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We set the standard for seafood. If you see the ASC label on pack, you can be sure that your seafood was farmed with care.

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By choosing ASC labelled seafood, you are making a proven, positive impact on people and the planet.

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ASC creates measurable positive change in global seafood farming.

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Join the most recognised certification programme and benefit from trading ASC certified seafood.

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ASC creates measurable, positive change in global seafood farming.

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Farmed Seafood or Wild? How do you choose?

July 14, 2023

We want to make the best food choices for ourselves and our families, but how do we figure out what those best choices are? And if we want to protect the environment and promote sustainability through our purchases, it can be even more challenging.

Is the right choice for the planet the healthiest choice for us?

So, let’s talk about seafood. There are 2 common concerns between farm raised seafood and wild caught:

  • The difference in nutritional value and,
  • The environmental impact.

First, nutrient content

We know that eating seafood consumption, in general, is a great choice for our health.

Seafood provides high levels of protein, as well as vitamin D and minerals including magnesium, potassium, and iron. Oily fish, including salmon, mackerel and herring, is also a great source of Omega 3 fatty acids. These are considered essential to human growth and can support heart health and reduce inflammation in the body.

Seafood also contains Omega 6 fatty acids. This is another essential group that is thought to reduce cholesterol and help control blood sugar. Like Omega 3, we can’t produce it ourselves so we need to get it through the food we eat.

The levels of these nutrients is different in wild caught and farmed fish. If we look at salmon, for instance, the farmed variety offers slightly more protein (23g in a 113g fish) than is found in wild salmon (22g in a 113g fish). The opposite is true of minerals; wild salmon contains more calcium (39mg in wild salmon versus 10mg in farmed) and iron (1mg in wild salmon versus 0.3mg in farmed).

Omega 3s and Omega 6s are found in both types of salmon. However, the amount of each varies depending on the salmon’s origin. A study from Purdue University analysed fish available to consumers across the United States and found that farmed fish typically has a higher fat content than wild fish, which is due to the ingredients in their feed. The researchers concluded that farmed fish contains more Omega 3 and Omega 6 overall.

What about contaminants, should I worry about them?

A contaminant is anything that has found its way into the water that shouldn’t be there. This includes pesticides, mercury and other metals. The levels of contaminants found in our waterways varies significantly, depending on a range of factors.

When fish are exposed to these contaminants, they can then pass them on to the people who eat them. Fish that spend longer periods of time in the water (i.e. live longer) are more likely to contain contaminants. This is especially true for larger fish, which consume smaller fish that may have already been exposed.

Farm raised fish that are bred as food typically have short lifespans. And because they are fed by the farm that raises them, they don’t eat smaller fish. This means they have fewer opportunities to be exposed to contaminants, which limits the risk to humans when they reach our plates.

How do the carbon footprints of wild-caught vs farmed fish compare?

A carbon footprint is calculated as the total quantity of carbon dioxide-equivalent (CO2e) greenhouse gases released per kilogram of food produced.

All food has a carbon footprint attached, but that footprint will vary depending on how it was grown or raised, what it was fed, how it was harvested and the packaging and transport required for it to reach consumers. It also factors in the storage of the food in our homes and the likelihood of .

The CO2e emissions of farmed-raised salmon are estimated to be 5.1kg CO2e per kilo of food (before transport). Wild-caught salmon generates 4.9kg of CO2e per kilo. As a comparison, a kilo of boneless beef can generate between 34 and 60 kg of CO2e depending on the source of beef (i.e., dairy herd or beef herd). So eating seafood, irrespective of its origins, instead of red meat, is already making a positive choice in the fight to reduce carbon emissions.

You may be interested to know that  a large portion of farmed salmon’s carbon footprint comes from deforestation in the production of soy and other plant based feed ingredients. ASC’s Feed Standard addresses this issue, imposing strict requirements on the sourcing of feed ingredients and helping to reduce deforestation at the start of the supply chain.

Is there a social impact of raising fish versus wild fishing?

The fishing industry is vast and diverse, making it challenging to compare the social impact of wild fishing and seafood farming. What we do know is that unregulated industries can become breeding grounds for poor working conditions and human rights violations, and that this is a rising concern within the fishing industry.

Within seafood farming, the speedy growth of the industry has led to a rise in poorly-managed farms. This is why ASC was founded; to ensure that the seafood farming industry operates in a responsible and sustainable way. Our goal is to ensure that seafood farming can meet the growing demand for affordable protein options while minimising social and environmental impact.

The ASC label on your seafood showcases ASC certified farmers that are meeting the most robust standards including treatment of their workers. The certification requires safe working conditions, fair wages, reasonable working hours and no tolerance for child labor practices.

ASC certified farmers also talk regularly with their local community to ensure that any impacts on the local area are discussed and minimised.

Seafood with our ASC label has been farmed with care.

Find out more about how we are setting the standard for seafood here.

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