Farmed vs. Wild Seafood


Many of us know the deal when it comes to industrial agriculture and feedlots.  We know of the crowded conditions under which animals are raised and the less than ideal inhumane conditions in which many are slaughtered.  But what about fish?  Water covers 71% of our Earth and oceans hold about 96.5% of Earth’s water, so surely there is enough fish in the sea to feed us, right?  Sadly, that is not the case.

Overfishing, lack of effective management and overconsumption have led to a decline in wild fish.  Due to demand, industrial-scale fishing began in the late 1800s.  Over the past century or so, this has led to significant declines in fish as natural fish stocks just can’t keep up.  As a result, aquaculture, or farm fishing, has become extremely popular as a way to keep up with demand and continue to provide cheap prices. 

Today, half of the seafood eaten in the U.S. is farmed.  Just like with cattle feedlots, confinement dairies and battery egg farms, fish feedlots have the same issues:  crowding, disease, parasites, pesticides, antibiotics, excess manure and environmental damage.  If a fish feedlot is located near a migration route (as in the case with salmon), parasites from the farm may infect and kill the wild fish.  Pesticides and antibiotics used to control disease and parasites can also leak into the environment, impacting local species and polluting our oceans and rivers.  Many fish also escape from feedlots each year, breeding with wild fish and reducing genetic diversity.

Let’s look at salmon for a sec.  Salmon is an extremely popular fish due to its health benefits, specifically omega-3 fats.  Wild salmon is naturally pink due to its diet of shrimp.  Feedlot salmon, however, is gray.  To give farmed salmon that pink color we crave, it is colored using a dye called canntaxanthin.  Farmed salmon has also been found to have less omega-3 per gram of fat than wild fish.  Wild salmon has about 10 grams of fat, 20% of which is omega-3, compared to 16 grams of fat, 17% of which is omega-3, in farmed salmon.

For many, the issues I have raised regarding seafood and feedlot animals are not an issue.  Maybe they choose to ignore it or the cheaper price and convenience win them over. I have chosen to take a different path.  Not to vegetarianism, but to “conscious omnivorism.” Yep, I think I just created a new word.  I know I cannot live without meat and though I eat many meals without it, meat is a regular part of my diet.  But I am very conscious about where my meat comes from.  I choose to purchase meat raised in the most traditional way possible (on pasture, grass-fed, or in the wild) and try to eat as local as possible.

For those who are interested in becoming conscious omnivores, Whole Foods has a great numbering system to their meat called Animal Welfare Standards, which is very helpful in choosing meat from animals raised in traditional, humane ways.  Go here for more info.  If you are interested in buying online, check out U.S Wellness Meats, whose mission is to “do what’s good for our animals, good for our planet and good for you.”  I don’t know about you, but sustainably raised meat delivered right to my doorstep sounds pretty awesome.

When purchasing seafood, I use a handy dandy guide produced by the Monterey Bay Aquarium specifically tailored to where I live or choose to travel.  The Seafood Watch recommends what items are “Best Choices” or “Good Alternatives,” and which ones you should “Avoid.”  To download and print your guide today, go here.  They even have a free app for download on your smartphone.  For salmon, Seafood Watch recommends buying varieties from Alaska with good alternatives being wild salmon from California, Oregon or Washington, while it is recommended you avoid Atlantic farmed salmon.  An online option for seafood is Vital Choice, where you can find wild seafood and other organic meats and have them delivered fresh and frozen to your doorstep.

Peace, love and “conscious omnivorism,”

The Yogi~Foodie

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