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Industrial Farm Animals Consume 17 Percent of Wild-Caught Fish

Here's a guest post from Jennifer Jacquet of the Sea Around Us Project and the UBC Fisheries Centre in Vancouver, B.C.


It is one thing to grind up wild fish to feed to farmed fish, but it is quite another to grind up these perfectly edible fish to feed factory-farmed pigs and poultry. After all, when is the last time you saw a chicken catch a fish?

In the not-so-distant past, pigs and chickens ate grass, some grains, and food scraps. Today, in the throes of a perverse industrial food system that favors cheap protein and quick growth (with often astonishing results such as Mad Cow disease), we now feed farm animals lots of small, tasty fish.


Each year we feed 14 million tons of wild-caught fish (including anchovies, sardines, mackerel, and herring) to pigs and chickens around the globe. That amounts to 17 percent of all the wild fish we catch. Pigs and chickens eat double the amount of fish that Japan consumes annually and six times more seafood than the entire U.S. population eats each year.

Is it efficient to feed these fish to pigs and chickens? Moreover, with rampant overfishing a global problem, is it ethical? This is not the same question of whether we should feed grains to cattle, which leads to an overall loss in energy but also a conversion of carbohydrates to protein. In the case of fishmeal fed to pigs and poultry, a perfectly edible (and rather scarce) protein source is being consumed and converted (with an energy loss of ~90 percent) by simply another protein source.

It's messed up.

What to do? In Peru, home to a large fishmeal industry, scientists and chefs came together to initiate a program to "discover the anchovy" and turn fishmeal into a meal of fish. But much of this program's success hinges on government action.

"We have the best oceanographer in the country at the Marine Research Institute and he insists we have to leave 5 million tonnes of anchovies in the water," explains Patricia Majluf, the architect of the Peruvian anchovy initiative. "The government also now insists on establishing the anchovy quota at the beginning of the season rather than the old way telling the fishermen when to stop, which led to lots of overfishing."

In places where government action is unlikely due to the mantra of free markets, it is more likely we would see some sort of awareness program, such as a seafood wallet card for pigs and chickens (who don't read).

"Better yet, we will tell pigs and chickens they can eat only what they catch," says Daniel Pauly, Director of the University of British Columbia Fisheries Centre.

Maybe we should feed pigs and poultry (literally) Michael Pollan's advice: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

And we should do the same.

For more information on this topic or related issues you can search the thousands of archived articles on the OCA website using keywords:

post Jul 7 2008, 03:51 PM

Dr. Hardy in Winter Park FL is an excellent mercury free dentist who charges reasonable fees. I had all my mercury fillings replaced for under $2000. I highly recommend him.

post Aug 6 2008, 04:56 AM

It is a disgrace, what has happened to the food supply, in this Country. I'm glad the OCA is around to help put things back on the right path.

post Aug 6 2008, 05:22 PM

Are they using fish scraps or are you saying they are using whole, healthy fish that are edible for human consumption to feed livestock ? I find it hard to believe that they are using human grade fish to feed pigs and poultry. That would be quite expensive and from everything I've seen in farming and feed mills everything is done cheap, cheap, cheap. Most likely the stuff is half rotted, guts, brains and scraps and would end up in the dump if not for this conversion to pig and poultry food. Show me your proof.

post Aug 6 2008, 05:25 PM

QUOTE (healthychef @ Jul 7 2008, 04:51 PM) *
Dr. Hardy in Winter Park FL is an excellent mercury free dentist who charges reasonable fees. I had all my mercury fillings replaced for under $2000. I highly recommend him.

What does this have to do with fish being fed to poultry and pigs ? You are either thick in the head or a spammer.

Child of Gaia
post Today, 11:41 PM

Back "home" in Japan, fish fish and soy products are our normal source of protein, and we occasionally eat meat as a sort of special treat. So it was something of a curiousity when we came to live in the USA that even though living in a fishing village (Newport, Oregon), fish is three to five times as expensive as fish! We prefer eating fish, and having land aninamal meat only on occasion. But we can not afford to, so we eat more meat now, and only have fish on special occasion. So it is difficult to fathom how it could be that while fish costs generally about five to twelve dollars a pound (even in a fishing village), how is it that beef and pork can be sold at between two to four dollars a pound when it takes something like eleven pounds of fish to produce one pound of beef?

Color me confused.

Child of Gaia
post Today, 11:44 PM is three to five times as expensive as fish!

SORRY, I meant three to five times as expensive as MEAT.