Why Aren’t We Eating Asian Carp?

Have you ever tried eating Asian carp?  Probably not! But have you ever asked yourself WHY? For those of you with young kids, you might be familiar with a book series by Lauren Child that stars brother and sister Charlie and Lola. The book  I Will Never Not Ever Eat a Tomato was one of my children’s favorites when they were little. I must admit, it is pretty high on my list of awesome kid’s books as well!

The entire book is all about the things that Lola WON’T eat…until carrots become orange twiglets from Jupiter and mashed potatoes, are now “cloud fluff from the pointiest peak of Mount Fuji”. Suddenly, the things Lola had previously turned her nose up at become delicacies to be enjoyed with great relish! I recently came across a story on NPR about the Asian Carp invasion that reminded me of this amusing little children’s book.

Why Aren’t We Eating Asian Carp?

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collage of asian carp in water and fishermen on boat with text 'asian carp invasive species or sustainable seafood'

What is the Asian Carp?

Have you ever heard of the Asian Carp? They are an invasive species of fish originally brought to the US from China in the 1970’s to clean retention ponds. When the ponds flooded, they escaped into nearby rivers and have been making their way upstream to the Great Lakes ever since.

By Ramon FVelasquez (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons
By Ramon FVelasquez WikiMedia commons

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They weigh up to 100 pounds and eat 40 percent of their body weight each day. They are crowding out native species and their sheer size and number make boating in certain areas of the rivers dangerous. Especially since certain species like to leap out of the water when startled by boat motors. Ever get hit by a 100 pound fish? OUCH!

More Food for Thought

fishing boat

How to Control the Asian Carp Population

Well, Illinois has come up with a proposal to help control the Asian carp population AND feed the hungry at the same time! Send fisherman out after these fishy giants and serve them up as dinner to the homeless or underfed.

Right now, removal efforts are ongoing but the fish are just destined for landfills…WHY throw the fish into a landfill when it is perfectly edible and there is a huge population of hungry people to feed?

Apparently, local officials have Louisiana chef Philippe Parola on hand to create some culinary masterpieces so that people can have a little taste test and see for themselves.

This species is decimating the populations of native fish in the rivers leading towards the Great Lakes and millions of dollars are being spent to control their spread. Eating Asian Carp seems like a logical solution, right? Can we turn this invasive fish into a sustainable seafood choice?

fried fish

Can you Eat Asian Carp?

It isn’t like people have never tried eating Asian Carp before. People in China eat it quite regularly. The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries has suggested giving the Asian carp a new name and is pushing the term “silverfin” in hopes that people stop wrinkling their noses at it. Sound familiar? (hmmm, see the Charlie and Lola reference at the top of the page!)

When unemployed and underemployed people at an Illinois food bank were asked whether they would eat it the answers ranged from ‘uuhhh…..maybe’ to ‘No way!’ 


Invasive Species and Food Insecurity

Think about this:  A study by the United States Department of Agriculture that came out this month shows that almost 15% of American households suffered from ‘food insecurity’ at some point last year.

That means that in 15% of households, somebody went to bed hungry. A child went to school hungry. Or a mother had to tell her kids that there was nothing for lunch that day. But many of these same people were the ones that stated NO, they would not try eating Asian Carp.

Not because it is poisonous or tastes bad.  But simply because it wasn’t on the mental list of acceptable foods to eat.

I am just as guilty of this as the next person. I have heard that in some countries people eat horses and dogs.  However,  I honestly would starve to death before I ate my pup! Our food preferences are ingrained at a very young age and are subject to the whims of society.

Have you eaten anything that others would consider ‘unacceptable’? I have had alligator but that isn’t considered weird down in the Gulf area where we lived for many years. I tried escargot but there is just something about the ick factor of eating a snail that I couldn’t get over! What’s the weirdest thing you have eaten?

Would you be more open to eating outside the norm if you were truly starving for food?

10 thoughts on “Why Aren’t We Eating Asian Carp?”

  1. interesting thought. i think it’s a great idea, actually, to use the fish to our benefit. i’m not too adventurous with food and haven’t eaten anything out of the norm…buffalo, octopus. but if i were starving, i’d probably eat anything.

    thanks so much for stopping by! returning the follow 🙂

  2. I would eat whatever I had to if I needed food. I’m originally from Poland and have heard stories from my grandmother and great grandmother how they made soup out of weeds and sparrows or random birds during WW2. They did what they had to in order to survive. I lived on her farm the first few years of my life where we ate everything we grew because we couldn’t buy it in stores – Let me say chicken hearts and stomachs are quite tasty 🙂 And my mother has made cow stomach lining soup which is considered a delicacy in some places (guessing not in the US) 🙂

  3. The weirdest thing – beef tongue – sounds bad, tastes GOOD! Old family tradition!!!

    Hop’n by from ‘Thursday Cup of Joe Blog Hop’. I’m following your blog now, wont you please come and follow me back?? ~KM

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  4. I have had alligator and escargot. I have also tried rattle snake once. Sometimes I can be adventurous, depending on what it was–I might try a chocolate covered grasshopper, but not worms, and I really do not think I would like carp. Interesting concept though, and I understand Illinois goal.

  5. Very interesting post. I love fish so I’d give this a try. And my dogs are my kids, so I wouldn’t eat dog meat.

    I stopped eating beef when I started considering getting a cow and I won’t own chickens, because I love to eat them.

    Of course, I never go to bed hungry and I try to remember this before I judge anyone else’s food choices. I try.

  6. I think the weirdest, nastiest thing I’ve eaten is chitlins. No one should ever eat something that previously processed excrement. And, obviously it smells terrible when cooking…I did not eat this out of choice. 🙂

  7. As you say it all depends on what you are used to. I’ve eaten carp & it’s not bad when deep fried. Why not use it to feed hungry people? Give it a new name if you need to.

    I’ve eaten smoked octopus & it was really good, kind of sweet. On the other hand, I have trouble with squid rings–too rubbery.


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