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If you are paying attention to the food world then you know we have a protein shortage for our growing global population. By the year 2050, the global population will reach 9.1 billion people, 34 percent higher than today in 2017. And 70 percent of the population will be urban.
To satisfy the expected food and feed demand, we require a substantial increase in global food production of 70 percent by 2050. This involved an additional quantity of nearly 1 billion tonnes of cereals and 200 million tons of meat. (which is a generic term for all protein sources.)
And we don’t have to look to the future to see this is a problem. Currently, one billion people cannot meet the basic demands for food security. At our current pace with warming temperatures and acidification in our oceans, our natural resources— clean water, wild fisheries, and arable land, will continue to be stressed.
And with over 70 percent of the population living in an urban environment, where will we buy our food? Can you imagine what our food future looks like? And what does all this have to do with salmon and shark fins?
S is for Salmon
We need protein to survive. Salmon is an exceptionally smart, lean and healthy fish to eat. Salmon is high in protein, vitamins, minerals, Omega-3 fatty acids and low in fat. What’s not to love. But I meet my fair share of people who don’t like salmon but eat it only because it is good for them.
Did you know Salmon is the number two seafood eaten in the US, tied with tuna? Shrimp is number one in case you didn’t know. And would it surprise you to know that over 50 percent of all seafood eaten includes those three species? That in itself is a problem, but I don’t want to get ahead of myself.
So back to that question, where what will our food future look like?
We don’t have to look far to answer that question.
It should be no surprise to you that more than half of the seafood we eat is farmed. Including some “wild” salmon species which are produced in hatcheries, then released in the wild.
While I love my wild Alaska sockeye salmon (which is not raised in a hatchery, btw), I know that wild salmon cannot support our growing global population. Nor can everyone afford the high cost of Alaska salmon which ranges from $15 to $30 per pound.
We need smarter solutions.
Here are two salmon opportunities happening right now.
In Miami, the ground was broken to build the first US land-based salmon facility.
Atlantic Sapphire, the largest farmed salmon producer in the world, broke ground on a massive facility in Miami earlier this year. Its goal is to double the consumption of salmon in the US in the next 10 to 15 years. Atlantic Sapphire developed a land-based recirculating system with closed containment (which means no escapement into the wild, which potentially produces two problems—cross-breeding and disease).
And with a land-based system right here in the US, there will be a lower carbon footprint and hopefully a lower price point. This is a big win for US salmon lovers.
The second big salmon news I want to mention happened earlier this year too.
The first shipment of genetically modified salmon was shipped from Aquabounty, a land-based facility in Panama to Quebec. 4.5 metric tonnes of filets or about 10,000 pounds hit the Canadian market.
The GM salmon harvested by Aquabounty is a cross between Atlantic salmon and an eel in its simplest terms.
This genetic combination enables the fish grows faster, three times faster in fact. It looks like any farmed salmon you see in the market.
This is not sci-fi stuff. Aquabounty conceptualized the GM salmon process 25 years ago.
As you might imagine, there has been much buzz—good and bad—about this product.
Is GM salmon a smart solution? Is it morally acceptable to alter the genetic code of an animal to produce a faster-growing fish? Do we have a right to know? Is GM salmon an industry disruptor or one-off?
I don’t have the answers.
Do we need GM salmon to supplement the growing demand for lean protein?
Aquabounty would seem to think so.
I polled a group of AP Environmental high school students earlier this year. I said, with a show of hands, who thinks raising GM salmon is a good idea. More than half of the thirty students rasied their hands.
You see when you consider the dilemma of sourcing lean protein to feed a growing global population, farmed fish is one of the best solutions.
As far as GM salmon goes? I think it’s too soon to tell. For me I just want to know if what I’m eating is genetically modified.
And worth noting, Barton Seaver, chef, cookbook author, and the darling of the sustainable seafood movement says that this is a watershed moment in the seafood world. He says consumers shouldn’t be fearful about the fish they eat. And he’s right?
Why are people so fussy about seafood?
Maybe because for the most part, fish filets are not pumped with preservatives to keep it shelf stable like chicken, pork and beef. Notice I said for the most part. Shrimp and scallops are pumped with preservatives. And some sushi tuna is processed and preserved. Also some grouper, cobia, and tilapia are preserved. It’s all legal.
But that’s another podcast ep.
Back to GM salmon.
You won’t find GM salmon in the US market yet, because we haven’t been able to establish laws about labeling.
So let me seque into some best practices when you’re at the market.
The following is an excerpt from my cookbook, Shopping for Salmon Salmon From Market To Plate.
Regardless of the type of salmon you buy, or where you buy it, by law, all salmon sold in the US should have a label.
Labels state the species and whether the salmon is farmed, frozen, frozen at sea, previously frozen, wild, or a combination of one or more of these designations. One reason the US doesn’t have Genetically modified salmon yet is that we don’t have the laws in effect.
Additionally, color-coded labels like those from Seafood Watch, Monterey Bay Aquarium’s sustainable seafood program, the gold standard for ocean and seafood conservation, offer a simple rating system. Green indicates best choice, yellow means good alternative and red means avoid.
Several other organizations developed certification programs and seafood rating systems to help make shopping for seafood easier, too. Additionally, these systems make the seafood industry safer, more accountable, and healthier for the future of fish.
- Organizations like The Safina Center, (formerly Blue Ocean Institute), a science based organization offers its rating program Seafood Choices
- Global Aquaculture Alliance developed Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP)
- Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) offers its certification process
- Fish Choice offers an excellent seafood buying guidelines on its website
All of these organizations work toward the same goal—to make buying fresh, sustainable seafood a priority, so you have the information and knowledge to buy sustainable seafood.
Some organizations offer printable pocket guides, or you can download mobile Apps.
Aside from organizations, charts, codes and Apps, the first shopping tip for buying fresh salmon is a no-brainer though.
Buy fresh salmon the same day, or the day before, you intend to cook it.
For instance, if you buy fresh salmon on Sunday and don’t plan to cook it until Thursday, freeze the salmon when you get home or wait and buy it on Thursday.
Sounds simple enough, right?
But what if your grocery doesn’t have fresh salmon or only sells salmon that isn’t sustainable?
Then you need to either buy your fish online from a reputable distributor, or head to the freezer aisle.
I put a few links in the show notes or you could buy a copy of my cookbook, Salmon From Market to Plate if you’re interested.
In addition to shopping resources, my cookbook defines what sustainable salmon is and why you should care. I define wild and farmed salmon to help you make better choices at the market. Plus you get thirty delicious recipes using three cooking techniques—in the oven, on the stovetop or on the grill.
Salmon is available in print or ebook wherever you buy books online. If you’d like a signed copy, shoot me an email me. I can ship a copy to your home or business. And remember, cookbooks make great gifts!
Alright, that’s it no more selly-sell as Chris Brogan likes to say. I love that catchy little phrase, so thanks Chris if you’re listening.
S is for Shark Fins
Sharks have been swimming in the oceans for over 420 million years. They are the world’s top predators and the earth oldest lifeforms. They are simply magnificent creatures.
They live in the wild on average of 20-30 years. But some sharks, like the Spiny Dogfish Shark can live 100 years and the Greenland shark can live to be over 400 years old. Unless someone cuts its fins off.
Why would anyone to cut the fins from a shark?
Three words: Shark Fin Soup.
First, let me dive into a little shark fin anatomy. A shark uses its fins to get around in the water like we use our legs to get around on land.
- A shark has pectoral fins, those lift the shark in the water. Think of them as the steering fins.
- Pelvic fins stabilize the shark.
- A shark has two dorsal fins. The first dorsal fin, a large triangular shaped fin is on its back. The one we see extending from the water on film and video. The second dorsal fin is smaller and located near a sharks tail. These fins act as stabilizers.
- And a shark has a tail fin which moves the animal forward.
- Some sharks have anal fins.
A shark moves side to side to propel itself through the water, but it cannot do so without its fins. Ultimately without fins, a shark will starve to death, get eaten by other fish or simply drown.
Back to shark fin soup, an Asian delicacy.
Over 70 million sharks are caught every year for their fins.
That’s a RI-DI-culous number! And nearly one-third of all shark species are threatened with extinction.
Now I gotta admit, I’m adventurous in the kitchen, but shark fin soup is one of those foods that just doesn’t sound appetizing. At all. I think the practice of shark finning is barbaric and horrific. Let’s just say I’ve seen enough pictures of finless dead sharks on the bottom of the ocean and enough videos to make me want to puke.
But I need to understand the historical and cultural aspect of shark finning and shark fin soup. So bear with me. Because despite the brutal implications of destroying one of the earth’s most precious and misunderstood creatures, people can’t stop eating shark fin soup. And there has to be a reason.
But first, I want to dig a little deeper into shark anatomy, specifically the actual composition of a shark fin.
A shark’s fins are rigid. They have collagen fibers which are spread out like a fan and are supported by cartilage. The collagen fibers are thin like needles and are called fin needles. There is little if no muscle tissue and little fat. Shark fins are made up of water, protein, calories, phosphorus, calcium, iron and ash. There is no flavor to this structure.
But those Fin needles? That is the ingredient found in shark fin soup.
Shark fin soup has a long history dating back to the Ming Dynasty 1368 – 1644. Shark fin soup is thought to have healing properties. It denotes wealth and prosperity. It is a tradition. A sign of respect.
But the tides are changing.
Conservation groups have united and shark finning is banned around the world.
That’s not to say fishermen aren’t catching sharks for their fins. There is still plenty of illegal, unreported, unregulated fishing going on around the world.
And get this…there is a fake shark fin now! It’s called Smart Fin and was developed by the uh-mazing people at New Wave Foods, the same people who are making fake shrimp. The Smart Fin is constructed of out yeast that is re-written then molded with bacteria and protein. Since real shark fins have no flavor, New Wave Food is working to mimic the texture so that Smart Fins offers the toothsome crunch that shark fin soup-lovers crave.
This re-engineering doesn’t come all wrapped in a shiny box with a bow.
Critics say that this fake shark fin could reinvigorate the interest in shark fins at a time when the younger Chinese generation is moving away from it. Making this an emotional decision. But that is speculation on my part. The Chinese government has eliminated shark fins from official banquets to help the effort to reduce shark fin consumption.
So what can you do?
- Here’s a no-brainer—just don’t eat it.
- Don’t give your cold hard cash to restaurants that serve shark fin soup.
- Sign a petition to stop illegal shark finning. I put a link in the show notes.
- Lastly, Share this podcast with your family and friends to help create awareness. Knowledge is power friends.
- And don’t forget to share with your kids! This is a terrific opportunity for them. To learn about some of our planets oldest, savviest creatures.
Thanks so much for listening to GFBO. Next up, T is for Tuna and TEDs.
Don’t forget to subscribe and leave a review on iTunes. Please reach out, you can email me maureencberry @ gmail . com or find me tweeting @maureencberry.
S is for Salmon
S if for Shark Fins