Buying fish is not easy. If you were born at the sea or in a fishing environment, the company can certainly be simpler , but usually you do not have all the tools and information necessary to approach the fish counter without the fear of making wrong purchases.
And the questions to ask, to choose the right fish, are many: what difference is there between a farmed fish and one caught in the open sea ? What are the species to choose and which ones to discard? Where can I find information on the products on display? How to understand if a fish is fresh ? Here is a short vademecum that we of Melarossa have drawn up with the help of Slow Fish and the guides Let’s Eat Right and Those who don’t bite .
Fish: better than farmed or caught?
According to SlowFish , today 43% of the fish products consumed in the world come from farms. The main problem, however, is that since intensive breeding prevails, very few of these herds guarantee sustainable production systems.
And the reasons are mainly three:
- the more resistant and capable of growing faster species are preferred without considering whether they are native . This increases the risk of damaging ecosystems and threatening biodiversity.
- carnivorous species are often preferred , such as salmon or pangasius, which require large quantities of feed (5 kilos of feed per kilo of product that arrives on the supermarket counters) obtained from the processing of meat from far away, with enormous costs in terms of environmental pollution.
- genetic engineering techniques are most often applied to farmed species , to make them faster in growth and resistant to diseases.
Fish caught and bred in comparison
If, on the one hand, the use of breeding is an inevitable tendency to remedy the problem of the impoverishment of the seas caused by the excessive capture of fresh fish , on the other hand it raises many questions about the quality of the fish we consume. Compared to fish caught in the open sea, farmed fish eliminates the risk of contamination by environmental pollutants such as mercury and other heavy metals .
However, the feed and farming methods used (mainly intensive) can affect the nutritional properties of the fish: the farmed one tends to be richer in fats but poorer in omega 3 , especially if fed with vegetable feed instead of animal meal and fish oil. Added to this are the risks associated with the use of antibiotics to avoid overcrowding infections , although there are safety criteria such as therapeutic windows, which guarantee the absence of pharmacological substances upon arrival on the tables.
But how do you know if a fish comes from intensive farming? The best way is to find a fishmonger who is able to give you this information.
As for the quality of farmed fish , there is no univocal and universal truth , since there are many differences between fish and fish . The advice, however, is to always prefer seasonal and native species.
Recognize a fish caught by a farmed one
Attention must be paid to the explanatory tag displayed on the counter . There you can read a series of useful information such as:
- the name of the species
- if the fish is farmed or has been caught
- the country where he was raised
- how it was fished or bred
- the country where the final breeding phase took place
Watch out for the codes: codes indicate the sea in which the fish was caught the number 21, for example, identifies the North Western Atlantic , 27 the North Eastern Atlantic, 37 the Mediterranean Sea, the 51 and 57 the Indian Ocean.
Types of farming: intensive, extensive, in tanks, in the open sea
There are farmed species that can be bought without fear of harming the environment, if bred according to specifications for organic production: trout, sea bass (or sea bass), sea bream, sturgeon.
But pay attention to the type of breeding : in any case, you must absolutely avoid buying fish that comes from intensive breeding and in the tank , where the animal is not treated with due respect, with all the consequences that this also entails on the quality of the meat. Instead, choose extensive offshore farms.
Remember that aquaculture products come from different types of breeding: intensive, extensive and semi-extensive.
- In intensive farming , fish are bred in fresh, salt or brackish water tanks , and are fed with artificial diets formulated to be suitable for the individual species bred.
- In the case of intensive offshore breeding (mariculture) the fish are raised in large floating or submerged cages and are fed with artificial diets.
- In extensive breeding the fish is sown in the juvenile stage in coastal lagoons or ponds and grows with natural food, that is , taking advantage of the resources provided by the environment.
- Finally, there is an intermediate form of training, the semi-extensive, that is , when natural food is integrated with artificial diets .
It goes without saying that the best form of breeding , for the sea, for the ethics of animals, but also for your nutrition, is that of extensive breeding in the open sea.
How to choose the type of fish to buy?
Did you know that when you buy dogfish, emery, verdesca or sea-calf you are buying shark meat, especially endangered species? These are the names with which this inhabitant of the ocean is marketed in Italy, so important for the ecosystem. Here are some rules to help you choose safely:
- one of the fundamental rules when you are at the fishmonger is to choose seasonal and local fish, molluscs and crustaceans. Remember, in fact, that fish also has its seasonality.
- Attention to size: there is a regulation that has defined the minimum sizes below which you can neither fish nor market , always in order not to hinder the reproduction and protect fish stocks. Do you want some examples? Never buy a bream that measures less than 23 cm or a mullet smaller than 11 cm.
- Prefer neglected species , that is, less known and less expensive species , but as tasty as the most sought after salmon, tuna or red snapper.
How can you tell if it’s cool?
There are six elements to consider to understand if the fish we are buying is fresh.
The Eyes: the eye must be convex,the cornea transparent and the pupil black and bright
The gills: must be red in color,free of mucus and seaweed smell
Skin: must be bright and bright in color,the scaled must adhere perfectly to the meat and the mucus on the surface of the fish must b watery and transparent
Meat: must b compact and elastic
Tail: it must not be detached but broken,moreover spine inside must not take on any color
- FishBase online – Comprehensive database with information on over 29,000 fish species
- Fisheries and Illinois Aquaculture Center – Data outlet for fisheries and aquaculture research center in the central US at Archive.today(archived 15 December 2012)