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Invasivorism - Have You Heard of it?


Invasive Species as a Reliable Food Source

If you’re not familiar with the term invasivorism, it refers to the process of combating invasive plant and animal species by harvesting them for food. It’s a concept worth exploring for its impact on supply chains, food security and the environment.


A Few Fun Facts

There are over 6,500 invasive plant and animal species in the world. Their ability to reproduce quickly and their overall aggressiveness in ecosystems has threatened many agricultural operations. Efforts to eliminate copi in the Mississippi River, green crabs in Maine, lionfish in Florida, and many other species have cost the U.S. billions of dollars over the last few decades. Preserving agricultural land and waterways is crucial for maintaining healthy supply chains. Yet, invasive plants continue to destroy crop land needed for growing food. Commercially harvested fish and seafood operations have seen decreases in populations largely due to invasive ocean critters claiming food sources.


Feeding Families and Restoring Ecosystems

The Invasivorism movement gained traction in the early 2000’s with conservation biologist, Joe Roman. After encountering a Massachusetts fisherman selling invasive snails to local restaurants, he got curious about invasive species markets.


Using non-indigenous species as a food source has the potential to restore health to an imbalanced ecosystem.  Rather than simply killing off these species, perhaps, aggressive plants and animals could be repurposed for consumption. In doing so, populations could be managed to the point that biodiversity could once again take hold. Ultimately, the practice could be beneficial for both humans and the environment. 


Similarly, the process could give an entirely new meaning to the phrase buy local and provide low-cost food options to urban areas. Mississippi River fishermen could easily harvest upwards of 50 million copi fish and ship them to St, Louis or Chicago.  Green crabs from Main and Massachusetts could be supplied in abundance to east coast restaurants and seafood vendors. Processing and transporting costs would be minimized allowing for low market prices; a win for regional food security. Already the lionfish has gained popularity in Florida restaurants proving that over time, these species could become everyday meal options.


Will People Eat Invasive Species?

The current obstacle to the movement appears to be converting mainstream perspective and building culinary markets for these invasive species. It’s not as simple as catching crabs and serving them at restaurants until people expect them. Illinois changed the name of the invasive Asian carp to copi for this very reason. The original name prompted negative connotations with the fish so consumers didn’t associate it with a healthy or tasty dinner idea.


A second obstacle is simply a disbelief that foraging and hunting could put a significant enough dent in problems. In California chefs are foraging for the invasive wild mustard plant, but what they gather hasn’t kept pace with how quickly new plants emerge.  Without significant effort to find uses for these species, the concept will be stuck in the idea phase.


Conservationists and biologists see another potential impact in the form of consumer demand. Should any one of these species jump from undesirable to desirable, farming them in areas they have not been found could perpetuate the invasive issues.


The Invasive Market

The quickest growing markets are the pet food industry and non-main course options. Already some pet food products are incorporating these invasive species, many of which are rich in nutrients. And it’s very possible that we will see sauces and ready-made meal options start to incorporate some of these plants and animals in an effort to build out culinary markets.


It may still be decades before the concept becomes mainstream practice. But it was only 100 years ago that the lobster was considered inedible! Who knows what the next delicacy will be.


Read up on invasive species in your area here http://eattheinvaders.org/







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