Wild vs. Farmed, An Editor's Nightmare


Fiona Robinson, SeaFood Business associate publisher and editor

Published on
August 14, 2008

I have a gripe with the government (who doesn't?). Somewhere on the long and winding road to Country of Origin Labeling (COOL: mandatory for large retailers since April 2005, for those of you that need a reminder), Americans have forgotten two terms: farmed and wild.

A few mainstream media outlets published articles about COOL for seafood when it first became a law. More attention was paid to product labels during the outcry over "tainted" imports from China last year. Now virtually every single reference to seafood, by all media outlets and nearly all industry players, lists a product as "farm-raised" or "wild-caught."

If a fish is farmed, can't we assume it was raised somewhere, whether it be in Chile, China or Costa Rica? Conversely, if a product is wild, let's assume it is caught at some point in the supply chain. Otherwise, retailers and restaurants would not have wild seafood to sell.

I blame it on the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Only a government agency could spend so much time defining a simple term and getting companies thoroughly confused with marketing mumbo jumbo along the way. At the time, I remember reading articles about COOL and laughing at how the various news outlets stumbled through mentions of "farm-raised" and "wild-caught" seafood. Three years later, the New York Times and virtually everyone uses this inane terminology. (Although if you're an avid Times reader, maybe you'd also believe security guards at Chilean salmon farms can now be quoted as general managers. But who's counting?)

Do an editor a favor and keep it simple, drop the "raised" and "caught." Products are either farmed or wild. Maybe I've just spent too much time reading stories about seafood and product labels. And that's entirely possible.

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