Sizing up seafood against other proteins
In this corner, hailing from all around the globe, the healthiest lightweight protein contender in the world — seafood! In the other three corners, the reigning domestic heavyweight champions of chomp, the dinnertime dominators — beef, poultry and pork.
Will seafood ever be a contender? Its record in the protein battle is not terribly impressive, particularly at retail, where only a third of U.S. seafood is purchased. And the knockouts are mounting up: Seafood consumption in the United States — the world’s third-largest seafood market after China and Japan, according to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization — keeps falling despite Americans dishing out more dollars overall for fish and the prevailing wisdom (backed by overwhelming scientific evidence) that says seafood is the heart-healthy choice.
Seafood, particularly omega-3 fatty acid-rich fish, has been linked to not only reduced cardiovascular disease, the No. 1 cause of death in the United States, but also improved brain functioning, stroke prevention and lowered risk of breast cancer, among other medical findings.
Yet for six straight years (2007 to 2012) the average U.S. consumer enjoyed less of the sea’s bounty than the year before. Per-capita seafood consumption, a key figure in determining the market’s strength, fell to 14.4 pounds in 2012, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries).
That’s down from 15 pounds in 2011, an all-time high of 16.6 pounds in 2004, and far less than what consumers in Japan (121.7 pounds per capita), China (70.2 pounds) and Europe (about 45 pounds) enjoy.