High in protein, low in fat and the number one natural source of Omega 3’s; fish is a versatile alternative to good ole ground treading sources of protein. Studies have shown that including fish in a balanced diet can lower your risk for certain diseases. It’s flexibility in ways that you can prepare it makes it ideal for breaking the monotony of weekday dinners. Bake, pan fry, sear, raw and even boiled. Unfortunately there are not plenty of fish in the sea (as I’m so often told). As the human population grows, so does our need for food sources. To satiate that need, we have turned to farming our fish. ‘Farming’ in this case is not as natural as it sounds. Often times, this very unnatural process of raising fish causes great harm to our environment and our bodies.
Farmed fish are in a word: dangerous. Not to say that it is going to do you harm immediately upon consumption but let’s compare my favorite, wild caught Alaskan salmon versus the farmed stuff found in most grocery stores.
A 2003 report from the Environmental Working Group showed that farmed salmon in the U.S. has the highest levels of PCBs, toxic man-made chemicals
It is a well known fact that the mercury levels in our oceans are on a steady increase. Higher mercury levels are easily identified in longer living fatty fish like salmon. Whereas smaller, less muscular fish like anchovies do not have the lifespan to accumulate dangerous levels of most toxins. Farmed fish receive a diet that often consists of smaller fish, such as sardines. These smaller fish are also farmed to produce large quantities, consume man made, even mildly toxic feed. The larger fish retain that toxicity from eating these smaller fish. Ahhhh, vicious cycle!
Take all of the above factors and add that into your diet. We are the top of the food chain. All of those things we put into the ocean and the stuff we feed these farmed fish goes straight into our highly tuned bodies. You wouldn’t put ‘89 octane into a Maserati would you? No.
How do you know if something is farmed? Read the label, but read carefully. Labels can claim wild caught even though the fish were farmed. What the!? This may mean the fish were bundled in large non eco friendly pens and fed nasty things. Fish raised in large pens are more susceptible to being diseased and can spread parasites to the fauna in the surrounding natural waters. Not to mention the taste. I compare the taste of farmed fish to wild caught like I compare grass fed beef to grain fed. Farmed is bland and the depth and character of the flavor is usually muted.
“So farmed won’t kill me, yet I want to eat food raised in a sustainable manner; how do I select the right type of fish for me?” My go to resource is the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch guide. They now make an app, so you can always have a reference guide available. The guide outlines what fish can be eaten and which types of fish are raised in a farm environment. I would strongly recommend having this app and guide. Farming can be a good option. Keep an eye out for the ASC farmed responsibly label. I find the verbiage and fine print of many labels to be too vague and stick to my go to guys at my local farmers market for most of my fish; especially salmon. Whole foods also has good options. If you aren’t’ going to buy and cook your own fish and eat out, don’t be afraid to question the source of the restaurants fish offerings. I recently went to an establishment up the coast that specializes in fish and ALL of the menu offerings were farmed. I went with the one chicken dish they had.
Don’t let me scare you out of eating the wonderful assortment of food. There are so many varieties and way to eat it. I’ve included links below so you can browse around for yourself. If you take anything away from this, just realize that paying the extra few bucks per pound for fish is well worth it for you and our environment.
Bonus recipe for sticking around:
Spring Onion Salmon En Papillote
1 pound (about 4) Salmon Filets
3 Green Onions
Thumb Size Piece Of Ginger, peeled and minced
Parchment Paper <— The “En Papillote” part
Heat oven to 350ºF.
Tear off 4 sheets of parchment paper, making sure they’re all rectangular in size.
Place a salmon filet on each piece of parchment.
Cut off the green stalk of the leek, along with the root tip.
Slice the leek lengthwise and continue to do so until the leek has been cut into thin ribbons. Do the same to the green onions.
Toss the leek and green onion ribbons in a bowl along with the ginger, olive oil and salt. Mix with your hands to combine.
Drizzle a bit of olive oil on top of each salmon filet and sprinkle with a bit of salt.
Top each filet with a handful of the onion mixture.
Place all the pouches on a baking sheet. Bake for about 15 minutes.
Nom on your wild caught salmon.