat
vegetables and weeds, and leftovers from
vegetable markets. The vegetable vendors give us all the scraps
they don’t need. That’s a big part
of cockroach feed. So the cost of breeding
cockroaches is pretty low. Expenses are low. How many people work here? Actually, it’s only me. My family runs the whole farm. I feed the cockroaches once a day,
in the afternoon. -Once a day is enough?
-That’s right. Can I… smell it? Fragrant, right? Sure it’s fragrant, but… Let me try. How is it? It tastes a bit oily,
but that’s about it. Have a try? It’s not really my thing. Not used to it? Yeah, it’s kinda tough. I don’t eat this every day either.
But eating a cockroach every so often like this
is fine for me. I wouldn’t want to eat them
every day either. It smells spicy. It’s a bit fishy.

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