The Difference Between Farmed And Wild Catfish

While not as popular as fattier fish like salmon, catfish can be a great option for anyone looking to work more seafood into their diet. Catfish filets are highly versatile. They can be breaded and fried, roasted, or even into delicious catfish nuggets. They may not have the same rich fatty flavor as a salmon filet, but catfish are a beloved staple food throughout the American Southeast. According to Game & Fish, many of the country's best catfishing spots are located in this region.

Shoppers who choose farm-raised or wild-caught catfish may not know the difference between the two methods. Farm fishing is also often criticized for its negative impacts on the environment and fishing populations (via Sciencing). They are also considered a highly inefficient means of nutritional production as well. According to The Woods Institute for the Environment at Stanford University, it takes approximately five pounds of feed to result in one pound of growth for many species of salmon. So, is farmed catfish to be avoided for the same reasons?

The successes of farmed catfish

While there's nothing wrong with eating wild-caught catfish, the catfish farming industry is seen as a victory by many. According to Seafood Source, the catfish farming industry began in Arkansas in the 1960s and quickly expanded through other regions of the South. Today, farms in Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi raise 94% of U.S. farm-raised catfish (via The Catfish Institute). Farm-raised catfish are also far more efficient nutrition sources as well because of their protein conversion. As noted in Seafood Source, they only need about two pounds of feed for each pound of growth. The Catfish Institute also notes that catfish are also considered a sustainable and environmentally friendly seafood product by The National Audubon Society, Monterey Bay Aquarium, and Environmental Defense.

Farm-raised catfish have also been praised for the mellow sweetness of their flesh by chefs like Regina Charboneau of Twin Oaks Bed & Breakfast in Natchez, MS, as The Atlantic reports. She claims that wild caught catfish can sometimes taste muddy due to its less controlled growing environment. Farm fish on the other hand have a more consistent, cleaner flavor.

According to Hooked On Catfish, because wild-caught catfish absorb materials in their environment they may also contain trace amounts of chemical pollutants in their water. On the other hand, farm-raised fish are in a more controlled environment, but they are occasionally given antibiotics to prevent or treat illness. Either option may contain trace amounts of these compounds, though they should be safe in moderation.