Aquaculture: Efficient Food for the Future - Charleston|Orwig

State of the Plate

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Jul 182017

Aquaculture Farms: Efficient Food for the Future

Dive into the Evolution of the Aquaculture Industry.

It’s fairly easy to imagine how a cheeseburger ends up on our dinner plates. A Nebraska beef cow provides the burger, a Wisconsin dairy cow produces the milk for the slice of cheese, and a Kansas farmer grows the wheat for the bun. However, when it comes to sushi takeout or a nice seafood meal, most of us are at a loss explaining which kind of seafood we’re enjoying—let alone where it came from, how it was raised or what it was fed.

In the past 40 years, global fish consumption has nearly doubled and is expected to continue to rise. With this demand comes the challenge of overfishing and harm to natural ecosystems. At the turn of the century, nearly three-quarters of ocean fish stocks were overfished, depleted or exploited, and those in the industry needed to find a new way to provide seafood. Enter aquaculture—or fish farming.

In terms of farming, seafood is a very efficient animal protein source. Most salmon species, for example, require 1.15 to 1.5 pounds of feed to gain one pound of body weight.

At present, about half of the seafood we eat is farm raised. By 2030, farmed fish is expected to make up about two-thirds of consumption. To keep pace with the trend in fish farming, let’s look at how some well-known—and loved—seafood is raised.

Tuna: Farming tuna almost seems to be an art. Bluefin tuna are the red fish used in sushi and sashimi, and as these dishes rose in popularity, the tuna were under threat of overfishing. They are moody, hard to raise and, until a few years ago, could only be wild-caught and farm-finished. Scientists are now working on ways to fully farm these fish and feed them more sustainable diets of plant proteins like soybean meal. Most tuna is finished in the Mediterranean Sea surrounding Spain and Croatia, as well as the South Pacific Ocean near Japan and Australia.

Shrimp: Shrimp is the most valuable traded marine product in the world. In the U.S., we import about $5 billion worth every year. Of all shrimp consumed, over 55 percent are raised on farms. Farms exist mostly in tropical climates off the coasts of China and Thailand. Though the industry has gotten a bad reputation for unfair labor practices and environmental degradation, there is heavy emphasis to provide more regulation and sustainability in coming years.

Salmon: Farmed salmon accounts for over 60 percent of global consumption and has grown substantially since its start in the 1960s. The industry is dominated by Chile, Norway, Canada and Scotland—prime locations for the cold-water-loving fish. The production cycle for these fish lasts about 3 years, started in freshwater and ending in seawater cages. This industry is combatting a potentially devastating pest--sea louse—and is expected to focus initiatives on combatting this problem as a next step for development.

MSC- Certified Sustainable Seafood logoThe Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) has been working for 20 years to establish global standards for sustainable fish production. It works with end-users as diverse as McDonald’s and Whole Foods. You can often see its logo on menus and packaging.

C|O Insight

The exciting thing about aquaculture is that it is fairly new in terms of large-scale global food production. Though there are problems, there are many opportunities for research and development and utilization of other agricultural products as the industry evolves. Soybeans, for example, are an essential food source for farmed seafood.

Here at Charleston|Orwig, we like to be at the forefront of growth. To discuss how innovative marketing and strategic communications can grow your business in the ever-changing food industry, contact Mark Gale at mgale@charlestonorwig.com or call 262.563.5129.

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