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Bear with me, this is an entirely serious if not necessarily particularly practical question :)

In The Damage Done, perhaps the best known notionally non-fiction Thai prison story (and, apparently, soon to be a movie), there are a lot of disgusting, gruesome and/or on occasion quite implausible stories, like elephants playing soccer using balls with prisoners inside.

One of these stories involves our hapless protagonist being thrown into "the hole" (isolation) for months, with only water and spoiled rice to eat. According to the book, he survived because he was taught by Thai prisoners sharing the same fate to trap the plentiful cockroaches, feed the rice to them and then eat the cockroaches (yum yum!), which apparently also served as a source of protein. Would this actually work? More specifically, can cockroaches (or insects in general) convert a simple starch into protein, and would you get sick eating them?

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    "Would you get sick eating them" is not an answerable question. For any food, the chance is over zero and less than one. Food safety answers mean "a government agency promises you that the risk of getting sick is lower than their (the agency's) tolerance limit. I doubt that any agency has published food safety guidelines on eating cockroaches. – rumtscho Feb 2 '17 at 17:19
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    Add that there is also a difference between getting ill from the item, and getting psychologically ill from the thoughts of what you are eating. In the US for instance, we routinely discard parts as offal items, and culturally many would get ill from even the thought of eating items, which in other cultures might be considered not just edible but some of the better parts. – dlb Feb 2 '17 at 20:23
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    @rumtscho - it is certainly answerable, theoretically. Some creatures, either by their composition or their habits, are going to be much more likely to carry pathogens than others. While no one can insure absolute safety for the reasons you mentioned, some things might carry much greater and more common risks than others. Any kind of animal bite COULD cause problems or infection. A Komodo Dragon is famous for the absolute filthiness of it's mouth as a den for pathogens, and are considered specially dangerous to be bitten by, to draw an analogy. – PoloHoleSet Feb 2 '17 at 21:30
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    Now, whether such a situation exists specifically for cockroaches, I don't know, but we'd have to get some answers before categorically rejecting that such information exist. dlb's answer is a fine example, imo. – PoloHoleSet Feb 2 '17 at 21:31
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    Lot of chitin (n-acetyl glucosamine etc) in a cockroach. They're flat and heavily armored. You'd probably be better off protein-content-wise with a juicer bug, like grasshoppers, crickets or June bugs. – Wayfaring Stranger Feb 3 '17 at 0:55
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Cockroaches are generally edible. Indeed, the ediblebugshop.com sells roasted cockroaches. [I have no affiliation with the website] They state:

These plain roasted cockroaches make a great snack to munch on or can be added to your favourite dish. See our recipes page for more ways to use your roasted cockroaches. Completely safe to eat and actually taste great, they are sometimes called Land Lobsters!

Another example: The Eat-A-Bug Cookbook has a recipe for Cockroach a la King. (Chapter 6, Pantry Pests)

If I were a prisoner in the hole, and if it was a roach that grew up in a clean cage with controlled feedings from me, I would eat it.

If it were a free range (so to speak) coackroach that just wandered into my cell, I wouldn't eat it uncooked. You don't know where that roach has been, what was crawled through, or what he/she has been eating. In that case, I would want to safety of cooking with heat. That may not be available in the hole.

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http://www.cnn.com/2014/08/31/travel/china-cockroach-farming-food/

They should not be much different than crickets which are commonly consumed. An insect which does not inherently produce a toxin should often be fairly safe depending on what they had been eating. A sewer roach for instance would not be a good idea while a wood roach would likely be safe in a pinch. I recall reality shows which would routinely make contestants eat giant hissing roaches something that might not be pleasant but which would not hurt the contestants.

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    Ah but did it hurt the roach, and on those programs did they put up the 'no roaches were hurt in the making of this film'? nice link – dougal 5.0.0 Feb 3 '17 at 5:18
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can cockroaches (or insects in general) convert a simple starch into protein

No, an insect cannot convert a simple starch into protein without other food. Starch (C6H10O5)n does not contain the nitrogen necessary for amino acids, which compose proteins.

But the insect does not have to convert starch into protein. Presumably this cell is not a closed system; cockroaches can eat other things outside the cell then walk into the cell.

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Entomophagy (eating of insects) is a well established culinary tradition in some cultures.

At time of answering, the relevant wikipedia article both claimed that the protein quality was comparable to soy, and showed photographs of insects/preparations commercially sold to voluntary buyers as a foodstuff in Thailand and Mexico.

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  • Would you have any references to cockroaches specifically being edible? – lambshaanxy Feb 2 '17 at 11:58
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From this page on one of my websites, here is a light hearted poke at eating insects:

Anyone in the mood for fried caterpillars? Roasted silkworms? Braised crickets? You might be blanching, but according to a group of Oxford researchers, certain bugs are more nutritious than our favorite meat staples.

In a recent study from the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers compared the nutritional profile of six commercially available insects – crickets, honey bees, silkworms, mealworms, mopane caterpillars and palm weevil larvae – to chicken, beef and pork using two different scoring systems that tracked variables like protein, fat, sodium, vitamins and minerals.

The result? When the two scoring systems were taken together, “every single insect the researchers examined came out on top,” reports Medical Daily. The researchers note that crickets, mealworms and palm weevil larvae were “significantly healthier.”

In other words, instead of slaving over Cricket à la King for dinner, try folding a little protein-rich cricket flour into your next batch of bread or cupcakes.

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    Okay, there are several issues here: (1) you linked to the whole site, not the actual source (sailingtheatlantic.com/cockroaches_and_insects.html), (2) this is all copy-pasted and you didn't mark it as quotes, (3) in copy-pasting instead of using your own words, you haven't directly answered the question (that's all about other invertebrates, not cockroaches). – Cascabel Feb 3 '17 at 0:40
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    And... (4) are you by any chance associated with either of those sites? We require disclosure when linking in that case, which you haven't done (see cooking.stackexchange.com/help/promotion), and if those aren't your words, see cooking.stackexchange.com/help/referencing (you haven't used your own words at all). If you edit your answer to address these concerns, including directly addressing the question, awesome, otherwise we'll have to remove it. – Cascabel Feb 3 '17 at 0:42
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    I've fixed your answer for you again, in terms of the links. Please read the help center articles I linked to. Notably, you need to link directly to the thing you're referencing, and you can link to your websites only when it is part of answering a question. Links beyond that are considered spam. (This is also still borderline not answering the question. It's basically just a quote, with nothing to tie it to the actual question the OP asked - does this mean cockroaches are a good source of protein like the other insects?) – Cascabel Feb 3 '17 at 5:42
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Insect are a high protean food. But lack fat. Thailand they are ate. Locus also. Sun dried & salted or fried. Being a Islander. I will go more for the scorpion myself.

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