Should You Choose Farm-Raised or Wild-Caught Fish for Your Restaurant?
Increasingly, customers at restaurants and foodservice establishments are choosing seafood over traditional meats. One of the main reasons that guests may choose seafood over chicken or pork is because it's considered a healthy option. As a result of the increased interest in seafood in the restaurant industry, many fish populations are in danger due to overfishing. To prevent overfishing of wild-caught fish, many foodservice establishments are turning to farm-raised options, which are more sustainable.
While choosing farm-raised reduces the stress on wild populations, it doesn’t come without downsides of its own. Keep reading to learn the pros and cons of both wild-caught and farm-raised fish, what sustainable seafood means, and how your business can make the right choice.
Wild Caught Fish
Wild-caught refers to fish, shellfish, and other types of seafood that are harvested directly from the ocean, rivers, or lakes, and also fish that have never lived in captivity. People have caught and prepared wild-caught fish for thousands of years, but due to high demand and climate change, wild fish populations are at historic lows, and some are even at risk of going extinct
Pros of Wild-Caught Fish
Here are some positive reasons to serve wild-caught fish at your foodservice establishment:
- Wild-caught fish tastes better. Wild fish have a more diverse diet than farm-raised alternatives, which gives them a better flavor.
- The meat is leaner. Because wild fish are constantly moving and trying to find food to eat, their meat is leaner than farm-raised options. As a result of the meat being less fatty, it's healthier.
- The color is better, especially with wild caught salmon. The varied diets that wild-caught fish helps to improve their color, which makes for a create an impressive presentation when serving your customers.
Cons of Wild-Caught Fish
Although there are many benefits to serving wild-caught fish at your restaurant, there are some downsides. Here are some cons to using wild-caught fish:
- They're not sustainable. Wild fish populations are getting smaller, but demand is staying at the same level, which is causing some issues. As a result, the current level of fishing is unsustainable, which can harm the oceans and sea creatures.
- For many regions of the country, wild-caught fish won't be fresh. For wild fish to reach your grocery store or restaurant, many times it has to travel great distances. As a result, it won't taste as fresh as if it was caught or raised locally.
- Wild fish may have higher levels of mercury. Mercury levels in fish can be very worrying. While the levels are low enough to be non-toxic to humans, wild fish do have a significantly higher level of mercury than farm-raised alternatives.
- The price is going to continue to increase. As wild populations shrink and demand continues to grow, wild fish is going to become harder to find and more expensive.
The term farm-raised refers to fish that are raised in floating net pens near the ocean shore. Farm-raised is also commonly referred to as "aquaculture" or "ocean-raised," and it's quickly becoming one of the most popular ways to raise and catch fish.
Pros of Farm-Raised Fish
Here are some reasons why you should choose ocean-raised fish for your business:
- Ocean-raised fish are a sustainable option. Fish that are raised in farms are more sustainable than wild-caught varieties, and they help to reduce the stress on wild fish populations, giving them time to grow back.
- They are more easily available than wild fish. Unlike some types of wild fish that may only be available and fresh during certain times of the year, aquaculture fish are available year-round.
- They're cheaper. Farmed fish are often cheaper than wild-caught ones because they cost less to harvest, process, and ship.
- Sustainability is a selling point. More customers are looking for sustainable and eco-friendly options when going out to eat. By using farm-raised fish in your business, you can capitalize on that interest and bring in more customers.
Cons of Farm-Raised Fish
Here are a few negative aspects to choosing ocean-raised fish:
- Farm-raised fish have lower levels of Omega 3. Omega 3 fatty acids are a good nutrient that is found in many types of fish, and it's one of the main health benefits of eating seafood. But, because ocean-raised fish have lower levels of Omega 3s, they may not be as good of a healthy alternative as wild-caught fish.
- Some aquacultures can harm the environment. Chemicals and waste from fish farms can spread and contaminate the environment around them. This can even affect local wildlife and spread diseases to wild fish populations.
- Farm-raised fish are fed antibiotics. Fish that are raised in captivity are more likely to get sick. To prevent the disease from spreading, farmers give their fish antibiotics, which may turn off some chefs and restaurant owners.
Wild-Caught vs Farm Raised
There isn't a clear winner between choosing wild or ocean-raised fish, and the best option for your business depends on your location. The best choice for your establishment will usually be fish that's local and fresh. For example, you might choose trout from a nearby fish farm rather than salmon that was caught in Alaska and then shipped to your local grocery store. Additionally, if you're looking for sustainable fish, using a resource like Seafood Watch is an excellent idea.
There are pros and cons to using both farm-raised and wild-caught fish, so it may be difficult to decide which type is better for your foodservice establishment. But, by doing some research about the different available options, you can find an option that works well for your business. Additionally, if you're looking for a sustainable alternative and are willing to try non-traditional types of fish, serving trash fish in your restaurant in your restaurant is a great option.