Want To Help Curb Food Waste? Start Eating Fish Heads

Here's looking at you. (dalvenjah)

Here’s looking at you. (dalvenjah)

At first, reading words like “oozed with sizzling fat” or “extra-tender meat” conjures up a tempting culinary event. But what if those words were linked with “fish heads”? That kind of dining experience is what many experts say could be a key component to reducing the world’s food waste. Yes, eating fish heads.

After all, it’s not uncommon in many other countries in the world to eat the parts of a fish we Westerners tend to go for, which is usually a boneless fillet. As NPR’s The Salt explains, with the above tantalizing description, there’s a lot of meat to be had in the head — including the eyeballs and softer pieces of cartilage.

But because so many people shun fish byproducts, a whole lot of heads, tails and other bits are either fed to livestock, made into fertilizer or just tossed out. That practice is wasteful, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization said recently.

“We must ensure that these byproducts are not wasted,” Audun Lem, chief of FAO’s products, trade and marketing branch, said in a statement.

But… the whole fish? What is there even to eat in there? A lot, a scientist with the FAO tells The Salt — fish bones, brains, cartilage and fat are nutritious, containing extra-high levels of vitamin A, omega-3 fatty acids, iron, zinc and calcium, he says. And if we’re eating that stuff, we’re reducing pollution from processing facilities.

“From the nutritional, environmental and economic points of view, it makes perfect sense to use all parts of the fish,” he explained, except for shark orange roughy, swordfish and some tuna heads, which could contain high levels of mercury and other toxins.

Even if the idea of chowing down on a fish head makes you want to never eat anything ever again because your stomach just couldn’t take it, you could already be eating them anyway. One Alaskan company renders salmon heads into oil, that’s then sold in capsules as a nutritional supplement.

The co-owner of the company says that’s probably the best way to go about it for Americans.

Co-owner Richard Mullins says that seems to be the most effective way to market the nutritional goodness of fish heads to Americans.

“We have a thing in our culture about eating things with eyes,” he says.

Indeed. Thank goodness this wasn’t a lunchtime post.

You can follow MBQ on Twitter but you should know she probably won’t be eating fish heads anytime soon: @marybethquirk

Why We Should Quit Tossing Fish Heads And Eat ‘Em Up Instead. Yum! [The Salt]

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  1. theoriginalcatastrophegirl says:

    at the very least maybe use them to make soup stock and then compost them/use them to fertilize your vegetable patch? that last part wouldn’t work for me – my cats would dig them up and choke on the bones.
    fish cheek is delicious, but sadly often hard to get if you aren’t buying a whole fish. grouper (very large fish) has cheeks big enough to grill up like a steak and was always quite the delicacy when i was growing up in florida, when we could get them

  2. Airwave says:

    Anybody who eats shrimp and does not suck out their brains is also throwing away a tasty treat.

  3. MarthaGaill says:

    How is it wasteful if the heads are generally being used? Most people I know don’t buy a whole fish, they get it pre-cut. Maybe they should commit to throwing out fewer heads and tails and use them to make more feed and fertilizer.

  4. xvdgry57 says:

    Fish heads fish heads
    Roly poly fish heads
    fish heads fish heads
    eat them up, yum!
    In the morning laughing happy fish heads
    In the evening floating in the soup
    (chorus)
    Ask a fish head anything you want to
    they wont answer they cant talk.
    (chorus)
    I took a fish head out to see a mooovie
    didnt have to pay to get it in.
    (chorus)
    They don’t play baseball
    they don’t wear sweaters
    they’re not good dancers
    They dont play drums!