Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Reading Without the Blinders On

Recently the Washington Post released an article raising concerns about the health benefits versus the risks that come with eating seafood.  While I liked the article, there were some ideas in there that I thought might be misleading for many readers.  That being said, I want to use this post as sort of a looking glass to review the article and point out some important facts that might have been lost on some readers.

The title of the article, "Eating Fish is wise, but it's good to know where your seafood comes from", is a mission statement of mine and I can not agree more.  I consider the integrity of purveyors and their ability to trace the origin of every product for each seafood purchase I make for the Black Restaurant Group.  Knowing about each product allows us to educate our customers and assist them on making the right seafood choices for their families.  This is a very important part of buying seafood and will become more so as the veil is lifted from the once secretive commercial seafood business.

The health risks that are associated with aquaculture do have merit.  Some farms, especially from the countries that are highlighted in the article, do have issues and questionable practices of high-density stocking, antibiotics, growth hormones, and toxins.  Most of the United States farmed product is imported, and I believe this to be the reason for concern, since these products in question decorate grocery stores and restaurants throughout the country.  Does this mean I should, as a consumer, not buy imported farmed product?  No.  Does this mean that all farmed product comes with a series of health risks?  No.  I want to emphasize that there are imported farm raised products that do not fall under the category of at-risk seafood.  Such farmed products include Skuna Bay Salmon from B.C., Blue Tilapia from South America, Bronzini from Spain, Char from Iceland, and Head-on prawns from Madagascar. These are just a few items.  They do not make up the majority of imported products, but I wanted to make sure that readers understood that they were out there, available as choices that were not under the suspicious umbrella of at-risk farmed seafood.  It is very important to know where your seafood comes from and trust the people that sell it.

I also want to point out that the article did not do justice in highlighting the growth of our domestic aquaculture industry.  There are many sustainably minded farms cropping up all over, and many of them are very close to the district.  Pompano, Cobia, and Black Bass are being raised in Virginia.  Barramundi are being raised in Massachusetts.  Bronzini and Dorade are being raised in New York.  Shrimp are being raised in Maryland.  Oysters are being farmed with great success throughout the Bay area.  For all the doom and gloom, there are some really terrific and healthy seafood options being grown all around us.  The plus is that all of these farms I mentioned are producing seafood not only with a bottom line in mind; the environment's well-being is just as important during the process as is producing quality product.

Farming seafood is not an at-risk operation, it can't afford to be.  With a growing human population and growing appetite, wild stocks will not be able to keep up.  Aquaculture is a solution to this problem, when done in a responsible manner.  Any doctor will tell you that the nutrition benefits you receive when eating responsibly farmed fish far outweigh benefits from eating any of the other farmed proteins like beef, pork, or chicken.  There are some countries and some farms not doing the right thing and producing product that is inferior, but that is not necessarily the rule.  There is much to be hopeful for because with the facts in hand, consumers have many healthy choices available to them in today's seafood market.  Eating fish and seafood is definitely wise.  Knowing where it comes from and trusting the people who sell it is even wiser.  Farmed does not equal inferior, just as wild does not necessarily equal superior.  Identifying your seafood, as well as understanding your options, is the best recipe for healthy and educated dining.

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