Americans have very different perceptions on wild versus farmed fish. And they vary widely on fish farmed in fresh or salt water.

A report out this week says that while more US adults are replacing red meat with seafood, concerns and misperceptions are slowing the pace of purchases.

In the study called Aquaculture/Mariculture, US Market Insights and Opportunities, food industry trackers Changing Tastes and Datassential surveyed 1,500 consumers and 400 restaurant operators about their wild and farmed preferences for America’s three favorites: salmon, tuna and shrimp.

Overall, nearly half of consumers and 40 percent of restaurateurs said they prefer fish and shellfish to be wild.  Both favored wild fish because it has better flavor, quality, texture, is free of antibiotics, pesticides and other chemicals.

For salmon, 57 percent of consumers said they prefer wild caught and 64 percent for restaurants.

American consumers and restaurant buyers both believe less than half of the seafoods we eat today comes from aquaculture – the real total is closer to 85 percent.

They also believe a substantial amount of seafood is farmed way out in the deep ocean far from shore.

Overall, land based and nearshore aquaculture operations got much lower marks across the board.

Water pollution and impacts on water quality were listed as the top concerns by 66 percent of consumers for land based farms and 58 percent for near shore. Water concerns jumped to 80 percent among buyers.

The use of antibiotics and pesticides ranked as the second concern by 64 percent of consumers and 68 percent for restaurant operators.

The results indicate companies selling salmon raised in recirculating systems on land have their work cut out for them.

One quarter of consumers and buyers believe open ocean mariculture is better for the environment than wild capture fishing.

The report concludes that as more Americans shift to eating seafood, the share with no established preferences for wild versus farmed increases.

Many already believe ocean mariculture is superior and is supplying a meaningful share of our seafood.  This misperception indicates market recognition and support for new mariculture producers, the report said.

 

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