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How to Enjoy Fish and Chips Sustainably

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by Bastion Harrison (subscribe)
Freelance writer and poet from London; if you would like to read my poetry, please check out my book, 'Poems on the Page', available from
Published January 1st 2014
Sustaining the Environment & Your Health
fish and chips
Picture courtesy of Jeremy Keith, Wikipedia

Fish and chips is a classic dish enjoyed around the world, but our love of the stuff has lead to many problems for the fish population; many species are at critical levels with the chances of becoming extinct. With all the fat, a fish and chip supper also tends to be rather calorific. But there are ways to enjoy our fish and chips in a way that is sustainable for the environment and our health.

Where to buy your fish

Where you buy your fish is important. There are several options - a fast food restaurant, takeaway, pub, supermarket, fishmongers - and some are more sustainable than others.

Fast food restaurants and takeaways are cheap for a reason. In general they use lots of fat and source their fish from intensive farming so they can buy in bulk and cut costs. This can be disastrous on your health and fish populations.

Pubs tend to be a better choice because they don't specialise in fish and chips, but focus on lots of different meals - pies, steaks, etc. This means they don't have to buy in such big bulk. The fish may be more expensive, but it will be better quality, and probably sourced by more ethical means.

If you plan to have fish and chips at home, you can buy your fish from a supermarket or a fishmongers. Fishmongers will have fresh fish, which is usually locally sourced. If it is is wild fish, then it is probably line-caught, although not necessarily. You should always ask.

At the supermarket, always read the label. Fish from sustainable sources should be certified by the Marine Stewardship Council and feature their label on the packet. It will also state whether it is line caught or not. Line caught is best because it means it is less intensive, and gives a chance for fish populations to grow.

When it comes to buying chips, this is more a health issue. At a restaurant always buy a small portion, because even these are probably worth two helpings. If cooking at home, oven chips contain less fat and are the better option.

What type of fish and chips to eat

Many fish are critically endangered because of our constant demand for them. Favourites such as cod, plaice, rock salmon, bass, and skate are considered to be in most danger.

According to the Good Fish Guide, some alternative species that are more sustainable include pollock, haddock, whiting, scampi, tilapia, mussels, and char.

Some species such as seabass are endangered in open sea farming, but when farmed in land based systems are very sustainable. Check when buying.

As said before, oven chips have less fat than those that go in the deep fryer. It is also best to eat crinkly chips and the ridges mean less fat touches the surface. Chunky chips are better than skinny fries because it means you get more potato and less oil. As accompaniments choose normal peas over mushy peas, and pickled onions over onion rings.

How to cook your fish and chips

If you are making your own fish and chips then some cooking options are better than others.

1. Have breaded fish rather than battered fish - or even better, just have your fish as nature intended.

2. Cut your chips thick, and leave the skins on for extra nutrition. Use an oven or an air fryer rather than a deep fat fryer.

3. Serve with salad.
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Why? Fish need saving
Your Comment
Great article Bryony - as usual, you taught me a few new things ie, certification by the Marine Stewardship Council (yet another New Year's resolution: to scrupulously read all labels)! PS: "Happy New Year" & all the best for 2014...
by Jenny Pickett (score: 3|1733) 3098 days ago
Thank you, great article.
by rache (score: 1|19) 3098 days ago
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