We favor fish

Seafood struggles despite health benefits

Keywords: Durango Herald,

Seafood consumption in the United States lags far behind other countries for a variety of reasons, but that may change. Seafood is good for you.

It was not too long ago that frozen fish sticks, chopped fish of an uncertain type, was the only choice in home kitchens Friday nights. What helped it go down, sort of, was tartar sauce: mayonnaise with pickles and onions.

Outside of a large city, a restaurant menu might have included salmon, but no other fish. No wonder consumption was minimal.

Now, a dozen different types of fish from the north and south of two oceans (or more) can be found on a menu as well as shrimp, and they might be prepared in two or three different ways. But, according to a recent story in The Wall Street Journal, Americans still are not buying and eating. Americans in 2012, on the average, consumed only 14 pounds of seafood, contrasted with 82 pounds of chicken, 57 pounds of beef and 46 pounds of pork. Even Spaniards consumed 96 pounds of fish that year.

Seafood restaurant chains are struggling and are experimenting with new ways to serve fish that might be appealing. The article quotes seafood industry representatives as admitting they, and the supermarkets, have not done an effective job of touting the benefits of consuming fish and in helping people learn to prepare it. Too many consumers are wary of seafood for several reasons, and the industry has not joined to allay those fears.

Fish is expensive compared with chicken, for one, and is mostly imported from other countries. The sheer number of different types of fish may be confusing, that a few are deemed threatened environmentally in number, and consumers may wrongly believe mercury contamination affects more varieties than it actually does.

There are a couple of bright spots. One is the millennial generation, those in their 20s and early 30s, a group that the Journal says are more likely to eat out and “are more likely to be adventurous in meal choices ...” That age group might be further from their parents’ regular diet of beef and chicken, as well, and more conscious of eating healthfully.

The popularity of sushi is working in favor of the seafood industry as well. Sushi includes a variety of seafood, even if it is not typically what is eaten in entrée fashion, and goes a long way toward making consumers comfortable with what comes from the oceans. If you can consume it raw, or in other ways seared quickly with a rare center, and survive, then there is comfort in experimenting with and expanding your choices.

This is a time when food can be sourced from many parts of the world, making seasonality a choice. So, too, seafood from thousands of miles distant. If the seafood industry can make some inroads into our eating habits, so much the better. Variety has much to praise.