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Farm-Raised Fish vs. Wild Caught

Something smells fishy…….

Do you find yourself standing in front of the fish counter, wondering what EXACTLY does farm-raised fish mean?

Cows live on farms.  Chickens, too.  But, fish?

What kind of farm raises fish?

The simple answer is yes; there are fish that are raised in farms called aquacultures.   Some fish you buy will only be farm raised, like shrimp.

Is farm-raised fish better than wild caught?

As with most decisions, there are pros and cons to each. In the majority of cases, though, wild caught is better.

Reasons you should buy wild caught fish:

  1. You support your local fisherman.
  2. Higher levels of Omega-3 in the fish.  Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fats our body needs but cannot produce on our own, so we need to get it from food.  Fish is one of our primary sources to get Omega-3's.  These fats are shown to help prevent heart disease and stroke, and also play a role in protecting against cancer, and alleviating pain and stiffness associated with arthritis.
  3. Wild caught fish eat a diet that is appropriate for them and provides them with natural nutrients without antibiotics.

 

Reasons you should buy farm raised fish:

 

  1. Sustainability.   With the rise in the number of people eating fish, there has been an issue with areas being overfished leading to the threat of endangering certain species, like Chilean Sea Bass.
  2. Aquacultures are making strides to become more environmentally conscious.  For example, Skuna Bay Salmon (out of Vancouver, Canada), is pioneering a more natural way to raise salmon that is close to wild caught.  http://www.skunasalmon.com/our-story

 

Reasons you should NOT buy wild caught fish:

 

  1. With more of the population eating fish, there is an increased danger of overfishing.

 

To ensure you are not buying fish on the watch list, check out the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch (http://www.seafoodwatch.org/) or the Environmental Defense Fund Seafood Selector (http://seafood.edf.org/).  Both have apps you can download for easy access next time you are at the store.  Click on the links for more information about these two organizations.

 

Reasons you should NOT buy farm raised fish:

 

  1. Aquacultures negatively impact the environment because they are often built on reefs or near coastlines, which adversely affects the native wildlife in those areas.
  2. Most farm-raised fish are feed a diet of blended smaller fish, like anchovies, which is not natural for them and has created a shortage of the smaller fish.
  3. Aquacultures can be overcrowded leading to disease.
  4. Aquacultures also create an enormous amount of organic waste that can contaminate the local waters if not taken care of properly.
  5. International farm-raised fish are not held to the same standards as US farm raised fish.

The bottom line is to stay informed regardless of the type of fish you buy.  If you are going to buy farm raised, ask questions about where it is from and only buy fish from the United States or Skuna Bay.  When buying wild caught, ask about where it was caught, the sustainability and your fishmonger can point you in the right direction.

The saying that “knowledge is power” applies to the food we buy and cook for our families. The more we ask questions and the more we stay informed, the more information we have about where our food comes from.

Happy Cooking!

Lisa and Donna

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