Farm Burger Introduces Invasive Species Sandwich

©. Sara Hanna Photography

Few things make as much sense as eating a harmful species, while sparing the threatened ones.

Back in the 1970s, somebody had the bright idea to introduce a new fish to the Chesapeake Bay region. Native to other parts of the country, blue catfish were released and began to thrive. And thrive, and thrive, and thrive. Weighing in at up to 100 pounds and with a lifespan of 20 years – and no natural predators in the area – the catfish have become a menace. They threaten the native populations of menhaden fish, blue crabs and other species that are important to the region’s ecosystem and economy – and they are rapidly spreading. In James and Rappahannock tributaries, they make up 75 percent of the total fish biomass, meaning that they comprise 3/4 of the total weight of all fish there.

The plot line is unfortunately a familiar one in the annals of invasive species. But unlike the challenges some invasive species present, the blue catfish has a fatal flaw: People love the way it tastes.

The idea of eating invasive species isn't new, but it hasn't always been the easiest sell. The fate of the blue catfish may be different, and fast-casual chain, Farm Burger, it taking the reins with the announcement of their new Catfish Sandwich, starring, yes the invasive blue catfish.

With 12 locations across the states, it's not a huge surprise that this initiative would be coming from the chain. With a focus on creative menus and locally sourced ingredients, the company earned a spot on the Good Food 100 Restaurants List for its work to promote good food and sustainable food systems.

“We had been looking for a way to incorporate sustainable seafood onto the menu for a while, knowing that much of the seafood served in restaurants is endangered,” said Jason Mann, co-founder and CEO of Farm Burger. “At Farm Burger, our goal is always to do right by people and planet. If this offering can spark a conversation among people who may not be aware of this environmental issue, that’s positive momentum in my opinion.”

It's unusual for TreeHugger to be promoting a food item that is not plant-based, but for the sake of the affected ecosystems and all the other organisms being wiped out because of the catfish, it seems prudent. Now if only Farm Burger could figure out how to make the accompanying cole slaw with kudzu and the pickles with Japanese knotweed.

The Catfish Sandwich will be available at all Farm Burger locations (except for the Mercedes-Benz Stadium location) starting March 5.