Do you eat meat? If you do, it’s more than likely been farmed, and highly unlikely that it’s been exclusively hunted from the wild. Most meat eaters can tell you that how farmed meat is grown has all sorts of differences, from its taste to its environmental impact. That’s why we find it particularly peculiar that many seafood consumers still have a steadfast fear of farmed fish. Just as all farmed meats aren’t equal, the same can be said for farmed seafood. We’re here to soothe your qualms and give you a little food for thought.
First and foremost, at Afishionado we absolutely appreciate and encourage scrutinous food purchasing behaviours! Perhaps you only buy a certain type of farmed meat—maybe pasture raised beef or free-range chicken. Maybe you take the time to make sure your eggs are cage-free, and maybe only the freshest spring lamb will do for you! You might go to leaps and bounds to avoid eating beef sourced from a confirmed animal feedlot operation, and perhaps you’d scoff at the idea of eating chicken raised in battery cages. Yet it’s still farmed meat—it’s just that you’ve chosen a specific method of farming that you prefer for sustainability or quality reasons or both.
The initial aversion to farmed seafood is often well deserved. There are many unsustainable large volumes, low-value aquaculture methods that pump low quality farmed seafood into the marketplace while having a huge environmental impact. Yet farmed seafood is far from a catch-all term. There is a distinct difference in quality, texture, taste, depending on how a species was grown. And there is a huge difference in sustainability. There are many different ways to raise a fish, and the resulting products are vastly different.
Just as pasture-raised grass-fed beef might taste different and have a different texture than an animal that was fed an unnatural diet of corn, soy, and grains, an Atlantic Salmon grown in a recirculating closed containment aquaculture facility, fed a diet comprised of sustainably sourced wild marine protein and fish oils, will certainly taste different than an open-net pen-raised Atlantic Salmon that was fed cheap feed comprised of corn and chicken by-products. Responsibly grown seafood can taste absolutely delicious.
Despite all of this, some folks are just deadset on wild seafood. It’s wild or nothing. We agree that a wild Atlantic Salmon definitely tastes different than a farmed one. It’s also a given that the modern-day chicken doesn’t taste like wild partridge or guinea fowl. Domesticated mutton and lamb don’t taste like wild bighorn sheep. We still find farm raised meats to be delicious, or we wouldn’t eat them. And farmed seafood can be a culinary delight as well.
Wild seafood is incredible, and if responsibly fished, a sustainable source of nutrition that can sustain consumers and coastal communities for generations to come. But we can’t—and shouldn’t—all eat wild seafood exclusively. We can—and should—celebrate those pioneering individuals and enterprises that are taking a stand against large-scale aquaculture, who take the time to raise delicious seafood responsibly. Together, sustainable aquaculture and sustainable fishing can make our seafood supply chain resilient and diverse for now and generations to come. Our eating decisions directly impact the future of seafood.
by Justin Cantafio, Sustainable Seafood Specialist
What are your thoughts? Let us know in the comments below.