Is Seafood Consumption Finally Getting its Fair Share?
According to the annual "Fisheries of the United States" report released by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in late October, Americans increased their seafood consumption to 15.5 pounds of fish and shellfish per person in 2015, up nearly a pound from the previous year, making it the biggest leap in seafood consumption in 20 years.
Tom Brenna, professor of human nutrition at Cornell University and a member of the 2015 Dietary Guideline Committee, told NPR, "We're moving in the right direction."
Before the seafood industry can rejoice, however, let's add some perspective. We are still only eating about 4.77 ounces of seafood a week. The Dietary Guidelines recommendation is 8 ounces a week. Compare that to the USDA’s estimate for 2015’s average consumption of total red meat and total poultry each, at just over 2 pounds per week – that’s over seven times the amount of seafood for each of both categories!
The National Fisheries Institute reports that shrimp, salmon and tuna continue to dominate the top of its most-consumed seafood list, just as they have for the past decade.
Joe Hibbeln, a researcher with the National Institutes of Health who has studied the effects of fish and omega-3 fatty acids in reducing depression, suicide and violence, says that the nutritional value of seafood is important to good health.
NOAA doesn't break out individual species or products in its latest report, but Michael Liddel, a statistician with the agency, notes that one-third of the increase in consumption came from canned seafood products, particularly canned salmon. And it appears that the increase may stem from The Emergency Food Assistance Program at the USDA, which purchased more than $40 million in surplus canned Alaskan salmon in 2014 and 2015 and distributed it to food banks across the country.
So the industry is still faced with the dilemma of how can we get more Americans to consume seafood, beyond shrimp and canned tuna, that science is telling us is good for us? The key is sampling, easy recipes, and simple and consistent nutrition messages and labeling to empower our shoppers.