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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!

A Really Ugly Fish Makes A Really Tasty Treat

Donald Freeman, a food technologist with the Agricultural Research Service, says bighead carp is a "big hit" in Europe and Asia. Americans are eating more and more fish, too. And Freeman is hoping consumers and fish farmers in America will develop a taste for carp as a new "catch of the day."  (See also: Asian Carp Problems)

A Bighead Carp in Hand


The United States imports about 3 billion pounds of fish each year to meet consumer demand.

So why do we need another fish to eat anyway? Variety is the spice of life. And canned 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. He leads the ARS Aquaculture Systems Research Unit at Pine Bluff, Arkansas.


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.

--By Tara Weaver-Missick, formerly, Agricultural Research Service Information Staff
Photo courtesy of ARS 
Sci4kids from the USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS)


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