Fresh-Caught vs Farm-Raised Debate
I was reading an article last week about how the annual “salmon run” on Lake Ontario is getting a late start this year and it got me thinking. I love boating and ﬁshing, and there is nothing more satisfying to me than catching the “the big one,” followed by enjoying that at my next meal.
As a boater and ﬁsherman, I am very concerned about the environment (who wants contaminated ﬁsh?) and sustainability (many species are overﬁshed and endangered), so I never keep more than one ﬁsh.
We all know that ﬁsh should be a staple in our diets, rich in protein, vitamin, minerals, and omega fatty acids. However, the concern has always been the risk of contaminants in ﬁsh, including mercury, arsenic, antibiotics, herbicides and pesticides.
In New Jersey, where I live, the State advisories indicate that except for summer ﬂounder (once weekly), no other single ﬁsh from the New York and New Jersey waters, including oﬀ-shore, deep water, should be eaten more than once monthly. When I go to a restaurant, I, more often than not, order ﬁsh. I am always warned by my wife not to ask: “Fresh caught or farm raised?” Invariably, the server does not know and needs to check, and recently, the answer I got back was “both”. This was a little confusing and received a chuckle, but I have since investigated where “fresh ﬁsh” comes from.
Fresh caught is easy to understand: ﬁsherman simply go out and catch the ﬁsh. Many of the freshest and cleanest ﬁsh come from northern colder climates (Norway, Alaska, New England and Canada, etc.). These ﬁsh, as well as commercially caught ﬁsh around the United States, are cleaned and ﬂash frozen on the boat. Although frozen, the freshness, taste, and nutritional value is maintained. Farm-raised has had a bad connotation for years. Farms were typically penned in areas in lakes, near shore and even indoors. The issue was the runoﬀ from local land, carrying chemicals and toxins. The ﬁsh were also fed diﬀerently than in the wild, leading not only to higher contaminants, but lower omega 3 fatty acids (the ones that protect the heart and blood vessels) and also requiring other additives such an antibiotics for growth. Farm-raised has always been supported by some in order to increase the availability of ﬁsh, but also in order to improve sustainability of wild ﬁsh populations.
Over recent years, especially in the United States, ﬁsh farms have advanced in methods and technology -- they can even be large enclosed areas in the ocean. New methods for feeding the ﬁsh more of their natural foods have improved the quality of nutritional value of the ﬁsh. For the most part, the contaminant levels are down to safe levels and equivalent to fresh caught…and even ﬁsh “aﬃcionados” would be hard pressed to tell the diﬀerence by taste. The only warning, however, is that many ﬁsh are imported from overseas, particularly China and other countries in southeast Asia, where farming methods are frequently suspect. So, always ask!
The bottom line is that ﬁsh is a great food and eating any ﬁsh at least once weekly (I try for at least three times weekly) is better than no fish at all.
Check out one of my favorite salmon recipes below.
The dish is versatile and can be cooked on a grill, in the oven, or - my personal favorite - in a smoker.