RESEARCHERS FROM the University of York have ranked the top ten celebrity cookbooks in order of the sustainability of the seafood they feature.
Books published by some of the leading chefs between 2005 and 2012 were targeted by Marine Environment Management masters student Polly Bowman.
Hugh Fearnely-Whittingstall topped the list, with his books averaging 87%. In comparison Delia Smith’s books scored consistently low – between 17% and 22% – coming 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% to 85% between 2005 and 2011 – reflecting a general improvement in the use of sustainable seafood in the cook books from most chefs in recent years.
Bowman, who carried out the research as part of her course, 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.”
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.