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For many shoppers, the prospect of buying seafood is easier just to avoid altogether.
Fresh fish is often perceived to be expensive and elitist, and it can be downright confusing figuring out if the catch of the day is environmentally friendly or not.
For that, National Geographic Fellow, For Cod and Country author and chef Barton Seaver has reeled in a few tips on how to approach your next seafood purchase so you come away knowing your choice was responsible, affordable and anything but fishy.
Five Strategies for Buying Sustainable Seafood: Barton Seaver
1. Keep an eye out for eco-labels.
Yet not all sustainable seafood is MSC certified, so don’t feel like you need to limit your options to just the certified products in order to eat sustainably. This is just one strategy.
Another is to consult a seafood guide or smart-phone app (downloadable from Blue Ocean Institute or the Monterey Bay Aquarium) that provides color-coded lists of the most sustainable choices (green), good alternatives (yellow), and which unsustainable fish to avoid (red).
Granted, using these guides accurately often requires obtaining additional information about a particular fish (i.e.where it was harvested, whether it was wild or farmed, what kind of fishing gear was used, etc.), which isn’t always easy to come by - especially when you’re faced with a shrugging fish seller."
2. Look for farmed shellfish.
3. Check out your frozen seafood options.
But even if what you’re buying isn’t certified, consider these additional sustainability benefits: Frozen seafood has a lower carbon footprint, on average, than fresh seafood. It takes far less energy to ship a frozen product by barge or train than it does to fly fresh product across the country in a vat of ice.
Frozen seafood also results in less waste than fresh seafood. A significant amount of fresh fish spoils and is dumped by either the retailer, restaurant, or consumer before it can be eaten.
Finally, frozen seafood is markedly cheaper than fresh seafood."
4. Visit the canned seafood aisle.
Canned anchovies, sardines and herring are excellent and affordable sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Anchovies are great additions to homemade salad dressing, bread dips and pasta sauces. Sardines can be used to make a tasty appetizer or to liven up a green salad.
For tuna, I look for chunk white, skipjack and pole-caught varieties. And while the many of the large-scale fleets still aren’t perfect, they are an industry in transition and deserve to be supported as they strive to improve their practices."
5. Eat diversely.
If it’s summertime and your market is proudly featuring fresh harpoon-caught swordfish, then genuflect to the opportunity to eat this awesome and iconic fish. And celebrate it with family and friends. But if it’s February and that same swordfish looks like the cardboard box its been stored in for the past six months, then don’t buy it.
Choose whatever is fresh and wonderful at that time of year. Make a plan when you walk into your market not to buy fish for a preordained recipe, but rather to walk out with the best fish you can get."
Previously - Chef Rick Moonen on five fish that deserve a break
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