« September 2008 Table of Contents
Editor's Note: Wild-caught, farmed-raised dilutes marketing message: Wild-caught, farmed-raised dilutes marketing message
By Fiona Robinson, Editor in Chief
September 01, 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 seafood sold at 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." The
terminology will become even more prevalent when COOL becomes
mandatory for other perishable commodities this month.
If a fish or other perishable commodity 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
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 - and consumers - thoroughly
confused with marketing mumbo jumbo along the way.
Industry players and environmentalists alike have argued for
years that hatchery programs used to stock U.S. rivers are
essentially farms diluting wild fish strains. It gets to the
point where some people start to ask the question, "What is
really wild anymore?"
I've been told a lot of thought went into devising
terminology for COOL with regard to seafood. I'm not saying
manufacturers should go against the labeling law. But wouldn't
it be best - for the consumer's sake - to have all of the
marketing messages that don't have to comply with COOL be
simple - wild or farmed?