Will the new farmed species feeding patterns impact negatively the food we eat?

CNCnewsIt seems so as recently published by CBCnews in Canada. Click here to read the article.

Many aquaculture sectors are shifting towards more and more plant-based fish feed, which will reduce the (healthy marine-origin) omega-3 content in finished seafood products.

The topic has recently appeared in some consumer articles, signaling a spike in the public’s interest, and doubtless feeding the debate about the various merits of farmed fish, wild fish, and fish-based supplements as omega-3 sources.

For those we have been involved for decades in the marine-based feed ingredient industry, we have witnessed how the original very intensive fishmeal inclusion rates in aqua feeds decreased to levels not imagined. Some we thought that the downturn would end up on the “fatal” 0% fish meal (and oil?) inclusion rate.

But the consumer has become a game-changer.  For the better in our opinion. Pure vegetable feed ingredients lack very valuable compounds that only marine species bring, and the impact of “earth” pollutants (eg. pesticides) are brought forward in the analysis of how harmful these are when added to aqua feeds, and to human health in the end.

Crop-based replacements are seen as widely available and sustainable. But those ingredients come from somewhere and as it gets to a larger and larger scale, then that environmental footprint gets quite large.  Aquaculture’s environmental footprint may now include nutrient and pesticide runoff from industrial crop production, and depending on where and how feed crops are produced, could be indirectly linked to associated negative health outcomes.

Second but not less important is that the use of plant-based ingredients will reduce the amount of healthy omega-3 fatty acids in fish, one of the things that makes fish like salmon attractive and tasty to consumers.

Canadian Atlantic salmon farmers still don’t use much plant material in their feed, as they move towards replacing fish with fishery byproducts such as fish offal, a trend that it is seen worldwide.

Nonetheless, as CBCnews reports, even if crops fed to fish have a negative environmental impact, that is still smaller than the impact of growing crops to feed other, less efficient livestock like pigs and cattle.