Back to nature: wildlife-friendly food trends
FOOD & DRINK | March 1, 2020

Back to nature: wildlife-friendly food trends

As the trees fan out their new leaves and British wildlife shakes off a long, wet winter, this month on the blog we’re looking at the choices we can make to support the natural world. 

In honour of World Wildlife Day on Wednesday 3rd March, this week we’re investigating the ways we can tweak our standard UK diets to be kinder to scaled, winged, furred and feathered friends. 

Read on for wildlife-friendly foodie inspiration, practical tips and recommended products…




The battle against invasive species

When non-native critters are either accidentally or intentionally introduced to an area, they can have devastating effects on native wildlife. 

A photo of the side view of an orange, white and brown striped lionfish, drifting underwater above a reef

This is a lionfish, one of the most aggressively invasive species on the planet. Hailing from the Western Pacific and Indian Oceans, back in the 1990s their glamorous spines caught the attention of aquarium fish importers in the United States. 

Unfortunately lionfish make for high maintenance pets, tending to sting to death or chow down on any other fish housed with them. It’s thought that this may have led some disgruntled owners to dump these venomous, highly aggressive and adaptable fish into the Atlantic, where they have no natural predators. 

It took just ten years for these feisty beasts to colonise reefs along more than 1,000 miles of coastline. Studies have shown that just one lionfish taking up residence can reduce the number of juvenile reef fish in that patch by more than three-quarters. 

So any good news here? Turns out lionfish are quite delicious, with a texture and taste similar to the very endangered halibut.  

It took just ten years for invasive lionfish to colonise reefs along more than 1,000 miles of Atlantic coastline
Chef Bun Lai rolling a piece of sushi

Chefs serving up platefuls of invasive species

The pioneering chef Bun Lai first designed a sushi menu around invasive species all the way back in 2005. Think delicate lionfish sashimi, beautiful sushi made from the meat of kelp-forest-killing sea urchins and noodles tossed with greens from that ferociously-fast-growing-foundation-destroyer, Japanese knotweed.

Where Bun Lai led, other chefs have followed. Sustainable food restaurants are now, quite simply, putting the bad guys on the menu. Forget farm-to-table, this is invasive-species-to-table! 

Forget farm-to-table, this is invasive-species-to-table!

Three ways to help protect wildlife with your food choices:

1) Buy local honey

Bees need our support, as do the beekeepers that care for them, protecting the hives from disruption and disease. Choosing to spend your money on honey from close-to-home sources will help beekeeping businesses thrive. 

More hives means more bees, which means more efficient pollination and happier, more productive plants providing more nutritious food for local wildlife.  

Buy honey from a London beekeeper

A photograph of six 'sushi uni' on a banana leaf. These are sushi rice wrapped in seaweed and topped with bright orange meat from sea urchins.


2) Give invasive sea urchin a go

Sea urchin is a commonplace ingredient on seafood menus in both Japan and Italy, yet we’re only just catching on to its delights here in the UK. The meat is slightly sweet with a creamy, melt-in-the-mouth texture. 

Look out for sea urchin dishes next time you eat Japanese or Italian. Let’s help save the North Sea’s kelp forests by devouring platters of sushi uni (pictured) and spaghetti ai ricci di mare!  

Buy sea urchin pulp to try at home


3) Choose restaurants serving sustainable food

Next time you’re deciding where to eat, all things being equal, why not choose the restaurant with the strongest sustainability policy? Put your money where your mouth is and reward people who care. 

A few tips for when you’re next passing through London:  

BREAKFAST: If you’re twiddling your thumbs at King’s Cross or St Pancras of a morning, skip behind the train stations to find the excellent sustainable breakfasts at Caravan café

LUNCH: Line-caught fish, free range meat AND honey from their rooftop beehives? Reasonably priced Sunday roasts??? Better book, as the Three Stags pub near Waterloo is never short of custom. 

DINNER: Adventurous eaters should head for a menu of wild foraged food and seasonal game at Native in London’s Borough Market. You may even get the chance to sample the famous grey squirrel lasagne.  


What do you think about eating invasive species as a way of protecting native plants and animals? Would you be more likely to eat meat or fish if you knew that you were helping the planet by doing so? Share your thoughts with us on Facebook or Twitter


>> Five reasons to cut down on processed foods

>> Fair trade jelly beans? Fabulous new fairly traded foods to try



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