Fish Scales: Weighing In On Wild-Caught And Farm-Raised Fish

wild-caught-fishWild is synonymous with free, natural, untamed, savage, and uncivilized.

Like farm-fresh, farm-raised sounds wholesome, nutritious, healthy, and safe.

If only the differences between wild-caught and farm-raised fish were this clear cut.

Matters of nutritional value, food safety, environmental stewardship, sustainability, and cost hang in the balance for both. Tipping the scale in favor of one over the other simply isnt that easy.

Americas Fish Fetish

According to The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization [FAO] wild fish harvests have declined since 2012. According to the Earth Policy Institute, farm-raised seafood production is a bigger industry than beef production. Two years ago, aquaculture, or fish farming, topped 66 million tons - three million more tons than beef. And it is on track to outpace wild-caught fish harvesting as well.

Farm-raised tilapia is the now the fourth most popular seafood in America.

North American tilapia is raised in closed recirculating tanks. But most of the tilapia we eat is imported from Latin America and Asia where the fish are raised in outdoor freshwater ponds. Some consumers have expressed concerns about China-grown tilapia because of water pollution and the use of chemicals.

Wild-caught and farm-raised fishing can damage the environment, polluting the water, and thereby affecting the lives of other animals and plants. For example, some aquaculture producers use the manure or waste from poultry and livestock to feed their fish.

Seafood lovers around the world spend $800 billion a year and its taking a serious toll on the environment. Recently, Google announced a partnership with environmental specialists using the Internet titans global tracking technology to monitor oceanic fishing activity. Illegal fishing operations net billions of bucks while depleting the planet of billions of tons of fish - many species of which are already stretched beyond sustainable limits. Extinction? Yes, because we humans are ravenous whales who are rapidly eating our way through so many species of fish that their disappearance is likely, if not imminent.

Fish Food Facts

Its not an old wives tale: Fish is brain food. Nutritionists recommend eating at least two servings of seafood each week to stave off the onset of dementia and Alzheimers and to improve or maintain optimal heart health. But which is safer: wild-caught or farm-raised? How to choose? To a very great extent the choice depends on the condition of your health and your nutritional needs, what fish you want to buy, how its caught, and where its caught.

Omega-3 fatty acids are the primary reason for incorporating fish into your weekly menu; and when it comes to Omega-3, farm-raised salmon trump their wild counterpart hands down. But wild-caught salmon have a third fewer calories and half the fat of farm-raised. They also have more calcium, iron, potassium, and zinc.

Wild-caught and farm-raised trout have the same caloric intake. The wild-caught trout have more calcium and iron, but farm-raised trout contain more vitamin A and selenium.

Contamination Concerns

Both wild and farm-raised fish may contain low levels of contaminants such as mercury and PCBs. Many consumers worry about the use of hormones and antibiotics to stimulate growth. While the U.S. government regulations prohibit their use in domestic fish, not all countries adhere to such restrictions, so the content of hormones or antibiotics in the fish you buy may depend on their country of origin.

Before you buy, become a well-informed consumer so that you dont get caught with the wrong fish for you and your family.

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