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September 2021

Wild-Caught vs. Farm-Raised Fish & Seafood

Are there differences between wild-caught and farm-raised fish?  Which is the best choice?  The general perception is that wild is healthier to eat while farmed is more sustainable for the environment. There are several factors to consider when making the choice of wild versus farmed fish.

Fish Sustainability
For centuries the oceans were considered to be limitless when it came to fish.  This led to unsustainable fishing practices with overfishing and more fish being caught than could be replaced naturally.  It also harmed wildlife and damaged the marine ecosystem.  As a result, wild fish cannot meet the consumer demand for seafood.

  • The Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch, believes fish farming or aquaculture may be a solution.  Aquaculture industry is growing, accounting for 50% of the seafood eaten.
  • Fish farming has been practiced for centuries.  These farms have little environmental impact if they use practices that limit disease and damage to natural habitats. 

Sustainability is critical to meet current seafood demands without compromising future needs. Wild-caught and farm-raised can be sustainable from fisheries & farms following responsible practices.

Smart Shopping Tips

  • Buy from a reputable vendor, check for seafood certification mark, when in doubt buy US seafood.
  • Sustainable seafood certification & oversight programs work to ensure safe, healthy & accountable seafood supply.
  • Look for certified logos; ASC or BAP for farmed fish, MSC and RFM for wild caught or Fair Trade USA.
  • Seafood Nutrition Partnership helps consumers buy sustainable seafood. For more information go to: www.seafoodnutrition.org.

What is Healthier: Wild or Farmed Fish?
The debate and research continues when it comes to what is healthier.  It is not just the nutritional value: concerns regarding mercury, chemicals, pollutants and antibiotics also need to be considered.

Nutritional Value: is dependent their diet.  This can vary widely for wild fish due to the season and region.  Farmed fish is more consistent if producers practice responsible farming and feed the fish a healthy diet.
Mercury – occurs naturally & from industrial pollution, found in streams and oceans.  Larger species of wild fish, shark, swordfish & tuna, will have higher levels.
Pollutants - persistent organic pollutants (POPs) have been linked to obesity.  Farmed fish tends to be higher than wild fish.
Chemicals – come from the polluted water.  Wild fish tends to have more cancer-causing chemical contaminates than farmed.
Antibiotics – had been an issue in farmed fish. Recently, it has been said that usage is less.

The Bottom Line
Most Americans are missing out on the health benefits of seafood.  Wild vs. Farmed– the right choice is eating seafood. It supports immune health, is good for brain & heart health and is a good source of vitamin D.  The recommendation is 2-3 servings or 8-12 oz of a variety of seafood weekly. The choice is yours when it comes to wild vs farmed. You may want to balance it out, have some of each!


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