Food: A Documentary Pt. 3

grocery philadelphiaJEFFREY GRAHAM – Marine Biologist, Scripps Institution of Oceanography

For every pound of growth of a salmon, it takes approximately five pounds of fish that are caught and ground up and turned into pellets or some kind of feeding way or feeding mechanism to give to these fish.  So 5 to 1.  That is a fairly steep ratio.  What you are essentially doing then and part of the two-way street, the two way argument that is given about aquaculture, as well, is it takes the pressure off the natural populations.  However,  if you have to catch five pounds of fish from the natural environment to rear one pound of salmon for high-end table consumption, then the Arithmetic just doesn’t work out in terms of the long term benefits to the ocean.

JEFFREY GRAHAM

There is a lot of experimentation going on and we do a lot of it here on our species, that is looking to replace that fish meal on the diet, with soy protein or other processing by-products like beef or chicken by-products, basically waste-in-process that can be turned around and used as a protein supplement to replace the fish meal.

HOST

According to the National Renderers Association, cow and chicken by-products, including cattle blood and bone and poultry feathers have been fed to farmed fish for decades.  The association told KPBS that cattle fat, blood and bone meal are being increasingly used in fish diets as alternatives to fish oil and other proteins.  So by now, you might be asking what we asked when we learned fish were eating cattle by-products.   Can fish get Mad Cow disease?  Mad Cow or Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy or BSE is a neuro-degenerative disease in cattle that can be passed on to humans.   The European countries have banned cattle by-products in fish feed because if fish eat contaminated cattle and cattle eat contaminated fish, there is a risk that in theory, the disease could be transmitted to the food chain.  Here in the U.S., the Food and Drug Administration banned the use of most cow by-products as feed to other cows in 1997.  But the same rules do not apply to fish feed.  However, a new regulation does ban the use of cattle brains and spines in fish feed.  Both contain the highest concentrations of infected material in diseased cattle.  There has never been a case of human contracting mad cow from eating farmed fish.

Meanwhile, there continues to be an ongoing debate over the Omega-3 content of farmed versus wild fish.  Omega-3s are the healthy fats that can help prevent heart disease and Alzheimer’s.  One large grocery chain claims on its website that farmed salmon actually has more Omega-3 than wild salmon.  KPBS put their claim to the test and sent fish samples, wild and farmed to a lab in Oregon.  The test results confirmed that farmed salmon did have nearly twice the amount of healthy Omega-3s as wild salmon, but you have to eat nearly four times the amount of fat to get those nutrients.

Americans eat more chicken than any other meat; about 74 pounds per person, each year.  Most of it is white meat.  Consumers like white meat and so the industry has found a way to give us what we want.

CURTIS WOMACH

These are my fast-growing Kurdish cross, and they’re what are in the supermarkets and restaurants, this kind of chicken.

HOST

Most of the chickens we buy in the grocery are called broilers, a cross between two other chickens, a Cornish and Plymouth Rock.

CURTIS WOMACH

They’re bred to grow really fast and have lots of white meat because see how wide it is and you see the big breast.

HOST

But none of these chickens will end up in a grocery store.  Curtis Womach raises these chickens on a farm just outside of Julian.  Most chickens in a grocery store are raised on a factory floor.  Womach sells his chickens at a farmers’ market.  He decided that he will no longer raise this type of chicken.

CURTIS WOMACH

They can’t physically mate because of all the white meat gets in the way.  They are still chickens and they want to be like chickens but they can’t move.  They would like to go under the trees and the shade but it is too hard for them to walk over there.

HOST

Their breasts are so big, these chickens can barely walk.  Look at this, a different breed and able to run away from our camera.  Chickens are raised mostly on corn, fish meal can be added to their feed, even chicken feather.  Antibiotics are used but it is illegal to use hormones in chickens in the United States.  So when you see labels like these, no hormones added, well it is illegal to add hormones to all chicken.  In fact, it is against USDA regulations to say no hormones have been added unless this line follows, see that line in small print?

Food: A Documentary Pt. 3

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