With an ever growing demand for dairy-free milk alternatives and substitutes, scientists have widened their net of sources for such a substance. These include the popular nut, legume and plant based alternatives such as soy and almond milk as well as rice, flax, oatmeal, peanut, pea, quinoa, cashew and coconut milk to name a few. As of 2017, almond milk has gained the title of “America’s favourite plant based milk” (Huffington Post, 2017). It is estimated to be a $738 million business, with it far superseding the previously popular soy milk alternative. Although vegan and vegetarian consumers make up a small percentage of the overall consumer market, more and more people are seeking out non-dairy alternatives. These people often define themselves as “lessitarian” or “flexitarians” meaning that these particular consumers are more conscious about their animal-based food intake but haven’t fully committed to entirely animal by-product free diets. According to the Dairy and Dairy Alternative Beverage Trends in the U.S., 4th Edition report, it is this group of consumers that has the greatest influence in the on-going shift from dairy to the plant based alternatives.
One of the most interesting non-dairy discoveries to occur in the past two years however, is not plant based but rather insect based. The original study on cockroach milk was conducted two years ago when an international team of researchers conducted a conducive nutritional analysis on the milk-like substance excreted by the female Pacific Beetle cockroaches. The females produce this substance in order to feed their young, however the substance itself is not strictly milk, but rather a “yellowish fluid that solidifies in the offspring’s stomachs”. According to a study which was published in the Journal of the International Union of Crystallography, the cockroach milk-like substance has been identified by scientists as possibly one of the “most nutritious substances on the planet” as it has been found to contain “three times more calories than the equivalent mass of buffalo milk, which currently holds the prize for the most calorie-rich milk from a mammal”.
So while that is all good and well theoretically, what benefits does cockroach milk potentially have for humans? Cockroach milk, in addition to being calorie-rich also contains protein and amino acids which could be beneficial for humans however there are some challenges involved in eventually being able to capitalise on the benefits of this substance. Firstly, it has yet to actually be tested on humans, so it is still unknown whether or not it is safe for human consumption. Also, and perhaps most notably and unsurprisingly, it is not actually possible to milk a cockroach – as strange as that may seem. Also, any liquid or milk elicited from the cockroaches is far too little to be considered viable for commercial consumption.
Therefore with all this in mind, it’s safe to say that although cockroach milk seems to have some potential benefits, it is unlikely that we will see it on the market anytime soon. So for now, I think that I’ll stick to my ‘beetle-juice’-free soy latte all the same.