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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

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A Really Ugly Fish Makes a Really Tasty Treat

If you like eating tuna fish, how about trying Chinese bighead carp? No kidding, that's what this ugly fish is called. Although it may not win any beauty contests, taste tests show this fish is actually quite tasty. As a matter of fact, 6 out of 10 people in a taste test preferred bighead carp to tuna!

Donald Freeman, a food technologist with the Agricultural Research Service, says bighead carp is a "big hit" in Europe and Asia. And Freeman is hoping consumers and fish farmers in America will develop a taste for carp as a new "catch of the day."

Do you know how much fish the United States imports each year to meet consumer demand?
a) 1 million pounds
b) 3 billion pounds
c) 4 billion pounds

Answer: C. That’s a lot of fish!

So why do we need another fish to eat anyway? Variety is the spice of life. And carp tastes great plain or with popular flavorings like hickory-smoke or teriyaki.

Also, bighead carp will save fish farmers money. Some fish, like catfish, are raised in ponds. The farmer has to feed these fish, which costs extra money. But bighead carp feast on plankton that flourish naturally in catfish ponds. "That's the beauty of the bighead carp--you don't have to feed them," explains Freeman.

Bighead carp are not only tasty, but healthy, too! They have less than 2 percent fat, plus loads of calcium and protein, and they're high in omega-3 fatty-acids (this is the "good fat" that can help prevent heart disease.)

So what's the moral of this story? Beauty is only skin deep, but the truth is in the taste.

Fun fish facts

  • In 2006, the average American ate about 16.5 pounds of fish and shellfish.
  • Americans consumed a total of nearly 5 billion pounds of seafood in 2006.
  • The world’s largest consumers of fish and shellfish are, in order, Japan, China and the United States.

--By Tara Weaver-Missick, Agricultural Research Service Information Staff


Last Modified: 8/12/2016
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