Wild fish and game more appealing

I spent some time reading the Vancouver Aquarium’s Ocean Wise Program website, ocean wise.ca

It’s difficult sometimes to know exactly what to believe or who you can trust, what with everyone from big business to people/groups with a vested interest, to paid lobbyists putting their personal spin on everything from the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids to ways in which we can best utilize/protect the environment.

At least we can always rely on government to give us the plain, simple, unvarnished truth.

In the process of gathering information for several of my recent columns, I spent some time reading  the Vancouver Aquarium’s Ocean Wise Program website, oceanwise.ca, where it says eating certain types of imported and/or farmed fish is “not recommend.”

I subsequently went on to discover that most of the shrimp we eat these days are raised in shrimp farms where they use large amounts of artificial feed and chemical additives such as chlorine, malathion, parathion and other virulent pesticides in the rearing process. Then there’s the fact that less than two per cent of all imported seafood ever gets inspected before it’s sold in stores. Needless to say, I won’t be rushing out to buy shrimp when they go on sale.

Not that the meat and poultry industries are all that much better. While both industries in Canada would appear to have more stringent inspection standards, we all know what kind of additives and hormones are used in rearing livestock and poultry. There is much to be said for eating organic.

There is also something to be said for hunting wild game and fishing.

Most of us eat meat bought from butcher shops or grocery stores without ever thinking about the fact that it comes from animals that have been raised in commercial feedlots, where cattle are warehoused en-masse and fed a diet of antibiotic-laced feed in an attempt to prevent disease. To reach slaughter-weight more quickly, they are also given growth hormones. You don’t have to be a nutritionist to figure out the meat from an animal is only as good as the food it consumes.

While I do not hunt, I do recognize that wild game meats have certain health benefits compared to the meat from farm-raised animals. Wild animals eat a natural food diet and are more active, which contributes to lower fat content in the meat, not to mention a lower content of pro-inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids and a higher content of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids. Wild game meat is also a good source of protein and minerals such as iron and zinc.

The Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation recommends that adults eat fish twice a week to meet their needs for omega 3 fatty acids.

In choosing which species of fish to eat, consider first its fatty acid profile. Fish that live in dark, cold waters such as salmon, rainbow trout, halibut, cod, sardines and tuna contain higher levels of omega-3. However, with so much focus on omega-3, one should not overlook all the other health benefits of eating fish.

The only real problem with eating fish from the wild is the fact that with more and more demand, there is also an ever increasing pressure on fish stocks. One only has to look at the sockeye salmon run on the Adams River (which is exacerbated by any number of other factors) to the see how precarious the sustainability of fish stocks can become.

So I guess the trick to eating better, living healthier and being environmentally conscious – all at the same time – is to be selective as to where and what species you plan on casting a line to (or hunting if you are inclined to go that route), and only keep what you plan to eat.