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Jonas Drotner Mouritsen

Octopuses can become an important food resource in the global world

With a growing world population and climate challenges, many people ask themselves where tomorrow’s sustainable food will come from. A professor from University of Copenhagen and a Danish chef may have part of the solution: The number of octopuses in the oceans increases – let’s learn how to cook them, so more people want to eat them!

Among chefs and scientists within gastronomy there are an increasing interest in exploring local waters in order to exploit resources in a more diverse and sustainable way, including exploiting the octopus stock as a counterweight to the declining fishing of bonefish, as well as an interest in finding new protein sources that can replace meat from land animals.

“We know that fish is threatened and we are having trouble making new aquaculture due to pollution problems. The stock of octopuses increases throughout the world, which is why we have investigated how to make people eat squid in the parts of the world where there is no widespread tradition for it” says Professor Ole G. Mouritsen of the Department of Food Science at the University of Copenhagen.

A good source of healthy nutrition

Octopuses is known to adapt to temperature changes, and recent research shows that the world’s stock has been growing since the 1950s and up to today – possibly due to climate change. Octopuses usually only lives for 2-3 years, some of them being 18 meters long. Thus, they are extremely effective in transforming food into muscles, which means they can contribute with healthy proteins in food products for humans. One challenge is, however, that they are difficult to breed in aquaculture because they require very special and very costly feed.

“The growth in the stock applies to all octopus species – including the edible. The squid is filled with healthy nutrients like proteins, minerals, omega-3 fatty acids and a number of micronutrients, making them an obvious future food resource,” says Ole G. Mouritsen.

Amazing flavors will make us eat squid

Ole G. Mouritsen believes that we will eat octopus in the future and that gastronomy and science in collaboration can pave the way by creating dishes that are both healthy and tasty.

“In the future we are forced to find alternative food sources, but people won’t eat something they do not like. That’s why it’s taste is so important. I believe that octopus will become a widespread food worldwide if we succeed at getting squid dishes to taste so well that there will also be a business potential for them” says Ole G. Mouritsen.

Although octopuses are a traditional part of the food traditions in many parts of the world, there are only a few top chefs and gastronomic entrepreneurs who have been interested in upgrading them to a meal at Michelin star level. But two things indicate that this is changing: Chefs in food cultures where there is no tradition for neither fishing nor consumption of octopuses begins to explore and define a local octopus kitchen; and chefs in countries where there is a long tradition of eating octopus have been interested in reinventing the use of octopus, for example by inventing new dishes and using body parts previously regarded as worthless in cooking.

Did you know that Denmark is world leading within sustainable fishery? Read more here.

Source: Copenhagen University