What Does ‘Organic’ Seafood Mean?

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There is a popular misconception that seafood cannot be organic. That’s not true, but there’s plenty of seafood that isn’t organic though it is labeled as such. People are willing to pay more for all-natural food that they think is healthier for them. This is why companies will label things as organic that really shouldn’t be considered such. Then there are the grey areas. What does organic seafood mean, and how can you tell when it isn’t real? 

organic seafood

Organic seafood- what to look for


Fish can be anything from pink to red if they’re caught in the wild. The color of salmon will depend on how much krill and other crustaceans they eat. Farmed fish may lack this color if they’re never fed these crustaceans. Yet customers expect salmon to be some shade of pink or red. Solutions range from harvesting wild krill to feed to farmed salmon to feeding the fish synthetic astaxanthin. A few unscrupulous food processors will get the color by literally dying the fish instead. If the fish is labeled as having added coloring, that’s probably it. They may even dye the fish a bright red because that’s preferred by high-end shoppers, since it resembles the best wild-caught salmon. 

One solution to this is getting consumers willing to eat the white to grey color of farm raised salmon, though that seems unlikely. 

organic seafood fish

Their Diet 

An organic food crop comes from organic processes the average person understands sunshine, clean water, no chemical pesticides, and natural fertilizers.  Organic pork is associated with pigs fed corn and veggies instead of less healthy food waste. But what about organic seafood? In theory, a fish farm could feed shrimp chicken waste including fish feathers and poop. A healthier diet would be worms from a farm that composts food waste. 

There is less confusion over giving vegetarian fish like tilapia an organic label. In the wild, they eat algae. In fish farms, they can be fed organic corn meal or soy meal. Unfortunately, they might be fed hog and sheep manure. That’s not healthy for consumers who could pick up a bacterial infection from their “organic” fish. A grey area is whether the fish meal fed to fish has to be organic. And that issue is further confused by the fact that your salmon or other predator fish might be fed fish meal from trawlers, indirectly subsidizing such wasteful fishing practices. 

organic seafood fish fresh

Where the Fish Comes From 

Wild-caught fish should be by definition organic. Yet the USDA definition for organic almost rules out wild-caught fish because the rules are based on agricultural systems. It is also confused by the fact that there are groups that want to exclude wild-caught fish from the organic category in order to discourage fishing. 

You can have fish farmed in ocean pens or plastic-lined pits. Both count as organic. In general, fish from Asian fish farms isn’t raised as responsibly as those raised in Europe and North America. When it comes to mollusk production, they’re all sucking in the same water. The only issue is how clean the water is. And that is something based on the location where they’re raised.

Thanks for reading, hope this post was informative and helpful!

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