skip to main content

Listen

Read

Watch

Schedules

Programs

Events

Give

Account

Donation Heart Ribbon

Comparing Farmed-Raised Fish To Wild-Caught

Audio

Aired 11/12/09

Eating fish is an often-heard recommendation for a healthy diet. You've probably heard that fish, especially salmon, is rich in omega-3's an essential fatty acid. Are all fish created equal? We discuss the differences between farmed and wild-caught fish.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH (Host): I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. You're listening to These Days on KPBS. As more people become vegetarians, even greater numbers of people become ‘almost’ vegetarians, people who say they no longer eat red meat or chicken but limit the meat in their diet to fish. They’re called pescatarians. Even the rest of us are often urged by nutritionists to eat less beef and more fish because of its health benefits. But as the KPBS series “Food” continues, we learn it's not as easy to get away from the cow as you might think. Reporter Joanne Faryon is here to explain as her investigation into the food we eat goes underwater to examine the fish we eat. Welcome, Joanne.

JOANNE FARYON (KPBS Reporter): Hi, Maureen.

CAVANAUGH: And I’d like to introduce my other guests. Andrew Spurgin is head chef of Waters Fine Catering, and co-founder of the group Passionfish, which is dedicated to sustainable fishing and fish harvesting. Andrew, welcome. Thanks for coming in.

ANDREW SPURGIN (Head Chef, Waters Fine Catering): My pleasure. Thank you.

CAVANAUGH: And Don Kent is Senior Research Biologist, Hubbs-Sea World Research Institute. Don, welcome.

DON KENT (President and Senior Research Biologist, Hubbs-Sea World Research Institute): Good morning. Thank you for having me.

CAVANAUGH: And we invite our listeners to join the conversation. If you have a question about the fish you’re buying for dinner or a comment, how fish are farmed and raised, give us a call, 1-888-895-5727, that’s 1-888-895-KPBS. Joanne, let me start with you. What did you want to know when you started researching “The Fish We Eat?”

FARYON: Well, first we learned that it is an increasing part of our diet. The average American eats about 70 pounds of fish per year. Half of that fish is actually farmed fish and 80% of that farmed fish is imported. So we really wanted to know when I’m buying farmed fish, particularly salmon because salmon is one of the species that we consume most of, you know, what’s the difference really between farmed and wild? Is it as healthy? And, in particular, what about omega-3s because we hear a lot about omega-3 and that’s the healthy fat in salmon. Wendy Fry, one of our producers on this series spent a lot of time reading—really, it’s a debate—reading the one side and the other side. You have the people on the side of farmed salmon saying, no, you know, you get a lot of healthy omega-3s out of this, and then you have the other argument, no, it’s not the same nutritionally. Ultimately, it comes down to what are we feeding our farmed fish? That really can affect the nutrition.

CAVANAUGH: So you focused on one type of fish because – but people, I mean, are eating all types of fish. How much does what you learned about salmon carry over to other varieties of fish?

FARYON: Well, I think, ultimately, what we walked away with was when you’re looking at farmed fish, you’re looking at the diet of farmed fish. And I’m sure that Don can respond more to this in terms of other species because they’ve been doing so much research into other species. What we learned is that people in this industry are looking for alternatives in terms of what they’re feeding fish. Fish traditionally eat fish, that’s what they eat. But we have a finite amount of fish oil and fish that we can take out of the ocean to feed these fish. In fact, when we talk about salmon, it takes five pounds of feed, fish feed, to produce one pound of salmon in a fish farm. So because of this, it’s what are we going to feed these fish? And there are things like soy, corn, and what we learned, too, cattle and chicken by products. And, in fact, we spoke with the – someone from the National Renderers Association and they represent these companies that take these by products from cattle and chicken slaughter and they turn them into other feed for other species. And what they told us, this is increasingly becoming an option on fish farms.

CAVANAUGH: Let’s step back for a minute because I think, although I know fish farming has been going on for a long time, I think it’s still kind of a new concept to people. I think most people think most of their fish comes from, you know, we had the great tuna fleets here in San Diego a generation or so ago, comes from people going out on the ocean and actually catching fish. And that is just not the case anymore, is it, Don?

KENT: Well, it’s estimated that – it’s about 50/50 now globally what’s coming from aquaculture and what’s coming from wild capture fisheries. But it’s also readily recognized that the world’s seafood supply is going to have to become more and more reliant on aquaculture simply because so many of the world’s fish populations have been fully exploited. It’s not that they’re not sustainably exploited over time but we can’t get any more out of them. So as world population increases and as global demand, because people are supposed to be eating more and more seafood, as that global demand increases, we need to turn to aquaculture. And that, therein, generates what Joanne was getting to, is the limitation we have in that if you have a piscivorous fish or a fish that eats other fish, how much lower on the food chain can we support these higher end critters that we want to grow and eat. I don’t know if anybody’s had a plate of sardines but it – typically go into a restaurant and that’s not the top thing on the menu. It’s usually a white sea bass or a yellowtail or something like that. So traditionally what was done was we harvested sardines, anchovies, other fish, forage species we call them, and ground them up and made pellets that we fed to species like salmon, trout and that sort of thing. And what we’ve learned is, well, as the higher end species in the world are limited, the global population’s limited, we’re also limited on these forage species. And if we want a balanced ecosystem in the oceans, we can’t draw down on that too much; we’ll over harvest. So that’s the impetus for finding alternative feeds and it’s not really a new concept. I’ve been doing aquaculture research for 30 years and we’ve been – the nutrition question’s been going on for the three decades that I’ve been involved in it, starting actually here as a graduate student at San Diego State.

CAVANAUGH: So it’s been going on for a long time and we all just think that people have been going out with their nets all this time. We are taking your calls at 1-888-895-5727. We’re talking about the food we eat, our continuing series on KPBS, and this morning we are focusing on fish, and largely salmon, whether it’s been farmed or wild-caught. And I know, Joanne, you sent off samples of farmed and wild-caught salmon that you bought in local grocery stores and you had it tested. Tell me about that. What did you find? Were there differences?

FARYON: Yeah, we did, and the reason we did this, we went to a large grocery store chain website and on it, it said that the farmed salmon had twice the amount of omega-3s as the wild salmon. So we thought, well, let’s put their test to the – that claim to the test. And we bought, from that grocery store, a sample of each. And I realize this isn’t super scientific, this was one sample of each fish, but we sent it off to the lab in Portland, Oregon. They ran a fatty acid test. It came back that, yes, the farmed salmon had twice the amount of omega-3s, like the claim, but you had to eat four times the amount of fat. That, in fact, the farmed salmon had four times the amount of total fat. When we found this out, we were surprised so we did look for other references in the literature. You know, is this just the salmon we bought or is this across the board? And I did find one study from 2002 that said that – did claim that farmed salmon had four to five times the amount of fat as wild caught salmon. And, again, it goes back to diet. There’s a study out of the University of – Well, it goes back ten years but in that study, it made reference to the feed. What we’re feeding farmed salmon was between 35 and 40% fat. So really the question is what are we feeding them? How does this ultimately affect the product?

CAVANAUGH: We’re taking your calls at 1-888-895-5727. Jared is calling from Ocean Beach. Good morning, Jared, and welcome to These Days.

JARED (Caller, Ocean Beach): Hey, good morning. Thanks for having me on this morning. I appreciate it. I’m on the executive committee of the Surfrider Foundation, San Diego Chapter. Don had come and presented to us a while back. I just wanted to ask a bit about the project that Hubbs is researching for a fish farm, at least an early stage fish farm, off of Mission Beach out in the ocean. And I also wonder if you could comment on the sources of funding for that.

CAVANAUGH: Thank you for that, Jared. Now, of course, we’re talking largely about what’s in farmed fish but if you’d like to address the environmental impact of this particular potential fish farm.

KENT: Okay, I did do a presentation to Surfrider I think back in March of this year. And what we propose to do is put a thousand ton per year operation five miles off the coast of San Diego to – it would be basically a small, commercial scale operation to test the environmental certainties or uncertainties associated with farming. And this is something that’s been suggested by a lot of different organizations that something needs to be done. We can model this as much as we want but until we actually go out and empirically measure impacts on the environment, we don’t really have a good data set to work from. We’ve submitted permit applications but with the new administration coming into Washington, D.C., we found that the president wants a marine spatial planning system worked out for federal waters. NOAA has decided it’s going to take on regulatory authority over aquaculture in federal waters. And we have two potential bills, one in the House and one in the Senate that might impact our two-year permitting process. So for right now we’ve got that on hold and for the next six months until we see how the federal regulatory side of it pencils out and we can figure out the right direction to move in to get the permits we need.

CAVANAUGH: And, Joanne, as you’ve mentioned in your reports, the idea of the environmental impact of aquaculture is – has basically taken up lots of the headlines but what you’re focusing on is actually what the fish are getting to eat in these farms and how it’s affecting them in the amount of fat and also in another way that you wanted to share.

FARYON: Yeah, so the other thing that we talked about was we are feeding farmed fish cattle by products as well. Now, this was actually banned in European countries by the European Food Safety Committee. And the reason there was a lot of research being done on this, too, we can trace it back to sort of the mad cow outbreak in the United Kingdom back in the eighties and nineties. They discovered that mad cow was spread because cattle were eating other cattle by products. So, in fact, in Europe and in the United States, that’s banned. In 1997, the USDA banned cattle being fed cattle by products. However, it’s not banned in terms of feeding it to fish feed, to farmed fish. Last year, the FDA took a further step and banned the use of cattle brains and spinal cords in all animal feed because in terms of mad cow that’s where the largest concentration of infected material can be found. Because there has been research, there have been questions raised if we feed farmed fish this material and if it is infected, what does that mean? In Europe, their thinking was, well, if we feed fish cattle by products and then cattle turn around and eat the fish, is that a way of spreading this disease? By all accounts, the risk has been assessed at – either it can’t be assessed or it’s very low. But they took the measure of saying, okay, we’re going to eliminate this in our feed. In the U.S., we don’t do that. We can feed the tallow, which is the cow fat, to farmed fish, and protein, bone and blood meal, is still allowed to be fed to farmed fish. There have been a couple of studies. One is actually a review of the literature, it was a communication in the Alzheimer’s Journal. We did speak to the lead author on that paper who’s a neurologist out of the University of Kentucky, Dr. Robert Friedland, and he takes the point of view that any risk really is not, you know, isn’t acceptable and shouldn’t we be banning all cattle by products in fish feed? I also have been communicating with the lead author out of a number of research papers out of Greece on this issue, and they actually published a paper just a few months ago where they fed fish infected cattle material and two years after being fed this material the fish showed signs of plaque that’s observed in Alzheimer’s and also in the human variant of mad cow disease. So I’ve been e-mailing with him and asking about this and, I mean, obviously it’s an area still that needs more research. And I’m sure, Don, you probably have lots to say about this because this is like you’ve been looking into this for decades. You know that farmed fish are being fed this kind of, you know, animal by products and I think it raises another question, too, for people, like you said, in your intro, Maureen, who don’t want to eat beef but are eating fish, does it somehow, you know, create a bit of a conflict. And I’m wondering sort of what – how you feel about that?

KENT: Well, okay, I’m not actually a nutritionist and I haven’t followed this particular subject line as closely as you have, Joanne, but I’d also put it in perspective that what’s going on in our country right now is aquaculture’s basically centered around a few species, mostly fresh water like trout and salmon – or, excuse me, or anadromous species like trout and salmon or catfish, striped bass, that sort of thing. And to be honest with you, I don’t really know how much beef by products is being used in this country but I think you bring up an interesting point, is that if we want to have control over the – what goes into our seafood, we ought to develop an industry that has a regulatory framework that says what we’ll allow to be in there, in the same way that we would say you can use this antibiotic to treat a fish or not, set up by the USDA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. We ought to have those kinds of conditions set up within the country as well so that rather than relying on, well, where did we buy that fish and what guidelines did they use when they – what’d they put in their feed, we can have those guidelines laid out here and the fish that folks like Andrew can buy for his restaurants, he knows the quality of it. He doesn’t have these questions in his mind. Right now, we’re looking at a wide range of protein sources. I think the most promising really is the reuse of fish processing waste. That is if you were to take a salmon, 50% of the salmon is left over after you take the filet out. If you take 3 million tons of salmon harvested in the Pacific northwest every year, that means that’s 1.5 million metric tons of high grade protein, not as good as the filet itself but protein, calcium, phosphorus, that’s available as a supplement to the diet to replace fish meal. I haven’t done the math yet but I would guess that one and a half million metric tons combined with other vegetative proteins like soybean could easily make up the vast majority of the need of what we need to replace fish meal in diets. And what you’re in effect doing is taking the same by product that came from the fish where you cut the filet off and fed it directly to people, you’re taking the rest of the fish and then utilizing that to grow fish.

CAVANAUGH: We are talking about fish, the fish you eat, the fish on your dinner plate, where it comes from and what it’s been eating. You’re listening to These Days and my guests are Don Kent. He’s senior research biologist of Hubbs-Sea World Research Institute. Joanne Faryon, our reporter, who’s been tracing, doing the food series for Project Envision. And I want to hear now from chef Andrew Spurgin. He is head chef of Waters Fine Catering and co-founder of the group Passionfish, which is dedicated to sustainable fishing and fish harvesting. There are a lot of people on the phones who want to get in on our conversation. Our number’s 1-888-895-5727. But first, Andrew, I do – you’ve been listening to quietly to everything going on here. I want to get your reaction…

SPURGIN: I’m learning things.

CAVANAUGH: I want to get your reaction to what you’ve been hearing and the way that farmed fish are fed and the quality of those fish.

SPURGIN: Well, you know, fish farming has been around for thousands of years. I mean, in China, it was feeding silk worms to carp, and Romans used to eat aquacultured bivalves like oysters and stuff, so in that sense it isn’t new but it is new as a commercial industry, it’s fledgling. So, you know, when you look at how long we’ve been raising, say, goats, and now you look at salmon, I mean, you know, there’s a lot of mistakes that have been made and I think it’s in most people’s best interest with the advent of people’s definite desire to know where their food’s coming from, is to do simply what we’re doing today, which is to ask questions and try to inform. That having been said, my big concern with things like fish feed and sources of protein like, in this case, seafood, is, well, what are the regulations? Where do those regulations come from? And we can ask what’s in this food but, you know, if it’s not regulated how do we know that what we’re getting is what we’re getting? I mean, there’s so many cases in points of misidentity or just plain, you know, pirateness, if you will, of fish. There was a great article in the New York Times where they did something similar to what you did, Joanne, in a different sense, which is run DNA and do some other tests on what was allegedly wild salmon and out of the 8 tested, 6 were farmed, 6 of them.

CAVANAUGH: Wow.

SPURGIN: So you ask yourself, as a consumer, well, how would I know that? How do I know that and what do I do to assure what I’m buying is, indeed, what that person who’s selling it to me is saying it is? You know, so…

CAVANAUGH: Let’s…

SPURGIN: …you need to break away. It’s a good issue, we can come back to it.

CAVANAUGH: I do want to…

SPURGIN: Yeah.

CAVANAUGH: We have a caller on the line who has a comment along these lines. Let’s talk to Will in Oceanside. Good morning, Will. Welcome to These Days.

WILL (Caller, Oceanside): Oh, hi. I had a comment regarding the healthy aspects of wild caught fish. The Japanese, you know, have been pescatarians for, you know, centuries and they’re quite a healthy nation. I don’t know if anybody’s ever gone by a feed lot operation on I-5 or not, you know, you breathe that air and I can’t help but believe that animals that breathe that air concentrate pollutants and ammonia or whatever else is in the air there, if, you know, in fish farming operations you’re dealing with water, which is a higher density than air does and the gill respiration factors, you know, of fish, I think, would concentrate higher levels of pollutants in the fat than, you know, from being in that environment. There’s no way to escape being in that environment and how much damage does that environment do to the ecosystem of the deal.

CAVANAUGH: Will? Let me…

WILL: Okay, so my point…

CAVANAUGH: Yeah, let me ask you a question. You’re a commercial fisherman, right?

WILL: That’s correct.

CAVANAUGH: And so one would say that you have a built-in bias against farmed fish.

WILL: Well, I’ve also got a degree in aquaculture from the University of California.

CAVANAUGH: All right, then, all right. So do you think that farmed fish are any substitute for wild caught fish?

WILL: Oh, no. There’s no way. In my mind, it’s clear. There’s no doubt about it that wild caught fish is the only way to go because I just stated the point, you know, that you concentrate these animals in a small area, you’re going to have pollutants associated with it. If, as a consumer, you have a choice, you should make the choice for wild caught fish because I think that fish could even be a more dangerous – I mean, farmed fish could be even more dangerous in terms of concentration of pollutants in fats.

CAVANAUGH: Will, thank – I have to thank you for the call. I want our guests to respond to the issues that you’ve brought up. I wonder, Joanne, did you do any checking on pollutants in fish?

FARYON: Well, in terms of the pollutants in the fish itself, there’ve been studies that talk about dioxins, I think. Don, is that – that’s been some of the research that’s been done. That really wasn’t so much the focus, but I would ask the caller this, and, Don, maybe you would ask the caller this, too, that if we say, okay, we prefer wild caught but there’s only so much fish and if we, the consumers, want to buy fish and we eat more fish and we eat larger portions of fish, and, Andrew, you’re probably, you know, familiar with what consumers are demanding, what do you do? If there’s only so much fish, what do you do? It’s – We’re really driving demand and, ultimately, leaving it up to people like Don to say, okay, Don, we want more fish, what’re you going to do about it? So are we – Have we been asking enough questions – and I think that’s…

SPURGIN: Yeah, Don, you know, I hope you brought some fish with you today.

FARYON: But I think it – So I think it’s the one thing we learned in this whole investigation into food is that the consumer walks into the grocery store and it’s loaded with choices and we – and, look, farmed fish is only six bucks a pound and wild caught is $14.00 and we buy the $6.00. So we do make these choices with our money, ultimately.

SPURGIN: You know, if I can comment on that…

CAVANAUGH: Andrew.

SPURGIN: …because I think one critical element that we’re missing here, albeit I certainly agree with what they eat and what’s in it and, you know, it’s a given, is how – what it takes to you to make that choice as to what you buy. And what we’re talking about is sustainable choices. You know, everything from capture techniques, which certainly are another show. For the gentleman that called, I mean, I have the greatest respect for fishers, believe me. They have a very hard job. They generally love their environment, and it’s in their best interest to do that. But if we’re supporting factory trawling fish – I mean, you’ve got to ask yourself, like, say, Somalia, for instance, and this is a little off subject. Everyone’s complaining about those pirates over there but we have pirates over there is one of the reasons we have pirates over there is because people have gone in with these huge factory trawlers and devastated their fishery. What would you do?

CAVANAUGH: Yeah.

SPURGIN: What would you do?

CAVANAUGH: And it goes…

SPURGIN: You know?

CAVANAUGH: …back to the point Joanne is making. If we’re all going to be eating more fish and the populations of fish are declining, we have no other choice but to go to fish farms. But then again, how can fish farms be made sustainable and healthy places as sources of fish?

SPURGIN: Again, if I can just quickly…

CAVANAUGH: Yeah.

SPURGIN: …comment on that and I’ll let, you know, Don comment on this because, you know, I do believe in aquaculture and I think the problem is that everyone seems to say it’s either good or bad. It’s contentious, it’s gray, it’s not black, it’s not white. You know, salmon, say, from Chile with anemia and all the devastation of the, you know, things that have gone on there are a lot different than some of the other projects that are being proposed. In the case of what, you know, Don and Hubbs-Sea World, you know, Research Institute are doing is we’re talking about, you know, when we talk about, you know, bluntly put, poop and stuff in net pens, you know, if there’s no water that’s being pushed through there, and on a sandy bottom, which is what we have out here, you don’t have the same kind of problems that you have in a net pen in a more static water, which, of course, you know, Don, I mean, obviously, you can comment on that. But if you’ve got 500 millions of gallons of water in it, you know, in a tide or other form like that, I mean, it’s cleaning this out. You’re not talking about this, you know, polluted environment.

CAVANAUGH: Don, I want to give you a chance to respond.

KENT: Certainly. And I appreciate the gentleman’s comment. It’s one that’s – that in perspective is an important issue. It’s really what we’ve dedicated a lot of effort to. We actually operate 12 small cage systems from Santa Barbara to San Diego for our replenishment program where we put white sea bass back in the ocean. And we’ve developed monitoring techniques to look at the water column and also to look at the sediments under the cages to make sure that we’re not having adverse impacts. Now all of our cages are loaded – are located inland, or not inland but, excuse me, within embayments. One of them’s off the coast. And it’s all about location. Sort of in the restaurant business: location, location, location. It works that way in fish farms as well. If we were to take the back part of San Diego bay and put a cage in there with 1,000 tons of fish, what’s going to happen? Twice a day, the water’s going to go up, twice a day the water’s going to go down. And everything that drops out of that cage, whether it’s detrital material or ammonia or phosphorus, it’s going to pretty much stay in that immediate area. As opposed to put it five miles offshore in 300 feet of water with a quarter- to a half-knot current running continuously, and what you have is is the inability to measure any of these background levels, carbon, nitrogen or phosphorous above background level. And it’s really a matter of how can we grow fish and allow nature to assimilate appropriately without huge algoblooms and that sort of thing. How does it assimilate these nutrients that then go back into the nitrogen and the phosphorous cycle? Also commercial fishermen, it’s really my vision down the road—it’s not going to be my guys with master’s and Ph.D.s that are running fish farms, it’s going to be commercial fishermen that get to do this. We’ve had work forums with, you know, 50 or 60 fishermen there and told them, look, our vision is to demonstrate how to do this and then you guys go out and start in these businesses but we want to demonstrate how to do it properly.

CAVANAUGH: Let me ask you, Joanne, we have a person who has an interesting question, I think, and it’s when you go to the store and something says wild caught fish, can you trust it?

FARYON: Well, after you bring up that study, right?

CAVANAUGH: Umm-hmm.

FARYON: From the…?

SPURGIN: Yeah, I mean, the bottom line is you caught, I mean, you caught. It’s back to regulation again. You know, we’ve got so many pounds of imported fish coming to this country, much of it filet, the FDA has absolutely no idea what that is. I mean, there’s not enough hands, there’s not enough funding, there’s not enough education. I mean, you can further comment on that but, I mean, that simply is the bottom line.

FARYON: And we actually did try to find out is there a way of knowing what are farmed fish being fed, and we did call the National Feed Association as well, and we’re basically told, well, this is really proprietary information, this isn’t, you know, information we give out. So, you know, are they – you wonder why it isn’t a requirement to have this as public information. It’s like what’s in the food that we buy on the back of the can…

SPURGIN: It’s on the back of a Twinkie.

FARYON: Exactly, but we don’t know what’s in the fish. But I think this is a good conversation to have. This kept reminding me of when we did our research into cattle and feed lots, when we put cows into feed lots and we started feeding them corn. I don’t know that we asked all these questions back then because what we now know decades later is maybe corn’s not the best – necessarily the best diet. Corn gave cattle more fat so then we gave them hormones to give them more lean muscle tissue and then when we put them all together on feed lots, they got sick so we gave them more antibiotics and now, 50 years later, we’re thinking, oh, okay, was this, you know, what about all of this? So I think fish now, aquaculture, we’re looking – we’re asking these questions now, and probably better to ask them now than 50 years from now when we’re kind of stuck with a system that we can’t change. Maybe we, the consumer, ought to be asking the FDA for regulations or asking for this kind of information to be made public.

CAVANAUGH: I want to ask you, Andrew, about Passionfish. Tell us a little bit about this organization.

SPURGIN: I can try to keep it short and sweet.

CAVANAUGH: Sure.

SPURGIN: Over a decade ago, well probably about 12 years ago, I, you know, I, as a consumer of fish and somebody in the industry, became very concerned about issues we’re talking about today, about sustainability and things of that ilk. And I, with two cohorts, co-founded Passionfish because one of the things that was most important to me, and they, was that nobody was talking to each other. A very, very contentious issue. Fishers weren’t – were pointing fingers to environmentalists and government was saying this and everybody was saying errrr, but, you know, nobody was talking to each other. So we were the first people in the States to establish a forum where we just asked one simple thing, respect that person’s opinion and listen and set up what’s like a Socratic dialogue, meaning a well-informed moderator, stakeholders of an issue, and debated this, you know, which, you know, wasn’t just arguing and fingerpointing. Now what is really exciting to me is I see this movement, if you want to call it, taking more of a stand like that and embracing people rather than excluding them.

CAVANAUGH: And I want to ask you also, Andrew, do you buy farmed fish to…?

SPURGIN: Yeah, I do.

CAVANAUGH: Yeah? Okay.

SPURGIN: But I’m very, very selective on what it is that I do buy. I, you know, I love wild fish. I certainly, if someone put a gun to my head and said, which do you prefer, it would be wild. But I’m also a realist and I think that one has to weigh – there is no best decision, there are good decisions.

CAVANAUGH: Well, let me stop you there, though. Is there a certain place that you actually go to buy your farmed fish? Are you picky about that?

SPURGIN: I’m very picky about it. Absolutely.

CAVANAUGH: And where…

SPURGIN: I ask a lot of questions. We buy product from Michael Fung at Better Halfshell and Santa Monica Seafood, their clean fish program. It’s one of the few things in our business at Waters Fine Catering and Fine Foods that we actually fly further than I’m comfortable with. And the reason is that the places that seem to be producing fish, in this case salmon, you know, I don’t buy any farmed salmon anywhere from either New Zealand or Scotland – And just really quickly, the one from Scotland is eating by-catch, which is just incidental catch. 25% of what comes out of our ocean is just simply thrown away, which is obscene. They take that by-catch from sustainable seafood and that’s what they feed into their salmon there. It’s a great product. And then the one from New Zealand is polyculture, which is a symbiotic relationship. So you’ve got mussels and things being grown with seaweed in net pens and it’s a much more healthy environment where you aren’t having some of these concerns that, you know, the rabid, hate-farm-fish people point fingers at.

CAVANAUGH: Let me ask you, Joanne, I know that you personally don’t eat a lot of meat. I wonder if – what your investigation into farmed fish and all this controversy has changed your personal eating habits.

FARYON: Well, I have to say it is going to make me choose wild salmon and because I admit, I was buying based on price. I thought salmon’s good for me, look, I can get this big chunk of salmon for seven bucks a pound, why wouldn’t I buy it instead of the wild? And now I realize why it’s cheaper. You know, there is a difference. And the wild does taste different because we have bought wild on occasion, too. I mean, and now that I know that, oh, there may be a fat difference, you can taste it.

CAVANAUGH: We are out of time. But I know – I’m sorry, Don. I kind of have a feeling the future’s with you no matter what we do. But I want to thank my guests so much. Joanne Faryon, Andrew Spurgin and Don Kent, who is president of Hubbs-Sea World Research Institute. And I want to let everyone know that this segment is part of our series of special reports on the food we eat. The series culminates in a special Envision San Diego documentary called “Food.” It’s airing next Monday night, November 16th, at 9:00 p.m. on KPBS Television. If you’d like to post comments to this section, go online at KBPS.org/TheseDays.

Comments

Avatar for user 'lauramc'

lauramc | November 17, 2009 at 10:38 a.m. ― 4 years, 10 months ago

I work for Salmon of the Americas (SOTA) representing members that produce farmed salmon from Chile whose fishmeal mainly consists of vegetarian and marine proteins and lipids with zero use of mammal proteins or byproducts. Our association is compelled to assure the public that consuming farmed salmon from Chile is safe, nutritious and poses no risk for Mad Cow Disease.

( | suggest removal )

Avatar for user 'Joanne Faryon'

Joanne Faryon, KPBS Staff | November 19, 2009 at 6:56 p.m. ― 4 years, 10 months ago

Hello SOTA,

What advice can you give consumers when shopping for farmed salmon? How will they know whether the farmed salmon they buy is fed vegetarian and marine proteins rather than mammal proteins? And thanks for your comments.
Joanne Faryon

( | suggest removal )

Avatar for user 'amendola'

amendola | November 26, 2009 at 8:36 a.m. ― 4 years, 10 months ago

Most of the farmed salmon criticism I see on-line points to high levels of PCB's as a major problem, yet I don't see any mention of PCB's in this interview. It seems that high PCB's levels occur in fish-fed salmon -- so does this mean that non-fish fed salmon have lower PCB levels?

( | suggest removal )