News for the Hospitality Executive
|By Doug Fraser, Cape Cod Times, Hyannis, Mass.
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Jan. 23, 2004 - Salmon is the third most popular fish in the United States, ranking behind shrimp and canned tuna.
The increased consumption is primarily due to farm-raised fish. Specially bred salmon are grown to market size in floating pens in bays in Maine, Washington state and Oregon. Eighty percent of all salmon consumed in this country is farm-raised.
Although such aquaculture has been commercially successful, there have been lawsuits over water pollution from fish waste and worries about escaped species taking over wild stocks. Now, a report in the current issue of Science magazine says that levels of cancer-causing PCBs, dioxins and pesticides were found to be 10 times higher in farm-raised fish than in their wild counterparts. The report suggested consumers eat only one serving of farm-raised salmon a month versus six to eight servings of wild salmon.
Peter Hoffman, national chairman of Chefs Collaborative, an activist group committed to educating chefs and consumers about the sustainability and healthfulness of food sources, has opinions on farm-raised salmon.
Hoffman, who is also the owner and chef at Savoy, a New York City restaurant, was interviewed by phone Wednesday by the Times:
QUESTION: Did the report on the health risks of farm-raised salmon surprise you?
ANSWER: No, I'm not particularly surprised. I think there are many aspects of the salmon aquaculture model that don't seem to be healthy.
Q: Has the Chefs Collaborative taken any position on the report findings?
A: No ... What we already believe is that wild salmon is a great choice for many reasons starting with far superior flavor, and that it is better for local fishing communities, and for your own personal health.
Q: What is the difference in quality and taste?
A: We've done lots of blind tastings of salmon for professional groups with a minimum of three to five different salmon. ... Two-thirds of the people pick frozen-at-sea salmon, then the fresh wild salmon and a few will pick farm-raised fish. When compared side by side, (farm-raised salmon) has a muddier taste and a much higher fat content.
Q: Eight of every 10 salmon sold in the United States is farm-raised. What should restaurants and consumers know when they are buying salmon?
A: You can't tell (the difference) by sight. It can get confusing with stores saying it's Atlantic salmon, which people think means wild fish, but it pretty much definitely means it's farm-raised because there is no Atlantic wild salmon fishery.
I'd be curious to see if people will change their eating habits because of this. Food scares, people are pretty much inured to them. ... But when people come to understand the issues in a broader way, they will see that farmed salmon is a problem not just for PCBs but for a number of other reasons.
Q: What should we be eating?
A: One of the things that I know a little about is that ... vegetarian fish are better. ... Catfish, tilapia, striped bass and shellfish are all great.
Q: Farm-raised fish is the hottest trend in supplying protein to the world. How do we make it safe but still meet demand?
A: We have to do it responsibly. There were some big lawsuits filed against Maine salmon operations because they were polluting the water and not following the Clean Water Act.
You can't just jump whole hog into a business because you want some cheap food supply.
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(c) 2004, Cape Cod Times. Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News.