Tuesday, March 1, 2011

All the fish you see aren't created equal

Back view of Monterey Bay Aquarium.Image via Wikipedia
The Monterey Bay Aquarium rates the quality of wild and farmed seafood.

When I'm shopping at Costco in Hackensack, I watch other customers at the seafood case and make a mental note of what they buy. I go right for the fillets of wild-caught fish, but many others gravitate toward farmed products, which are cheaper.

This morning, I again chose wild Pacific True Cod fillets for $6.99 a pound -- a dollar more than farmed catfish. I plan to cut them up into smaller pieces, dip them in an egg-milk wash and bread crumbs, and bake them in the oven.

Costco's catfish is grown in the United States, its farmed tilapia comes from Costa Rica and its farmed salmon is from Chile and artificially colored using chemicals in the feed. All that information is on the store package labels I saw today.

The Seafood Watch sponsored by the Monterey Bay Aquarium in California recommends tilapia from the U.S. over that from Brazil, Costa Rica and other countries, and advises consumers to avoid farmed fish from China and Taiwan.

Any wild salmon or farmed salmon from the U.S. is recommended, but shoppers are advised to avoid farmed salmon from anywhere else. Here is an explanation of the ratings:

 Best Choices: Seafood in this category is abundant, well-managed and caught or farmed in environmentally friendly ways.

Good Alternatives: These items are an option, but there are concerns with how they're caught or farmed-or with the health of their habitat due to other human impacts.

Avoid: Take a pass on these items for now. They are caught or farmed in ways that harm other marine life or the environment.

Smoking out smoked fish

Most smoked fish contains preservatives, but not Costco's Kirkland Signature smoked wild sockeye salmon from Alaska, which now is packaged in two attached half-pound pouches for $15.39 -- the lowest retail price I've seen.

Today at Costco, I found smoked steelhead trout under the Ruby Bay label, and 12 ounces were $9.49. Unfortunately, the package doesn't tell you this is farmed fish, as I learned by calling the company, Acme Smoked Fish Corp.

The sliced fish -- the color of salmon -- has a pleasant, sweetish taste. Salt, natural green tea extract, natural hardwood smoke and nisin appear on the ingredient label. I was told nisin is a natural, antimicrobial or antibacterial agent.

Costco produce and juice

That wonderful organic spring mix from Earthbound Farm was back in the cold room at the Hackensack store this morning, and the price had dropped to $4.59 for a pound package. Cold weather in Mexico had been blamed for its absence last week.

The price of $6.99 for six large bell peppers from Israel, sold under the Sunset label, is competitive with the 99 cents a pound for smaller sweet peppers I found at Brothers Produce in Paterson on Monday.

Sunset-brand Campari tomatoes were still $5.49 for two pounds. Cheaper tomatoes simply can't match the taste of these small, round beauties.

I also picked up Naked Juice Co. smoothies at $6.99 for two 32-ounce bottles. The Mighty Mango contains two and a half mangoes, plus oranges, apples, banana and lemon.

Two pounds of Cabot sliced cheddar (medium) was a low $6.99.

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  1. I agree! I think it's a good idea to go for wild-caught fish! price can be an issue, so I just take it as a sign to get creative and go for the less celebrated species like mackerel, which is so full of flavour it's actually one of my favourite fishes! And so cheap! (:


  2. Hi Shu Han:

    You are so right. Mackerel is a great fish, and I took a look at your recipe and saw you used a small fish. That's a good thing, because some mackerel, such as king mackerel, have high levels of harmful mercury.

    Your blog is gorgeous and I love the recipes, so I am going to put it in my Blog List.


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