Why Eating Salmon Year Round Doesn’t Work
Boneless, skinless chicken breast was a go-to protein option for me, for years.
So were egg whites.
And so, too, was salmon.
I can’t even remember back to what my initial foray into the confusing arena of food labeling was, it’s been so long, but it started with the idea that chicken being labeled as free-range was all I needed to be aware of.
In actuality, a “producer” as they’re referred to by the USDA, must simply “demonstrate to the agency that the poultry has been allowed access to the outside.” (1)
The rest of the bird’s entire life could still be spent in a cage stacked to the ceiling in a dark barn.
Once a consumer has an eye opening experience such as this was for me, we then have reason, and the opportunity to learn more about where our food is really coming from and how many steps it may have taken to get from where it grew, was raised or where it swam to our dinner table.
As such, when we begin to look at another go-to option for what many of us view as a healthy, good for you protein option, salmon, we’d best set ourselves up for what will inevitability be an invaluable learning experience.
First things first: salmon is not a fish that is naturally available on a year-round basis in all parts of the world.
Being that I’m in Los Angeles, and am writing from the standpoint of what is local and sustainable here, we’ll drop a pin in Southern California and use it as our starting point.
When is wild salmon in season?
Not very often; in fact, Wild Atlantic Salmon were “basically fished to the brink of extinction,” so the seafood industry turned to farm-raising them (2).
We hear about farmed fish, and it’s easy to chose not to listen.
I recall many an occasion when being inside several different grocery stores and overhearing a conversation between a customer and clerk behind the fish counter.
Typically, I’d see a beautiful array of fish, positioned side by side and labeled in small print with the price per pound and in even smaller print, where the fish was from and whether it was wild or not.
The customer would ask why the wild salmon was, for example, $29 / pound while the farmed, which actually sometimes looked more vibrant (thanks to added dyes often found in farmed fish) was less than half that price.
The clerk may or may not have a reasonable and accurate answer and many a time, the customer opted for the lower priced version.
This isn’t to say that I’ve never eaten farmed salmon or that the cost of food isn’t an issue for many.
However, it speaks to a general theme that grossly needs to be addressed, encompassing education about where our food comes from and how it was sourced and separately, the growing economic divide the determines whether or not one even has a choice between either of the two… or any at all.
Farm-raised salmon, and many other fish are everywhere, from your local grocery store to fine restaurants to convenience stores. But that comes with an environmental cost.
So how can we learn what we should and shouldn’t be eating from an environmental perspective?
It’s up to us as consumers to self educate and to be open and willing to roll with the fish options, or any other proteins for that matter, that we can find locally and in season which, by the way, taste better, too.
One great resources is the Marine Stewardship Council https://www.msc.org/home
They recognize and reward efforts to protect oceans and safeguard seafood supplies for the future, and help protect our oceans by choosing fish and seafood products with the blue MSC label.
Another manner to increase your chances of getting mindfully sourced fish, and other proteins, is to frequent your local farmer’s markets. Granted, you’ve still got to do some question asking, but if you’re at the market speaking directly to the guys who caught the fish you’re about to buy that morning from the local bay, you’re in better hands than you’d be at Costco.
In terms of the price conversation, one more thing to keep in mind is to balance it out with portion sizes of both the protein as well as how the meal looks on your plate.
We don’t need nearly as much protein as the average person thinks they do, so if we make a simply shift of eating an 8 oz portion of fish to a 4 oz portion, and instead, increasing the sautéed spinach, kale and collard green mixture two or three-fold, topping it off with a good douse of olive oil, we reduce the overall cost of the meal and subsequently, the cost on the environment.
The reality is that in the US, we are in a country where food is a business, yet so many of the things we are being sold are so highly processed, they’re hardly even food anymore anyway.
These faux foods, making up a large percentage of what the standard American Diet consists of, create the foundation for many of the new health conditions we see so often these days, many of which never even existed a couple of generations ago.
If we do our homework, learn what’s available to us on a local level and begin a movement, even if at first on a small scale, to driving up the demand for this type of eating, it can gain traction.
When enough traction is gained and enough people who do have the means to shop and eat this way, a slow shift away from these very people demanding the highly processed foods can begin, eventually bringing down the prices of food to open up the options for different income levels to begin to be able to have access to real, healthy, unadulterated food as well.
Gross oversimplification, perhaps, but trending in that direction is certainly a part of the move we must create in order to address the current state of health, or lack thereof in our country.
Food is medicine. It can heal.
We just need to create a way to get food to everyone.