Inside China’s Edible Insect Industry (Part 2)

Hey! This is Mat from Vice’s Brooklin office, We’re picking up where we left off, with Vice’s China story on the culture of insect eating This is
Inside China’s Edible Insect Industry (Part 2) Hey! It’s Josh.
We’re in the Yangzhou’s country side, and I’m about to pick some bugs
to eat for dinner. Originally known for destroying soybean plants, the “doudan” is a pest that transformed into
a seasonal delicacy, like lobster. I went to meet with Lu Jun,
an entrepreneur, and a “doudan” lover, who started the bug farm to meet the local demands. So this is a doudan.
The entire green house is full of them. This one’s probably 30 days old.
Pretty soon you’ll be able to eat it. 55 of these cost about $50. I’m not really freaked out by it.
That looks like a nice, healthy green color. They eat pesticide free soybeans. This look like a 2 or 3 bite doudan to me. You can swallow it hole,
but who wants to do that? You’re suppose to savor it. Xia Zhenqiang is the business partner and
researcher behind doudan enterprise. He studied doudan for 10 years
at his lab at the School of Engineering. I asked Mr. Xia to take me to his moth breeding compound, so I can see his special techniques in action. It’s definetly a little gross. All of these doudan, basically got some
kind of weird fungal infection, or problem. And so result is that, they become like weird
brightly colored orange funguses, or turn totally white and slimy. Jun Lu invited me to a
doudan feast at a local restaurant. It turns out that cooking doudan is
as labor intensive as breeding them. It’s actually a little bit nasty because you’re basically crushing this creature from tale to nose. Bug comes on, guts come out. It looks like the consistency of an egg drop soup,
or something. I think I liked the look of them a little bit better
when they were whole. Now there’s like all this bug pulp,
in the parking lot, outside the restaurant, and some measly white flesh in this basin next to her. Unlike the insects I ate in Yunnan, which were
pretty much deep-fried and served whole, the doudan were presented in a way that was
a little bit different from how they looked in the field. Let’s try it. It doesn’t taste super strongly of anything actually. It’s just very soft, kinda slightly chewy taste. Let’s try some more. So it’s the start of doudan season now, and that’s when doudan are the most expensive. So this plate is around 2.000 yuan,
about 300 US dollars. So it’s not to be wasted. The most disgusting insect I can think of is the cockroach. It was with a mixture of dread and morbid curiosity, that I had to visit Xiao Pin’s cockroach farm,
in the middle of nowhere, in Hunan. It’s actually really nice out here, but than there’s like this gray concrete bunker
filled with cockroaches. There aren’t any cockroaches roaming around here.
Just smells like a bit musky. This is getting a bit nasty. Aw, it just reeks. It’s super warm. And there’s just bugs everywhere. They just crawling everywhere. It’s really warm and hot. So it’s like pure protein albino cockroach,
that just shed all of his skin. So like 250, more than 250 kilos of cockroaches in here. We’re in a room full of almost
$10.000 worth of cockroaches. Hey! It’s Josh, and we’re harvesting cockroaches in Hunan, to make into powder. Usually Xiao would drown the cockroaches in boiling water, but power was out in the village, so we had to use cold water and a wok. After collecting cockroaches, we set off to
Xiao Pin’s family home to cook them. It’s about seeing the world,
and trying foods you never tried before. But this like garbage. It’s really like a hot garbage smell. It smells like New York city sidewalk to me. Dig in !
LOS I just like really don’t want to eat… this. Oh God, I really don’t want to. This is Josh, this is a cockroach, this is the cockroach farmer, and I guess I’ll try one that he raised. It just taste like the smell of cockroaches. Yeah… Xiao Pin’s cockroaches are mainly used
for Chinese medicine. He grinds them up into powder form
to ship to customers from the village. I asked his neighbors if they knew
what kind of powder it was. No one really seemed to enjoy the smell. Even though I still find cockroaches repulsive, I was still interested to see how other bugs
could improve our lives in the big city. Jiangsu’s reputation as a start up paradise
is empowering a tech from, that wants to create insects based
protein for a sustainable future. I went to meet Chaterina Unger,
the co-founder of “Living Hive” , a sustainable self contained solution for
growing meal worms in your own kitchen. Hi! Nice to meet you!
Nice to meet you! So this is the hive !?
Yeah, this is the hive. It starts with the beetles in the top. It’s where they have fun,
they hang out, they lay their eggs. The eggs are than hatched into baby meal worms, and out of these baby meal worms,
the big meal worms develop, so that’s already close to the end size. You feed each tray,
so in each tray is one week of development, which means in the first one there’s
week one of meal worms, week 2 , week 3, and so on. So you feed each tray, you’ve also feed the beetles. Once they are mature enough,
than they go into the harvest area. So you activate the harvest area. It looks like this At this moment of time the meal worms already
matured partially into the pupae. Looks like this. It’s kind of the cocoon. This you put back into the top to restart the life cycle, and the rest of them, all go through to the second stage, and only the good ones will crawl across a ramp, and fall into the harvest area. When you harvest it looks like this. So how long will it take to basically
fill this with meal worms? Like we see here. The life cycle is about seven weeks. Once you have the cycle full going,
you can harvest every week, continuously. For being a hard work company we found that infra-structuring “?” is just ideal for us to do prototyping very fast. Here, you order something,
and than the next day it arrives at your office. So prototyping and testing
ideas quickly is very easy here. I was looking into industrial scale meat production, production of animal protein. This led me to all different kinds of things. I looked into micro algae, into lab grown meat, I looked into all different kind of processes, and insects were just one of it. So it was just interesting to work as a food source, and it made the most sense
from the sustainability stand point. Where do you see insect eating going, say… 30 or 50 years from now? It is a future food in some ways,
but it’s also a food from the past. Here in China, in Africa, in South America, people eat them already. For the next 20, 30 years
I think is just going to become very normal. You know, insect protein powder, next to other protein powder, or next to the flour in a bakery, or area in a supermarket. And people will acknowledge it as such. Chaterina invited me to a meal worm brunch
she was hosting with some friends. It was interesting to taste how virtually indistinguishable the meal worms were from normal ingredients. OK, so this is cush-cush salad with
rosted meal worms, and Feta, and olives. OK, and these are white bean meal worms patties. Great! It’s really really good. It tastes like… Latka “?” I was “?” for a long time, when I lived in China, and we used to eat a lot of that,
like soy based meat, stuff like that. and it’s really… not particularly healthy in the digest col. – So, you’re one of the engineers for the “Living Hive” project?
– Yes. Was it engineering, plus insect interest,
that you had before, or primarily engineering? My background is aerospace engineering, and I’m really interested in… going to Mars, and all of these things. One of the things that really strike me is that, a lot of proteins and nutrients in a very small package. When you’re launching into space, that is something that you have to really consider, right? That’s something that really made me
very interested about that project. A big percentage of our customers are man. I’m not sure exactly why.
Maybe they’re just more interested in new technology. I’m not sure. We said, OK, we have to design for…
for their… for whoever they live with, really, that they are fine with it. Whoever is like:
You’re not raising bugs in my apartment! Yeah. Living in densely packed cities it’s clear that having a smaller footprint can lead to a more sustainable future. Right now, insect eating in China and around the world, has yet to be accepted on a completely wide spread level. It feels like it’s still in a faze to being a food trend, like wheatgrass, quinoa or goji berries. But there is a pretty clear irony that the
people who are eating insects in China, are either from the poorest side of society, or those who have
the financial means to enjoy it as a novelty.


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