What's the matter with farm raised fish?
For the most part, not much. I can't tell you how many times a week people walk into one of our stores and only want wild fish.
My question to them: Where are you getting your wild beef? Your wild chicken?
Fish is really the only food left that is harvested in the wild on a grand scale, and the resource is finite. In order to feed the billions of people on our planet, we need to manage our oceans and lakes responsibly. To do that and still feed fish to people, we need to raise some of it.
Does it matter how that's done? Of course. There are some fish farming operations from whom we would never buy fish, and they're largely in Asia. Their fish pens are overcrowded, and they give the fish antibiotics to keep them from getting diseased. (Of course, a lot of cattle, hog and chicken farms do the same thing).
We do business with fish farmers whom we trust. We've known some of them for decades -- most of the fresh trout in restaurants has been farm raised for ages, long before people started demanding nothing but wild fish.
So where does all the scare mongering come from? Largely from studies we feel are funded by two groups you wouldn't expect to be on the same page - the beef industry and the wild salmon industry.
Cattle farmers hate the idea of a protein source that grows so efficiently and is considered so much healthier than beef. It takes about 1 1/2 lbs of feed to make a pound of fish, about 15 lbs. of feed to make a pound of beef. I'd be threatened, too.
Wild salmon costs a lot more than raised salmon, so you can see why salmon fishermen would want you to think it's bad for you - I'm pretty sure that they're the ones who started the rumors about farmed salmon being "dyed" - carotene is added to the diet of farmed fish, Vitamin A, the same thing that makes wild salmon pinkish, and carrots orange. It's not a dye, it's a vitamin.
Many of us in the seafood business have a very strong desire to preserve the resource. We don't sell endangered fish, like bluefin tuna, or caviar from endangered sturgeon. We support legal fisheries in many parts of the world, and don't always agree with those cards that the aquariums like to pass out -- they lump whole fish species into a category, even though that fish is perfectly plentiful from one source, not from another. Example: Icelandic cod. The Icelandic cod fishery is wonderfully managed, and the resource is not endangered, but the aquariums say don't eat Atlantic cod. How are the Icelandic fishermen supposed to support their families if no one will buy their fish?
Yes, there are some fish farming operations that do not do a good job - we don't buy fish from them. This is why you should always know your fish monger. Because we deal directly with our suppliers, we always know where our fish comes from, both the raised and the wild. Most small fish markets will know a lot more about the source of their seafood than a big chain store, where someone in a distant office places the orders.
Are you one of the "no farmed fish" brigade? If so, why?