State officials promote Asian carp as a solution for hungry families

September 13, 2011

Associated Press and City Room Staff

(Flickr/Kate Gardiner)

Illinois officials hope they can make progress on two different problems by feeding Asian carp to hungry families.

The invasive species of fish has been added to the state's "Target Hunger Now!" program, which encourages hunters and fishermen to donate food to the needy. The state plans to promote Asian carp as a tasty food later this month with a cooking demonstration in Chicago.

The carp have been spreading across Illinois rivers and streams, killing off native species. Officials want to create demand so that commercial fishing will reduce the carp's numbers.

In March of 2010 the Chicago Reader provided several well-regarded chefs with Asian carp and asked them to try and prepare the fish. The results were mixed; Lockwood’s Phillip Foss described the carp as “about as good of a freshwater fish as I've found, period,” whereas Paul Kahan and team were “creeped out” after a few attempts at butchering and aborted their attempt. Most noted the difficulty of obtaining meat from the fish given its unusual bone structure.

The state Department of Natural Resources says Target Hunger Now! could process up to 40,000 pounds of fish a day.