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Why Were They Raising A Million Cockroaches In The First Place?

Cockroaches
Flickr user: Jeff Kubina

By Bill Doyle

Yesterday, we had the story of one million cockroaches escaping from a farm in China. The reason they were being raised was kind of vague: for traditional Chinese medicinal purposes.

Luckily for us, the folks at QZ.com dug up more info on the booming cockroach market in China.

It turns out China has a booming trade in cockroaches that can earn as much as 1200 yuan per kilogram, or $89 per pound. The roaring roach trade began when a Yunnan medical professor noticed elderly ethnic minorities in the area’s mountains pulverizing roaches to cure bone tuberculosis. It took more than a decade of research, but he eventually figured out what they were up to, patenting roach powder as a traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) ingredient and cooperating with what’s now perhaps the world’s biggest producer of medicinal raw cockroach-related materials. The powder is used to treat cirrhosis, breast cancer and other ailments, and reputedly also has anti-aging effects.

But even with a large-scale farm in Yunnan, there’s not enough ground-up cockroach powder to meet demand. That’s why Wang and other gutsy entrepreneurs have taken up “cockroach ranching,” as the New York Times’ Chris Buckley put it. And some are already making a tidy bundle.

If you are interested in opening a cockroach farm, one pair of mating roaches can produce 10 million offspring in a year. You’re going to have a lot of work on your hands.

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