The multilayered love for earthworms in China

Signal of change / The multilayered love for earthworms in China

By Carolina Altenburger / 12 Apr 2019

The taste of earthworms is described as pork-belly-like, making them a very popular dish in China. Not only the food industry sees their value, but they’re also used in cosmetic products and medicine.

Their versatile use made the earthworm collection a very lucrative job. Collectors can get an average price of around US$2 per kilo.

To collect the earthworms electric current is used to drive them to the surface, so they can easily be picked up. 

This method leads to full buckets of worms in just a few hours and to areas in where earthworms have become locally extinct.

So what?


Earthworms have important value for the soil’s quality. They loosen the soil, boost the air movement and their faeces increases organic materials. By doing so they are crucial contributors to healthy and arable soil. With the infiltration of electricity into the soil to collect the earthworms other, smaller creatures are getting killed as well.

The result is hard soil, with a bare minimum of nutrition which is not arable anymore.

A possible remedy could be an idea Chinese cities came up within 2017. Earthworm farms fed food waste to the worms and applied the worm dung to organic compost.

The idea was to reduce the growing amount of food waste in China’s cities. 50 to 60 tons were delivered per week.. As a side effect, the soil in the farm’s areas improved.


What might the implications of this be? What related signals of change have you seen?

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