Why You Should Be Eating More Seafood
Steering clear of fish for environmental and health reasons? The bigger risk might be not getting enough of it.
Is the fish on ice behind the glass counter always your best option? Not necessarily. Much of that selection includes fish and shellfish that were previously frozen before being “refreshed,” or slowly thawed in temperature-controlled rooms, Cornish says. Unless it says “fresh” or “never frozen,” assume it has been. Which means you can’t refreeze it.
If the counter has a fishmonger, ask questions. For starters: What’s fresh now that I won’t be able to get next week or next month? The answer will sometimes lead you to the best deal, she says, or, at the very least, the best time to buy proteins like local striped bass or rockfish, when they’re at their peak.
During a visit to The Organic Butcher of McLean, Cornish finds whole mackerel at about half the price-per-pound of most of the meat options. Even better: It’s a fish that was recently named a “Super Green” choice by the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program, which offers recommendations about which types of seafood are fished or farmed in ways that support a healthy ocean, versus those that should be avoided. Like most of the seafood in this small shop, the fish has been brought in fresh, not frozen—in this case from Virginia fishermen.
Local is often the best entry point for people who think they don’t like seafood, says chef Carroll. “Start with whatever is freshest and, usually, harvested in the United States,” she advises, noting that the U.S. has better fishery management practices, which take the estimated number of wild fish available into account when setting fishing limits, compared with many other countries.
That doesn’t mean abundant options like farmed salmon and tilapia are off the table. Salmon, for one, is harder for beginners to overcook because of its high fat content, Carroll says. And responsible fish-farming practices (which reuse water and take fewer feeder fish to produce) can yield fish that’s more affordable, especially when wild species are out of season.
Over the last decade, most domestic fish farms have given fish more room to grow, reduced their impact on water quality and improved their fish-feed recipes. (At the store, look for labels from the Aquaculture Stewardship Council, an international nonprofit watchdog group, to see how a farmed fish ranks on sustainability.)
“If you would have talked to me about sourcing farm-raised seafood 15 years ago, I would have said, ‘Go jump in the ocean,’ ” says Robert Wiedmaier, chef and owner of Mussel Bar & Grille in Ballston. “But they’ve come a long way at perfecting the process of farming seafood.”
The Seafood Nutrition Partnership promotes both wild and farmed seafood, which “is really the only way we can have enough seafood to feed us into the future,” Cornish says.
If she has anything to say about it, our appetites for it will only be growing.