“Invasivore” Diet Making Headway as Next Locavore Movement

Kudzu is an invasive weed for the vegetarian set

In a recent New York Times article “A Diet for an Invaded Planet,” James Gorman postulates whether folks who eat invasive species – or as he aptly names them, “invasivores” – will be the next leading food diet trend that aims at being easy on the planet.

So why are environmentally-conscious foodies concerned about invasive species?  Well, the name speaks for itself.  Invasive species are plants, pathogens or animals that disruptively take over habitats in ways that decrease native biodiversity. Since these (usually) non-native species colonize native habitats, they can have a negative impact on the local ecosystem. 

Some invasivores consider deer fair game

Not only is it bad for nature, but it’s also burning a hole in our government’s pocket; According to this Treehugger post, the Global Invasive Species Program (GISP) claims that the United States alone pays approximately $120 billion annually on efforts to manage over 800 invasive species populations, while worldwide, that spending increases to $1.4 trillion.

Gorman gives a nod to a man whom he considers to be a “serious” invasivore, Jackson Landers, who writes the blog Locavore Hunter and is author of the upcoming book Eating Aliens, in which he plans to describe his invasive species diet of lionfish, iguana, armadillos, starlings, pigeons, Canadian geese, among other unsuspecting choices.  Gorman admits, “I don’t see the beginning of a menu there. But if we broaden the definition of invasives to include the things that invade the average suburbanite’s yard and golf course, a world of possibilities open up — deer, raccoons, opossums, squirrels, skunks, rabbits and woodchucks.”

The article also points to Rachel Kesen, an advocate of this diet who in a blog post advises, “The invasive species diet is a new ecological diet for those who want to bioremediate at dinner. You can do this as a vegetarian or omnivore, depending on your tastes.” As a vegetarian, she encourages people to eat local weeds such as nasturtium, kudzu, field mustard, or French broom.

Chicago chefs serve Asian Carp for dinner

One invasive species that has received much recent attention is the Asian Carp.  This Utne Reader article chronicles Chicago chefs’ attempts to turn this otherwise ugly and un-extraordinary fish into something appealing to a wider chef and diner audience.  Similarly, a New York Times Dot Earth post by Andrew C. Revkins speculates on the chef’s role in curbing this and other invasive fish species.

In addition, Triple Pundit’s own Mary Catherine O’Conner did a fascinating series on how the Asian Carp is disturbing the Great Lakes ecosystem:

Asian Carp Part 1:  Can Plundering for Profit Save Precious Waterways?

Asian Carp Part 2:  Another Unwanted, Expensive Invader

Government Aid to Flow into Great Lakes, Helping to Fight Asian Carp

While it appears that this new diet for the planet is currently in the spotlight, as Gorman says, it is going to take chefs, eaters, hunters, environmentalists, as well as effective policy together to make the perfect storm for a successful movement.  What invasive species are making their way into recipes and menus in your neck of the woods?

Lesley Lammers

Lesley Lammers is a freelance sustainability consultant and journalist, focused on the intersection between the environment, food, social impact, human rights, health and entrepreneurship.

2 responses

  1. No, contrary to your heading on that photo, *no* invasivores consider deer fair game. I think I can say this with confidence because I am, at present, the only person who seems to be making a point of eating invasive species as a general thing.

    Gorman’s comment about deer and raccoons and so forth was incorrect and very ill-advised. None of those other species he cited are ‘invasive.’ They are nuisance species, but they are native. They are found in a geographic area where they have been for thousands of years. That is not invasive by any stretch of the imagination.

    That said, I eat deer nearly every day. Whitetails can and should be sustainably harvested for food. But I do not claim that whitetail deer are an invasive species in North America and I have a serious problem with claims to that effect.

  2. I agree with the comment above, “deer, raccoons, opossums, squirrels, skunks, rabbits and woodchucks” are definitely not “invasive” … it’s kinda silly to call them that. They are definitely plentiful and I have no problem with the deer harvest.

    Nutrias, on the other hand, those little devils are invasive. We should be all over harvesting them!

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