Your guide to buying seafood

I am often asked about seafood – where do I buy it from and what do I buy.
First things first. Like all food, not all seafood is created equal. Some seafood is wild (as nature intended) and some are farmed (in man-made hatcheries). And there is a WORLD of difference between the two!
Farmed fish are farmed in unnaturally crowded conditions which in and of itself breeds illness and disease.

Farmed fish are commonly dubbed the battery hens of the ocean. In addition to their unnatural environment, farmed fish are fed an unnatural diet of soy pellets (which are often genetically modified), fire retardants (WTF?), wheat byproducts, antibiotics (due to rife disease epidemics in crowded conditions), feather meal, and a heap of other unnatural ingredients. In addition colour dyes are injected into farmed salmon to give them that pink colour.

Unsurprisingly the micronutrient content of farmed fish pales in comparison to wild fish especially in relation to the omega 3 /6 balance (farmed fish are low in the anti-inflammatory omega 3s and too high in the omega 6.

This imbalance promotes inflammation which is the root cause of all modern disease). Unhealthy diet and conditions makes for unhealthy fish which in turn makes for unhealthy humans who then consume the fish.

So here’s a summary of what you should know-

– All ocean trout sold in Australia is farmed. Avoid it. Sad, I know.
All non-tinned salmon sold in Australia is farmed other than the 100% wild sockeye salmon from Canada. The Canadian Way also sells wild tuna, halibut, and wild black cod, lobster, prawns, scallops, salmon roe and smoked salmon (all 100% wild). And all with an unparalleled omega 3 to 6 ratio.

Basically their salmon has a omega 3 to 6 ratio of 10:1 and the tuna has a ratio that’s even better of 11:1 – so very anti-inflammatory!! Nowadays most people eating a typical Western world conventional diet would consume foods that have an omega 3:6 ratio of 1:20 which is very pro-inflammatory. If you aim for a diet of 1:1 or even 1:2 then you’re doing well).

The Canadian frozen products are sold at various organic supermarkets but are not always readily available. When they are I stock up.

There are a plethora of certified organic salmon on the market. Don’t be fooled by the certified organic label. They are STILL farmed fish. And a farmed fish is never going to be as nutritional as a wild fish.

.  –  Tinned salmon sold at the supermarket is wild if it says wild or wild caught. Make sure your purchase tinned salmon that is in brine as opposed to industrial seed oils like canola oil or vegetable oil which are highly processed, high in inflammation-promoting omega 6s and basically toxic to the human body (but that’s a whole other discussion).

– Some King prawns and Tiger prawns (Australia only) are farmed. So you will need to ask if they are wild versus farmed! Farmed prawns also taste vastly different and this is reflective in their cheaper price.  Crystal bay prawns are an example of farmed prawns.You’ll very rarely see a farmed prawn sold raw.Buy from a reputable fishmonger.

–  Oysters and mussels are filter feeders so even though they are technically farmed they are literally as good as being wild. There is literally no truly wild oysters sold in Australia. NZ mussels are best as the colder clean water lends itself better to their needs and high dissolved oxygen.

– Fresh tuna sold in fish shops is mostly wild caught then kept in floating pens and fed a mixture of pellets and fresh pilchards. So it’s tantamount to being farmed. The exception is the tuna from Canada   Tinned tuna sold in supermarkets is wild.(please read your labels)

Most barramundi in Australia is now farmed. So you will need to ask if they are wild versus farmed! All farmed barramundi are harvested at the same size (40-45cm) so if they’re larger than that it’s typically ok to assume that they are wild. They aren’t typically the freshest fish to eat anyway. Ask for line caught Barramundi.

– Herring, pilchards, whitebait, sardines and anchovies are all wild and will never be farmed. They’re cheap and the equivalent of a briny superfood. Head and stomach can be eaten easily.

– There is a plethora of other farmed seafood on the market. If you’re not sure, always ask! By law they must answer you truthfully if you ask them outright. I always gauge their level of honesty by asking them about their salmon and ocean trout because I know for a fact that they will be farmed so if they answer that they are wild, I politely smile then bolt out the door.

– Try to buy the whole fish as opposed to fillets. It gives you a better indication of freshness. Inspect eyes and moistness of the skin. If the lips and face look even a little dehydrated then opt for something else. Buying whole fish means that you can ask the fishmonger to fillet it for you and ask them to put the head and frame in a separate bag for you to take home to make a stock

And what about sustainability?
This has become a pressing issue for many people. Line caught fish are by far the most sustainable type to buy as opposed to net caught fish (although anchovies school together so when they’re netted there is zero by catch).

Where do I buy wild seafood

I typically buy snapper, ling, deep sea perch, oysters, mussels and sardines at the market from a reputable fish monger. I always avoid salmon and ocean trout,  If you live close to the fish markets or better yet catch your own fish .

I always have a few of frozen salmon and  smoked salmon from Canada which you can usually buy from a reputable organic fresh food store.

Scallops are sold ‘Wet’ and ‘Dry‘.  We don’t always know this because its not that obvious.
Knowing the difference between ‘wet’ and ‘dry’ scallops can be enlightening.
Not to mention the health and cost factors.
Here’s what I’m talking about:

Wet’ scallops are treated with ‘STP’; a solution called, sodium tripolyphosphate.
Yes, its a chemical.
And while your scallops are sitting comfortably in the solution, they are far from being fresh. The ‘solution’ holds them for days after they are caught.
The other factor?  You’ll pay more.
STP adds water weight (moisture) to your scallops.
To add more to this great selling technique- a Wet scallop won’t brown like a Dry scallop; they shrink in the pan and they are almost tasteless.
Probably not the news you wanted to hear, but its the information you need to know.
One of the key ways to tell the difference is by their color; Dry scallops generally have a natural vanilla color, while Wet scallops appear to be a snow-white color.
‘W’ scallops are treated with ‘STP’; a solution called, sodium tripolyphosphate.
3.5 grams of steamed scallops have plenty of vitamin B-12, are very low in fat and about 17 grams of protein.

 

What to look for when buying prawns

Fresh raw prawns: It’s often best to buy frozen as prawns are snap frozen on-board at the point of catch to capture their integrity. Look for vibrantly colored tails and flesh glowing translucently through the shells with no discoloration at the base of the head or legs. They shouldn’t look or be soggy and avoid prawns floating in a pool of water.

Cooked prawns: Simply ask to taste one. Look at it first and check it has all its legs, feelers, eyes and that its tail has a firm springiness. Smell it, it should have a crisp and clean iodine aroma. When you taste, it should be firm, sweet and have a lasting clean finish.

Australian prawn cooking guide

Banana prawns: Sweet, with notes of vanilla and green melon. Best in stir-fries, battered and fried or poached for salads.

King Prawns: Sweet, salty with a buttery richness. Best boiled, steamed, grilled, roasted or stir-fried.

Tiger prawns: Succulent, musty with a distinct savoury character. Best steamed, boiled or barbecued in the shell.

School prawns: The sweetness of a well-sugared cup of tea. Best fried or steamed in shell, or peeled for a salad.

I always have some  tinned wild fish in my pantry for  emergencies that I buy from the supermarket. e.g. anchovies, salmon, mackerel, sardines.  These are in brine or extra virgin olive oil as opposed to sunflower oil .

what about the issue of mercury, dioxins and pcbs?
I personally avoid the larger fish (e.g. swordfish) and opt for the smaller ones and try to buy from local Australian or NZ waters rather than from overseas with the exception of seafood from Canada which  comes from pristine cold Canadian waters. Cold water seafood is always going to be healthier than warm water seafood.