Farmed Fish vs. Wild Fish

Photo: Flickr/Northwest Power and Conservation Council

What’s the difference between farmed and wild fish? Photo: Flickr/Northwest Power and Conservation Council

Fish is a lean protein that’s a major source of healthy omega-3 fatty acids, important vitamins such as calcium and iron, and essential minerals like magnesium and phosphorus. Studies have shown that including fatty fish in your diet is excellent for heart health and brain health. But not all servings of fish are created equal — the provided health benefits can be dependent on where the fish spent its life swimming.

Fish farming, or aquaculture, is a practice that has become popular in recent decades due to its manageability and an increasing demand for seafood. Fish are raised commercially in enclosures, commonly in the form of net pens in offshore coastal saltwater or freshwater environments, to eventually be sold for food. Aquaculture has been a valuable innovation and is largely why fish and other seafood are consistently available for our consumption.

While farmed fish can help with the problem of overfishing and can cut down on distance traveled to your plate, they also have a greater risk of disease, larger concentrations of toxins, and the potential to negatively impact local ecology.

Pollutants like polychlorated biphenyls (PCBs) and dioxins are released into coastal waters by way of land runoff and thus are in highest concentrations in near-shore areas where most fish farming takes place. As a result, farmed fish commonly contain significantly higher concentrations of these harmful pollutants compared with wild fish.

Why? Imagine you’re in an airplane with one flu-ridden passenger. By the end of the flight, other passengers are likely to have caught the flu as well. Farmed fish are in a similar situation when kept in enclosures like net pens — the high density of fish in a small area keeps them in constant contact with one another, allowing disease to spread easily.

Salmon has heart-healthy benefits — but it can also have contaminants. Photo: Flickr/Gwen

Salmon has heart-healthy benefits — but it can also have contaminants. Photo: Flickr/Gwen

Farmed fish are fed pellets usually made from grain or other plant material. It turns out that the reason why fish is high in healthy omega-3s is due to their diet in the wild. Therefore, farmed fish tend to have significantly lower concentrations of omega-3s. The food pellets at these farms are also inefficient in terms of energy and resources; it takes more energy to produce enough pellets to feed farmed fish than the fish will provide as food themselves. Wild fish are easier on the environment due to their self-sustaining dietary habits and contributions to the local ecosystem.

Another problem stemming from fish farming is escapees. Individual fish have been reported escaping from net pens, exposing themselves to wild fish populations where they can spread diseases or even out-compete them. The Atlantic salmon is an example of a farmed fish that may out-compete its wild neighbors; the superior size gives it an advantage in finding food and warding off predators. Atlantic salmon are commonly farmed on the West Coast of the U.S. in coastal net pens, so an escapee could certainly be detrimental for the local wild Pacific salmon.

When you’re choosing your seafood, consider the source — for now, sustainably harvested wild fish are likely to be the best option both for your health and that of the environment.

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Reducing Red Meat

Photo: Flickr/Ronald Sarayudej

How much red meat is in your diet? Photo: Flickr/Ronald Sarayudej

If you’re like many Americans, eating healthier was one of your New Year’s resolutions. Now that 2015’s in full swing, you may have strayed from the goal, but there’s one easy way to get back on track: Cut down on your red meat consumption.

Instead of a burger at lunch, try a plant-based meal like green salad, hearty pasta, or vegetarian soup. Why? It’s good for your health — red meat is full of saturated fats and LDL, or “bad,” cholesterol, increasing your risk of heart disease — and the health of the planet.

The meat industry is responsible for a massive amount of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. Greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and methane are released from the industrial machinery, processing equipment, and even the animals themselves. According to the UN, raising livestock is one of the most significant contributors to global environmental issues, accounting for about 9 percent of human-related carbon dioxide emissions.

Eating animals is inefficient in terms of energy resources, too: Producing 1 pound of meat requires 16 pounds of grain. That meat could provide meals for about five people in America — however, the 16 pounds of grain could feed many more. If we skipped the meat and ate the grain instead, we would be using our resources much more efficiently. After all, consuming an animal means consuming all the food and water that animal consumed during its lifetime as well.

Not only do livestock use up food and water, but they can even degrade land. When raising livestock, it’s important to carefully manage grazing areas in order to maintain self-sustaining land. Many industrial farms don’t manage their land properly, leading to overgrazing by the livestock and, consequently, no more green grass for the animals. Once the land is overgrazed, livestock must be moved to a new area where grass is able to grow. This area, in turn, also becomes overgrazed and more and more land is degraded.

Becoming a vegetarian isn’t the only solution, though. By choosing a plant-based lunch, you can save 2.5 pounds of carbon dioxide, 133 gallons of water, and 24 square feet of land, according to data from the PB&J Campaign. If you’re a born-and-bred brisket eater or hog wild about hot dogs, start with Meatless Monday, a global movement encouraging everyone to skip meat one day a week — even that makes a big difference.

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Don’t Waste Homegrown Produce — Donate It!

Can you eat everything your garden's growing? If not, donate it!

Can you eat everything your garden’s growing? If not, donate it!

In the U.S., 40 percent of our food goes to waste. Upon hearing that statistic, many of us tend to think about the waste that occurs in our kitchens or in restaurants. A large portion of that waste, however, also takes place on farms because of logistical issues during harvest. Additionally, an increasing number of people grow food themselves in backyards and community gardens across the country, and sometimes food even gets wasted on these small “farms.” During good growing seasons with adequate rain and few pests, people can wind up with too much of a particular crop and then don’t know what to do with it.

If you find yourself in this situation and can’t find someone to take extra produce off your hands, consider using one of the many nonprofit organizations trying to turn potential food waste into healthy meals. More than 50 million Americans face food insecurity, so it only makes sense to find ways to get food to those who need it (because the landfill certainly doesn’t need your produce!).

Ample Harvest, for example, is a national organization that connects people interested in donating their extra garden harvest to local food pantries. Currently, their system has 6,812 food pantries registered to receive fresh food, which is typically something food pantries are unable to offer their patrons because of the short shelf life of produce. To contribute, gardeners can use the Ample Harvest website to search for food pantries nearby and find out times when donations are accepted. Since 2009, many millions of pounds of produce have been donated using the system.

Plenty of local programs have similar goals, so you can also look into what food donation programs exist in your community. In Portland, Ore., the city’s Parks and Recreation Department began a program in 1995 called Produce for People that partners with hunger relief agencies to donate fruits and vegetables to food pantries. Dozens of the city’s community gardens participate, and many even plant a special section whose harvest is grown specifically for the organization.

While food waste in gardens may seem small compared to the much greater amounts of waste in the larger food system, every little bit we save from the landfill — and provide to someone in need — adds up.

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Product of Mexico

Picture Source: Los Angeles Times

Last week, the Los Angeles Times posted a four part series titled “Products of Mexico.” Traveling across nine Mexican states, reporter Richard Marosi and photojournalist Don Bartletti observed and interviewed workers from various mega-farms.

They found that many farm laborers are trapped until the season harvest ends in rat-infested camps without beds or clean water. Many bathe in irrigation canals outside camps because water often runs out in the camp facilities.

The camp bosses illegally withhold their daily/weekly wages to prevent any of them from escaping. Some try but are caught and are forcefully brought back.

Farm workers become ill due to breathing in and interacting with harsh pesticides used to treat the produce causing them to uncontrollably cough and break out with rashes. The people who are too ill to work are put on a no-pay list and are not fed.

Product prices in the camps grocery stores are so high many of the farm workers end up in deep debt, some just days after arriving. All the products sold in the small grocery stores in the camps are not priced making it troublesome for the workers, 2 eggs can range from $1 to $2. Laborers who cannot read nor do math are unknowingly charged more for products.

With false promises, these farm workers are brought to the mega-farms and remain there for months working 6 days a week and earn up to $8 to $12 a day.


Video Source: Los Angeles Times

Why do we value the produce more than the human caring for it?

It should be our social responsibility to change how this system has oppressed the farm workers, not only in Mexico, but throughout the world. Our commodity should not come at the expense of someone else’s life.

If you buy tomatoes, chili peppers, cucumbers or any product with the “Product of Mexico” sticker than you are a part of this. We must demand for big corporations to enforce or change their policies and help improve the lives the indigenous farm workers.

Los Angeles Times- Product of Mexico

Picture Source: Los Angeles Times

Part 1: Farm exports to the U.S. from Mexico have tripled to $7.6 billion in the last decade, enriching agribusinesses, distributors and retailers. But for thousands of farm laborers south of the border, the boom is a story of exploitation and extreme hardship.

Part 2: A raid exposes brutal conditions at Bioparques, one of Mexico’s biggest tomato exporters, which was a Wal-Mart supplier. But the effort to hold the grower accountable is looking more like a tale of impunity.

Part 3: The company store is supposed to be a lifeline for migrant farm laborers. But inflated prices drive people deep into debt. Many go home penniless, obliged to work off their debts at the next harvest.

Part 4: About 100,000 children under 14 pick crops for pay at small- and mid-size farms across Mexico, where child labor is illegal. Some of the produce they harvest reaches American consumers, helping to power an export boom.

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