When discussing seafood sourcing, it’s not uncommon to hear the words “wild caught” repeated over and over. While wild caught seafood is often the preferred option for sustainability, taste and value, the truth is that fish that is aquacultured, or farmed, is just as safe, healthy and delicious.
According to Technomic’s 2017 Center of the Plate: Seafood & Vegetarian Consumer Trend Report, powered by Ignite, 89% of consumers say they eat seafood at least once a month and 53% say they eat it at least once a week, while 30% say they have eaten more seafood in the past year. With diners eating seafood more frequently, with no indication that demand will slow anytime soon, aquaculture is necessary for keeping up with supply.
Aquaculture myths, dispelled
According to NFI, National Fisheries Institute, four of the six most popular U.S. species by consumption—shrimp, salmon, tilapia and pangasius, a large catfish—are farmed. But despite that, there are several myths surrounding aquaculture that can lead to consumers thinking it’s a less ideal option when purchasing seafood. One prevailing myth is that there’s not enough regulation surrounding farmed fish, but in fact, it’s quite the opposite. In many countries, both governmental and nongovernmental regulations ensure habitats are protected, species are conserved and health codes and policies are followed.
Another myth is that farmed fish is worse for the environment due to the amount of feed needed—in other words, there’s a myth that farming seafood is ecologically inefficient. In fact, though, many farmed fish, including tilapia, do not need large amounts of fishmeal or fish oil in their diets, so are a net protein provider when fed a proper diet.
Farmed fish provide a sustainable, healthy and safe option for consumers.
Benefits of sustainable, farmed fish
Earth-friendly policies and techniques for food products are increasingly important to consumers. Technomic’s Center of the Plate: Seafood and Vegetarian report found that 41% of consumers say it’s important for the environment not to be negatively affected by the seafood they eat. Thankfully, the sustainability benefits provided by aquaculture help ensure that’s the case.
“Well-managed aquaculture takes the pressure off wild fish in the ocean, which is important if we want to keep enjoying the fish we love the most,” says Chef Rick Moonen of RM Seafood and Rx Boiler Room, two independent restaurants in Las Vegas. Moonen is a celebrated seafood chef, and an early champion of sustainable fishing practices.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, reports that as of 2009, Americans were consuming about 15.8 pounds of fish and shellfish per person, per year—a total of about 4.8 billion pounds of fish and shellfish. The NOAA also reports that currently, about half of the world’s seafood is farmed rather than wild-caught, and by 2030, they estimate that about two-thirds of seafood will need to be farmed to keep up with consumers’ dietary habits.
“In order to continue to enjoy seafood and not completely deplete our oceans,” Moonen says, “we will need to turn to other alternatives.”
Increasing the appeal to customers
Thanks to its sustainability, farmed fish can be marketed as such—a sustainable product—and according to the Technomic report, 67% of consumers are more likely to purchase sustainable foods, while 30% are willing to pay more for them. In other words, serving sustainably farmed seafood can be a profitable venture for operators.
“As wild seafood sources become scarcer, more and more consumers and restaurants will turn to aquaculture as a sustainable alternative,” Moonen says. “As chefs, it is our duty to educate consumers on where their food is coming from, and why certain sources are better for the environment than others.”
Changing the mindset surrounding aquaculture, or farmed, fish can be difficult, but detailing its benefits on menus can help. Educate diners, and consumers may be more inclined to select farmed fish dishes. To learn more about farmed seafood, visit High Liner Foods to download “Farmed Seafood FAQs.”
This post is sponsored by High Liner Foods