Farm-Raised Fish Instead?
Earlier this month, the Washington Post’s Sally Squires questioned whether the health benefits associated with consuming ocean-caught fish outweigh the negative effects of fish. This raises yet another question: What about the benefits of farm-raised salmon or catfish prepared healthily?
Some health experts have observed that with higher saltwater fish consumption, there is at least the potential risk of exposure to higher levels of mercury, especially among people who consume an excessive amount of ocean-caught sporting fish, such as tuna or salmon, each week. Is it possible for people to have their proverbial cake and eat it, too, by consuming farm-raised salmon or catfish instead?
Unfortunately for consumers, there’s one hitch. While perfectly safe and excellent low-fat sources of protein, neither of these fish compare favorably with ocean-caught fish --- at least from the standpoint of omega-3 fatty acids.
“With catfish, for example, most omega-3 fatty acids are deposited in the abdomen or below the skin. They don’t lay down a lot of it in their muscle tissue,” said Dr. Russell Wright, an Alabama Cooperative Extension System fisheries specialist and Auburn University associate professor of fisheries and allied aquacultures. “So when we clean the fish, we tend to do away with a lot of the omega-3 fatty acids, though there will still be some in the tissue.”
Also, the types of omega-3 fatty acids commonly found in catfish don’t compare favorably with those in saltwater fish. Tuna especially abounds in the long-chained omega-3, such as DHA, commonly considered the best safeguard against cardiovascular disease and neurological damage. On the other hand, catfish pales in comparison, said Dr. Allen Davis, an Auburn University assistant professor of fisheries, who specializes in aquatic nutrition. The highly unsaturated omega-3 fatty acids associated with heart and brain health can be added through feeding, but only to a limited degree, he said.
Farm-raised salmon can be an exceptionally good source of omega-3 fatty acids but only as long as they receive adequate amounts of omega-3’s on the farm.
“It all depends on what they were fed on the farm,” said Dr. Robert Keith, an Extension nutritionist and Auburn University professor of nutrition and food science. “If they eat plants or commercial feeds that are high in omega 3, you can count on these being good sources of omega-3 fatty acids. But it all boils down to what they’re eating.”
Farm-raised salmon is now the most common source of salmon in the United States. Meanwhile, fish markets are routinely labeling wild-caught salmon to capitalize on the growing public demand for foods rich in omega 3.
“The vast majority of fresh filet salmon commonly sold in seafood and supermarkets is farm raised,” Wright said. “In fact, you really have to go out of the way to find ocean-caught salmon.”
In contrast, canned salmon is almost entirely derived from wild-caught salmon, he said.
Keith said supplements are an alternative for consumers unwilling or unable to eat fish, though they lack many other benefits associated with fish.
The incentive for salmon farmers to supplement feeds with omega 3 just got stronger. In 2003, the American Heart Association, convinced that omega-3 fatty acids are a powerful safeguard against heart disease, recommended that Americans with heart disease consume at least one gram of omega-3 fatty acids daily to reduce their risk of heart attacks. This marks the first time the AHA recommended a food supplement as a method for sustaining heart health.
Posted by Jim Langcuster at August 16, 2006 05:00 PM