Monday, October 22, 2007

Farm Fresh Fish

On the way into work on Saturday I heard part of GW's radio address about the environment. I don't want to get into politics here but I found it odd he decided to make a stand on fish. Which made me think about the subject. The over fishing of some/many species of wild fish/seafood. There is no doubt it's a problem that needs to be addressed. Coincidentally I got a call the same day from a woman asking me about the salmon we serve at one of our restaurants. She asked if it was wild or farmed. When I told her it was farm-fresh salmon you could tell she was disappointed. There lies the problem. More and more chefs are going green, natural and slow. So what do we do? Sell over harvested wild fish or sustainable farmed fish? Evidently it's been beaten into the heads of customers that wild fish is a bad thing. I beg to differ. You just have to know your source. I also question the quality of some wild fish as well. Wild is not always better.

There is some farmed fish I will not sell and there is some wild fish I will not sell. The customer HAS to trust the chef to make the right decisions. That's the bottom line. I don't sell farmed tiger shrimp, tilapia, catfish, baramundi or "grouper". I will sell a product from a tried and true supplier that uses proper aquaculture techniques and feed and I don't trust most third world countries. I have a relationship with my vendors and we have an understanding about source. They know what is acceptable to me and I hope customers can have a relationship with their chef and have an understanding what is acceptable to them.

GW talked specifically about wild striped bass. It is already regulated and I hope it doesn't go away completely. I serve it often and wasn't aware of any shortage. One way to tell is by price. Has anyone priced real sea bass lately? Despite the chef boycott it still wholesales close to $20.00 per pound. I haven't served it in years. Wild striped bass is usually around ten and has specific seasons, similar to halibut and some species of wild salmon. The numbers of those fish harvested is watched closely. As a result much gets frozen and served months later. I was around when we almost fished redfish into extinction and now sea bass and grouper.

The bottom line is I prefer a farm fresh fish from a respected source over frozen or endangered species. I feel it's better for my customer and the environment.


Scott said...

P.S. I'll be attending the Farmer/Chef Connection conference today in Waukesha. I'll report on my thoughts soon.

RAHiggins1 said...

I posted about this over on E-Gullet in the southeastern regional section. There is a big problem with vendors mis-representing what they are selling. Grouper being the highlighted case in the news. It seems an asian catfish called "Basa" is usually the actual fish. Often the supplier might be just as unwitting as the consumer. DNA testing is the only way to know for sure. When was the last time you checked what is being sold in a grocery? I look at package after package of fish imported from china, India, Thailand, etc. I've tried a few of the flash frozen imported filets, most usually disentigrate after thawing unless broiled and then the water content is absurd, like its waterlogged. Its mostly very nasty and not very good tasting either. I drive 20 miles to a good fish market where I can ask where the fish are from and watch them be cleaned after close inspection of the gills, eyes, and smell for freshness.

Scott said...

Big problem with fish being misrepresented. Any time you see "grouper" on the menu for less than $18.00 to $20.00 chances are it's bogus. I also don't care for the latest odd ball fish like basa or tilapia.

As far as China goes, if they are painting toys with lead paint what do you think they're doing with the fish?

Bottom line. You get what you pay for.