One of my subscribers recently left me a comment asking about the difference between wild-caught and farm-raised seafood, and which type is a more healthful choice. After some research, I can definitely say that the answer is not black and white. Both sides have positive and negative effects on our environment, our freshwater and saltwater supply, and our bodies. There is no “right” answer to this question, but below you’ll find the main pros and cons to each.
Seafood originating from the “wild” obviously have larger habitats, automatically giving them more freedom to roam about as they please (That). Due to the fact that these fish must hunt for their own food, their diet doesn’t consist of artificial dyes, pesticides, herbicides, and antibiotics that are generally found in farm-raised fish feed (That). From a nutritional standpoint, wild-caught fish tend to have higher doses of Omega 3 fatty acids per serving, and also less fat than their farm-raised counterparts (That). However, one of the main issues that many people have with the labeling of wild-caught seafood is that it leaves the consumer unsure as to how that particular fish was harvested. For example, some fishermen dynamite reefs or utilize drift nets to catch their fish, and these methods kill more than just the desired marine animal and also disrupt aquatic habitats. Wild-caught seafood typically have lower levels of PCBs, or Polychlorinated biphenyls (a man-made and possibly carcinogenic chemical) and the mercury levels range from relatively low to very high depending on the type of wild-caught fish.
This method was engineered as a result of people wanting year-round access to a greater amount of seafood, and voila, the man-made fishery was born. One could certainly compare these fish farms to the industrial feedlots that many cows are raised on today. Living conditions are cramped and uncomfortable, and often times, disease runs rampant. As a result, fish farmers depend on antibiotics to cope with the sicknesses. While farm-raised fish tend to have higher levels of PCBs, the amount of mercury these types of fish can accumulate remain unclear. If they are raised on sectioned off plots on the ocean, their mercury content is identical to their wild-caught relatives (That).
What To Do, What To Do…
Make it a goal to have seafood a couple of times a week, rather than everyday, to reduce the amount of toxins in your body. When purchasing seafood, be sure to ask your fishmonger where, when, and how the fish was harvested. If he or she can’t tell you, that particular type of fish probably isn’t the best choice. In addition, when browsing at a grocery store or dining out, be sure to look for seafood that have the Marine Stewardship Council, or MSC, Certified Sustainable Seafood label.
How to Lower the Amount of PCBs in Your Seafood, Regardless of How it Was Raised…
First, rely on grilling and broiling as cooking techniques. Using these methods gives the fat the chance to drain off of the seafood, while frying the fish gives the fat more of an opportunity for the chemicals to secure themselves in the body of the fish. Secondly, prior to cooking, be sure to slice off the skin, back fat, stomach fat, and internal organs from your piece of fish.
I hope that this helps! Please don’t hesitate to leave a comment if you have any additional questions!
Until Next Week…Plan Well, Pack Well, Live Well,
Bullock, Tisha. Seedtime4harvest. N.P. 5 May 2012. Web. 23 July 2013.
MSC. Marine Stewardship Council. N.D. Web. 23 July 2013.
ThatOrganicGirl. N.P. 20 May 2012. Web. 23 July 2013. <http://www.thatorganicgirl.com/2012/05/farm-raised-vs-wild-caught-fish.html>