Episode 49: Health Tip Tuesday! All things fish! Wild vs. Farm Raised. What’s the difference? Listen in for some schooling!
I was recently in the grocery store looking to buy some seafood on the recommendation of my son’s allergist to start exposing him to a variety of fishes. As I stood looking through the selection, it dawned on me that I could not remember which fish to choose. I have been educated on the difference between wild caught and farm raised fish, and yet for the life of me I could not remember the basics. Today’s topic is the result of the rabbit hole of knowledge I relearned after that shopping trip. You are very welcome in advance!
Not all fish is created or fed to be the same. Let’s talk about the key difference between wild caught and farm raised seafood.
When we hear the term “wild caught” seafood what does it mean? Typically, this seafood is caught in its natural habitat including rivers, lakes, and oceans. Aspects that set these fish apart is they may have more minerals, a more diverse diet given they survive in their natural habitat and have likely never been fed antibiotics. A disadvantage of these fish is that because it is so desirable, sustainability is a problem as they are at risk for being overfished. In addition, they tend to be more expensive than farm raised seafood.
Farmed Raised seafood on the other hand are raised in enclosures near lakes, rivers, and oceans in a tank. You may have even heard them referred to as “fish farms.” Farm raised seafood accounts for half of the seafood available on the market. This seafood tends to be less expensive than wild raised seafood. Some disadvantages of this seafood include: more risk of disease, and subsequent risk of antibiotic use, according to conditions in which they are farmed. In addition, these farms may not be regulated, or different regulations apply according to which country in which they are fished internationally. This may result in more contaminants.
In general, the nutrition content of the seafood differs according to what feed the fish eats or is fed. For instance, wild fish may be leaner with less saturated fat as they do a lot of swimming. Farm raised fish may be fed a diet high in omega 3 fatty acids and therefore may have a higher omega 3 fatty acid content.
All fish have mercury regardless of how they are raised due to pollution. Large fish such as shark, king mackerel, swordfish have the most mercury and so should be avoided by pregnant women.
When it comes to fish, we have the option to buy domestic or imported seafood. Typically, international seafood is less regulated than seafood found in the US and may potentially have lower inspection standards according to where the fish was captured or raised. Regulation and standards differ according to country where the fish comes from. In general, most imported seafood is likely to be higher in contaminants and antibiotics as compared to US seafood.
How can you identify where your seafood came from? Each package has a Country of Origin Label required on all seafood sold in the US. Note that two labels may be present on frozen seafood. One label will show where the seafood was raised while the other will show where it was packaged. These are not the same and should not be confused. A product may look like it was raised or farmed in the US when in fact it may have been raised or captured in another country and then packaged in the US.
So which seafood should you choose? If you live in the US, either wild caught or farm raised fish may be suitable. Make sure to by local to where you live. And if you buy internationally, became familiar with regulations applicable to that country. It may end of coming down to which seafood fits into your budget at this time.