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Olwen Anderson's Blog

Would you like that fish wild-caught or farmed

Saturday, July 04, 2015
Quite some time ago we learnt that we could ensure a more reliable food supply by growing vegetables and meat in our own back yard rather than foraging for it, and being forced to move when the local supply was exhausted. Agriculture was born. Until recently, we continued that ancient practice for our seafood supply unquestioningly: head out in boats, catch what you can when it’s available.

Then someone got the idea to farm seafood, and aquaculture was born. This has helped us establish a reliable food supply, and now many varieties of seafood like prawns and salmon are available all year round when in the past their availability would have ebbed and flowed with the seasons.
It’s nice to be able to buy the food that you want, when you want, and pay less. Yet there may be a nutritional price to pay for our increasing reliance on farmed versus wild-caught seafood. After learning a little more about what happens behind the scenes of farming seafood you might decide to revise your routine shopping practices.

For wild-caught seafood, including prawns, the age-old practice continues: Head out in the boat, throw out the net or the line, and see what comes up. As my significant other quipped, that’s why it’s called ‘fishing’, not ‘catching’. What you eat from that catch reflects its diet: rich in minerals from the ocean, and with a higher proportion of omega-3 oils thanks to a free-range diet.

Farmed seafood has a different life. Prawns are grown in static ponds, with the water supply changing as frequently as the farmer decides. Their nutrition comes from processed food, which may include grains, unfavourably altering the fatty acid profile. Sunscreen may be added to the ponds, and before harvesting a dye may be added to provide a more familiar colour for consumers. The meat of this seafood also reflects its diet, but I think you’d agree, its not as healthy as the diet and lifestyle its wild cousins ate. Salmon is farmed in a similar way, but in the ocean, and is also dyed.

How do you know whether what you’re eating is farmed or wild-caught? For fresh seafood you have to ask, unless your fishmonger chooses to label their product. For packaged seafood (like frozen) just read the label.  The most effective way is to locate a good local fishmonger, talk with them and fill your freezer with wild-caught seafood when it’s in abundance. The nutritional difference could be worth the effort.

If you enjoyed this article, you might also enjoy Clues your ancestors could provide about the best diet for you, here 


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