13-01-25McDonaldsfish
Marine Stewardship Council

McDonald’s Filet-O-Fish sandwich was originally introduced in 1962 to appeal particularly to Catholic customers who eschew meat every Friday during Lent, which lasts for about 40 days. This year, McDonald’s will have new Fish McBites on hand, too. But it’s not just Lent, which begins this Wednesday, that’s been a boon for fast-food fish. From Time:

In recent months, fast food establishments have demonstrated a taste for chicken. Poultry has reached a new level of popularity among fast food restaurants and diners alike because it’s a cheaper and healthier alternative to beef (or at least it’s perceived to be so). Chicken is also easily prepared in bite-size portions (nuggets, dippers, McBites, etc.), making it a perfect fit for the rising culture of on-the-go snacking.

If one affordable, quick, and healthy (or at least healthier) snack proves to be a hit with customers, fast food restaurants are sure to see if similar offerings can succeed as well. That’s why we’re seeing a big push for fish lately.

And it’s not just McDonald’s.

This week, Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s introduced the Charbroiled Atlantic Cod Fish Sandwich at all locations around the country. The company announced the new sandwich was aimed directly at consumers tweaking their diets during Lent, and also folks concerned about eating more healthfully in the new year…

Meanwhile, next week, Wendy’s will begin advertising its Premium Fish Fillet Sandwich, which the chain has made available for a limited time around Lent for a few years in a row. None of this means that fish will come anywhere near the popularity of chicken at fast food establishments anytime soon. But more and more, the February-March period is clearly peak season for fans of fast food fish treats.

Here’s Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s sandwich commercial featuring a scantily clad swimsuit model, which might make you think twice about this whole “appealing to pious Christians” thing:

According to Seafood Watch, depending on how and where it’s caught, that Atlantic cod may be either a middling “good alternative” or a big “avoid” when it comes to sustainable fish-eats, which puts Carl’s Jr. just slightly behind McDonald’s greenwashed pollock when it comes to not destroying the oceans.

For the planet’s sake, Lent observers, maybe you could try going veg for a few weeks? It won’t hurt too much, I promise.