Wild Catch vs Farm Raised Fish - Case of Steamed Salmon

Seasonal preferences are often a bone of contention for those who enjoy cooking out of doors. Some of us can only stomach summer time meals like burgers and grilled BBQ. I personally have always enjoyed the Fall season with the multicolored landscape and wonderful harvest season. Seafood thrives this time of year as well.

One of the more contentious issues for seafood lovers is the decision to buy wild as opposed to farm raised fish. One of the key questions is whether farm raised fish are higher in contaminants. It’s not a yes or no answer in most cases. Contaminants like PCB’s are much better controlled today in waters where wild fish are caught while genetic modification, or hormones and antibodies are not permitted in the U.S. As the nutritionist and popular blogger, Monica Reinagel, reports in her blog, Nutrition Diva, wild-catch fishing, and setting and enforcing standards protect the marine environment and fish populations. And fish farming is strictly regulated.

But the fundamental concern ought to be where our fish is caught and what regulations are enforced elsewhere. For example, according to Linda O'Dierno, who is an Outreach Specialist for the National Aquaculture Association, farm raised fish raised today constitutes 50% of the global food fish supply. And most of the U.S. consumption is farm raised. But the U.S. only produces 2.5 % of that. And Farm raised fish raised in the U.S. is often more expensive than farm fish imported from outside the U.S. which has less stringent regulations.

Sometimes studies are helpful in clarifying confusion about long held beliefs. And later studies become essential to determine change in data collected. For example, “water contaminates studied in 2004, found the levels of PCBs, a potentially carcinogenic chemical, to be ten times higher in farmed fish than in wild-caught fish. However, the amount of PCBs in the farmed fish was still less than 2% of the amount that would be considered dangerous. And follow up studies found PCB levels in farmed fish to be similar to those of wild fish.” 
Mercury may be the bigger problem especially in wild-caught fish such as swordfish, king mackeral, tile fish, shark and tuna. The most common farm-raised fish are catfish, tilapia, and salmon, and they all have low or very low mercury levels.
The results are mixed but the value of eating fish continues unabated. Three decades ago Dutch researchers followed 872 men aged 40-59 for 20 years and found that those who ate as little as one or two fish meals a week had a 50 percent lower death rate from heart attacks than those who did not eat fish.
Other studies show that eating fish delays the onset of Alzheimer’s and dementia. And makes your child healthier and more intelligent. And further, seafood is low in saturated fat and is high in omega-3 fats.

Fish is healthy for us but some fish is healthier than others. How they are caught and where they are caught makes a difference. It follows that as consumers we must exercise more knowledgeable buying habits than was once thought necessary. Smart phone aps can help us learn about the safety of different species. “Caveat Emptor” or buyer beware becomes more important than ever to our well being and that of our loved ones. Eating steamed wild salmon seems to be a smart bet for either farm raised or wild salmon. Mercury is low in both fishing practices. Here’s a recipe that will make the decision a delicious one.

Steamed Salmon, Dill and Ginger with Sauteed Red Chard
Serves 2 -4

Ingredients for salmon
1 Lb. Wild Salmon
1/2 bar of unsalted butter (4 ounces)
2 inches of fresh ginger, peeled, diced
2 tbsp fresh dill, diced
1 tbsp dried lemon grass or 2-3 chopped branches
juice and zest of one lime

Ingredients for Sauteed Chard
2 bunches red chard, remove stems and ribs
2 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil
juice and zest of 1/2 lemon
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
2 cloves garlic, diced
1/4 cup chopped almonds, toasted in a saute pan for 15-30 seconds.

Directions for Roasted Salmon
1- rinse the salmon and dry with paper towels
2- cut the salmon into 4 equal pieces
3- light your charcoal grill fire and wait until coals are white
or until your gas grill is securely lit
4- lightly season with black pepper on both sides (salt is not necessary)
5- place the salmon on a large sheet of aluminum foil and season with fresh lemon grass, ginger, 1/2 pat of butter on each piece of salmon, and lime juice and zest. Loosely fold the aluminum foil over the salmon. Place the dome top over the enclosed salmon and steam for 12 minutes.
6- Remove the salmon from the grill - unless your guests enjoy rare salmon- otherwise leave enclosed until the chard is sauteed and seasoned.

Directions for Sauteed Chard
1- Rinse the chard leaves, chopped into thirds, and place in a large, medium heated skillet. Toss the moist chard leaves for 2 minutes until wilted.
2- Add the olive oil, sesame oil, garlic and lemon juice to the same skillet and turn the chard over with tongs until cooked— about 3 more minutes.
3) Add the lemon juice and toasted, chopped almonds on top of the chard. 4. Plate the cooked chard and almonds on each of your serving plates with one piece of steamed salmon on top and a slice of lemon and another of lime on each piece of steamed salmon.

This recipe gives you an array of different flavors with a crunch to boot. Steaming the salmon as opposed to roasting or frying leaves a smooth, flavorful taste that retains the nutritiousness of the dish. Further, salmon is complemented by the chard, sesame oil and crunchy toasted almonds. The lemon and lime combination enhances the deliciousness of the dish and looks great. Bon Appetit! 

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