The world hit a food milestone last week: for the first time in modern history, global fish farming production topped beef production. According to an article from the Earth Policy Institute, in 2012 63 million tons of beef were produced—unable to catch up to fish farming’s enormous 66 million output.
Why the overtake, you might ask?
Contrary to popular thought, cattle production has been steadily slowing since the 1980s. As grain and soybean prices have risen, grain- and soy- fed livestock production has become increasingly expensive. Cattle production is also less efficient than fish production. Cows need 7 pounds of feed to render one pound of meat, whereas fish require less than 2 pounds. As red meat has recently been associated with higher risk for heart disease and cancer, dietary cautions have further driven consumers to demand more fish.
However, the rise of the deep blue sea may not necessarily be a good thing. Many farmed fish, like salmon, are carnivorous. This means that it takes more than 5 pounds of wild fish to grow just 1 pound of farmed salmon – an overall net loss of protein. “We’re actually taxing the oceans every time we eat farmed salmon instead of relieving it,” says CEO of Oceana, Andy Sharpless.
It’s a tough call for the consumer. What seafood is actually sustainable anymore? Lucky for us, National Geographic has recently produced a handy seafood decision guide to help make us more supermarket savvy. According to the guide, eating small fish like sardines rather than big, predatory tuna and grouper is much better for both the environment and global food security.
Turns out we really do have “smaller fish to fry”.