Advice for the world: Clean your plate
THE common carp is an ugly fish that no one, or at least not many Manitobans, wants to eat very much. It is edible, but so are tofu and mushroom soup and just because you can choke them down to avoid starvation doesn’t mean that you will seek them out in better times.
It is a pity, however, that carp isn’t accommodating to our palates because, according to the University of Winnipeg, the carp “biomass” in Lake Winnipeg may exceed all other fish combined. That means that a lot of carp and other “junk fish” are wasted when they are caught on fishermen’s lines or in their nets. There isn’t really any commercial use for them so they are just left to go to wherever dead fish go when they die.
The University of Winnipeg, however, under president Lloyd Axworthy’s mandate of community relevance, is working in co-operation with the fishery on projects that would see “zero waste” of carp, turning the junk fish into biofuels, nutraceuticals, organic fertilizers for farms and carp roe — why not cast our line a little further and call it “carp caviar” — for an already developing export market. It would mean no waste, no want and more money for fishermen.
It also marks a path for a wasteful world to take. Anyone who has ever been a child, which includes most of you, knows that, when eating, we should clean our plates because there are children starving in China or Africa or wherever, as mothers have forever relentlessly reminded their children. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to ever have had any effect — the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization reports that worldwide, 30 per cent to 50 per cent of all food produced is wasted.
That doesn’t include just fat, rich Westerners who, having pushed their waistbands as far they can for one day, leave half a plate of fast-food on their restaurant’s groaning boards (in the interests of full disclosure, I confess that at a recent lunch at the University of Winnipeg I left some food on my plate which I can only hope was then recycled for students).
Those figures are also true of countries where people are actually starving, although the circumstance may be different for families too poor to afford refrigerators, freezers, storage cupboards or doggy bags.
Almost none of this food is or can be recycled in any useful way, such as using carp biofuel or fertilizer — it is simply waste, an extraordinary 110 million tons of food a year, according to The Economist. But if the University of Winnipeg can create a useful carp, then it opens other paths to increasing food production, perhaps, by diverting at least a little corn from automobiles that run on ethanol to the dinner tables of the Third World. That would be an uncommon carp, indeed.