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Feeding The Animals We Eat: Fish Farming vs. Land Farming

As we consider resource utilization in our future food supply, quite clearly salmon offers the promise of producing a lot more food with a lot less input. This makes sense. For a few reasons, fish are the most efficient of farm animals. They don’t use any energy to maintain their body temperature as land animals must. Another energy benefit for fish is that they don’t spend calories working against gravity. Furthermore, the freedom from gravity also removes the need to spend energy building a bone structure to support their weight. So, we eat a much greater fraction of a small-boned fish than we do from large-boned land animals.

April 21, 2016

As we consider resource utilization in our future food supply, quite clearly salmon offers the promise of producing a lot more food with a lot less input. This makes sense. For a few reasons, fish are the most efficient of farm animals. They don’t use any energy to maintain their body temperature as land animals must. Another energy benefit for fish is that they don’t spend calories working against gravity. Furthermore, the freedom from gravity also removes the need to spend energy building a bone structure to support their weight. So, we eat a much greater fraction of a small-boned fish than we do from large-boned land animals.

Public health: For nutritious food, what should we eat?
Beyond resource efficiency, fish are are nutritionally superb; the FDA and USDA both recommend increasing our fish consumption to improve our health. The favorable health outcomes of eating fish are remarkable. For instance, in a Harvard School of Public Health meta study, scientists found that eating two servings of oily fish per week “reduces the risk of dying from heart disease by 36 percent.”

A large part (but certainly not all) of the nutritional benefit of fish comes from the essential omega 3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA, derived from the fish oil included in aquaculture diets. With aquaculture’s move to lower use of marine ingredients, it’s reasonable to expect omega 3 levels will decrease in fish, as Fry et al point out.

Farmed fish, however, continue to be excellent sources of omega 3s; they are present at levels tens to hundreds of times the levels in beef, pork, and chicken. With the inexorable move to vegetarian diets in fish farming, new sources of omega 3s must be found to include in fish diets. It is encouraging to see that some groups are working to develop algae, yeast, and plants as sources of omega 3s.

We need more sustainably-raised and nutritious food. Aquaculture is certainly poised to contribute meaningfully to our future food needs. Fish farming makes a much smaller call on resources than other types of animal agriculture, and it provides nutritious food that public health experts say should be a larger part of our diets. It’s not the sole answer to “What’s for dinner?” in 2040. But it will be an important part of the answer.

Source: Scott Nichols, Triple Pundiit. Read the full article.

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