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Celebrity chefs ranked on seafood sustainability

29 October 2013 York, University of

Celebrity chefs are encouraging more people to cook with sustainable seafood, but how far do they practise what they preach?

Researchers from the Environment Department at the University of York ranked the cook books published by ten celebrity chefs between 2005 and 2012 according to the sustainability of the seafood they feature.

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall was the front runner throughout the time period, with his books achieving an average score of 87 per cent. In comparison, Delia Smith scored consistently low, between 17 and 22 per cent, and finished at the bottom of the table. Gordon Ramsay, who once encouraged people to eat an endangered fish called orange roughy, rose from bottom of the table in 2007 to third place by 2012. Raymond Blanc, is another chef whose score rose substantially -- from 22 per cent to 85 per cent between 2005 and 2011 -- reflecting a general improvement in the use of sustainable seafood in the cook books from most chefs in recent years. 

Polly Bowman, who carried out the research as part of her MSc degree in Marine Environmental Management said “Celebrity chefs are a major part of British media culture, and are able to amass formidable book sales. Sales of endorsed products often increase following the release of their books. A chef’s ethical leanings may therefore influence the behaviour of consumers.”

Dr Bryce Stewart, who supervised the work, added: “We should not shy away from increased promotion of seafood sustainability in popular culture as it offers a potentially important way of reducing pressure on the marine environment. There is increasing evidence that demand for sustainable seafood is leading to improvements in both fisheries management and the health of certain fish stocks. The everyday actions of people in their kitchens really can make a difference to the future of our oceans.”

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall said: “I love to cook and eat seafood, and I love to feed it to my family. It's such great food, and so good for us in so many ways. All the more reason to do what we can to ensure we can continue to eat it for generations to come. Shopping sustainably for fish is not about being perfect and beyond reproach all the time, it's just about being aware that some choices are a vote for a better way of fishing, and of managing fish resources, and making these choices as often as we can. I’m delighted if my actions are helping to encourage others to think about these issues and make more informed choices when they buy and cook fish."

The research team used data from the Marine Conservation Society’s Fishonline website ( to score the sustainability of the average gram of seafood in each book. This was combined with a grading of the introduction, recipes and alternative suggested species in each book to produce an overall “sustainability” score.

The full report “Celebrity chefs and the sustainable seafood movement: Smokescreen or a dish to savour?” is available:

Attached files

  • Celebrity chefs' seafood sustainability scores

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