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Editor's Note: Wild-caught, farmed-raised dilutes marketing message: Wild-caught, farmed-raised dilutes marketing message

Property of SeaFood Business magazine
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 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 - 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?



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