Friday, November 28, 2003

Don't Eat Farmed Raised Turkey!!! - A rebuttal by Jim Herschel

Avoid farm-raised turkey, eat wild turkey only! Boy, anyone who has tried to hunt a wild turkey knows how difficult it is to imitate the call of an amorous turkey, so why the title of my article?
I hope this opening statement has got your attention, because I would like to take issue with the "Bottom Line" magazine article posted by Tony Cucurullo. Tony, I'm not taking issue with you personally, but this article really got to me and I love seafood, especially Salmon. Being retired with lots of time on my hands it got me to look into the "facts" of the article. Tony, you are always encouraging everyone to submit articles for the Web Site so here is my lengthy contribution.
I could probably write a similar article about the dangers of turkey farming that could parallel the information in the Salmon farming article, but this would only perpetuate a lot of myths instead of being a factual article. I don't profess to be an expert on Aquaculture but a little research on the subject certainly brings into question the "spin" of the "Bottom Line" article. Let me first state that it is my belief, that we as individuals have a lot of complex choices to make in the foods we eat. The food production industry has come a long way in meeting the needs of providing foods to the millions of people inhabiting our planet. I would be the first to admit that some mistakes have been made in the past but by and large food producers are doing a good job in providing enough food to sustain our world's population. This sometimes requires the undertaking of new technologies in the production of foods. At the present time most of the Catfish, Tilapia, Shrimp and Salmon sold in our supermarkets and restaurants are the product of Farm Production.
There are about five major species of Salmon, and Atlantic Salmon is the one that has proven to produce the best yields for fish farming. The largest producers of farmed Salmon are Canada, Norway, Chile and Britain. The increase in Aquaculture ventures comes at a time when Global fishing is rapidly reaching or exceeding its sustainable limits.
Let me get back to the "Bottom Line" article and several myths and untruths this piece has presented as facts. For those who would like to compare my research with the "Bottom Line" piece, I have tried to address each issue as they chronologically appeared in the magazine article. The "Bottom Line" statements are in Italics.
The article starts off by saying that farm raised salmon contain 2/3 less beneficial Omega-3 Fatty Acids. This statement is untrue because the USDA Nutrient Database states that Omega-3 is essentially the same for both farm and wild Salmon. So why the claim in the "Bottom Line" article? A little research on my part shows that this claim was attributed to Dr. Frank Hu of Harvard. Dr. Hu has stated that he was misquoted and that the Omega-3 data of the USDA is correct!
The article goes on to state that the farmed Salmon are not healthy. There is no basis for this charge other than the alarmist propagandizing of environmental extremist who have their own agendas on a variety of issues. As expected the Lawyers have also picked up on this issue and they are seeking their piece of the Bonanza! Let's examine the health issue charges.
Farmed Salmon are hatched in plastic trays. Yes they are, under very sterile conditions otherwise the hatch rate would not be productive. All hatchery fish are similarly raised.
Farmed Salmon are raised in unsanitary-crowed cages. I'll admit to the crowed statement because to do otherwise would decrease the efficiency of Aquaculture farming. Unsanitary cages? Again economics of the farming process dictates otherwise. Unsanitary conditions would affect the harvest yield so why would these companies allow this to occur? Aquaculture is a high technology business using computers, lasers and automation in the hatching, grow out and harvesting of the product.
Farmed Salmon are fattened with soybean pellets laced with pesticides and antibiotics. Fish feed is produced from soybean to which ground fish byproduct is added. The producers of the feed are very careful in their production to make a safe product that is approved by the USDA.
Farmed Salmon are injected with a synthetic dye that gives them their pink color. This is the most erroneous statement in the farmed Salmon debate. The nutrient that imparts the pink flesh color in both farm and wild Salmon is astaxanthin, whose synthetic equivalent is an USDA approved additive in foods. The level of astaxanthin found in the flesh of both wild and farmed Salmon is essentially the same. The wild Salmon ingest natural astaxanthin when they feed on other marine nutrients. Farmed raised Salmon are not injected with astaxanthin, rather it is added to the fish feed. While the farmed Salmon get a synthetic astaxanthin, they process it by the digestion of their food in a similar manner that the wild Salmon ingest their natural food. It is also interesting to note that hatchery raised Salmon destined for release to enhance wild stock also receive astaxanthin as a nutritional supplement in their feed.
The fish farming industry claims they provide a healthy food at an inexpensive price. This is one statement of the article that is absolutely true. Twenty years ago Salmon was only found on the menus of the most expensive restaurants. Today, just about everyone can find farmed raised Atlantic Salmon in their supermarkets at a very affordable price.
The "Bottom Line" article states that the Salmon farming does not protect the wild population from over fishing. I don't know where the author's facts came from but as I previously stated, Global fishing has reached or exceeded its sustainable limit for most fisheries. Wild Atlantic Salmon certainly fits the category of "over fished".
Farmed Salmon contain higher levels of PCB's than wild Salmon. This is another myth that was perpetrated by the Washington, D.C.-based Environmental Working Group (EWG). This group purchased 10 Salmon and had them tested by an outside laboratory. Their findings showed that the 10 fish sample showed an average PCB count of 27 parts per billion (ppb) which is 99 percent under the USDA tolerance of 2,000 ppb. This sample is far from being an in depth scientific study of PCB contamination in farm raised Salmon. In fact wild Salmon taken from
some waters contain even higher PCB levels than found in the EWG study and the EPA has issued consumption warnings about the fish taken from PCB contaminated waters. You might ask why the PCB in Salmon. Unfortunately, we have polluted our lakes, rivers and oceans with PCB's that concentrate in the fatty tissue of all fish. Wild Salmon ingest PCB' contamination from eating other marine creatures. Farmed Salmon ingest their PCB's from the ground fish products that are added to their fish feed. It's a vicious cycle we must endure but in my opinion the risks are very small. One of the things that I personally do when eating any fish, is to remove any fatty parts and the central nerve line in the center of the fish's bone structure.
The statement on antibiotic residue and the killing of other marine life is another questionable item. I don't know the source of the Author's data but my research could not substantiate any scientific studies to substantiate this as fact. There are some concerns that this could happen but no actual data to this effect could be found.
Pesticides used in Salmon farming are killing shellfish and other bottom dwelling creatures. Fact or myth? This statement is based on a study that showed that the bottom areas directly below the fish holding cages were devoid of shellfish. This is not surprising since the heavy concentrated fish population in the cages produces a large amount of fish effluent that killed marine creatures that try to live directly under the cages. There is no evidence that this has spread over a wide area of the sea bottom. One of the remedies for this localized problem is that several fish farm producers are now building landlocked pens into which they are pumping seawater. Admittedly I don't know if their plans call for any treatment of the discharge water, but maybe this is something that needs to be done.
I already discussed the astaxanthin issue but as far as the ban on sunless tanning pills, I can only say that the synthetic dye added o the fish food is currently USDA approved.
I disagree with the Article's statement that the solution is simple. The USDA has made mistakes in the past. Our food suppliers have also made mistakes. You as an individual have to make the decision whether there is a risk in eating certain foods. All too often people take a magazine article and believe all it contains. I don't know why this particular article got to me, but I decided to do a little of my own research on this subject. I firmly believe that the world's food producers must become ingenious entrepreneurs to be able to produce the food stores that will be required to feed our planet. This is a rather lengthy response to the "Bottom Line" article. If you took the time to read it, I hope it might have shed some light on the Salmon issue.

Submitted by Jim Herschel