VI. How to Purchase Farm-raised Fish for Food?
“Aquaculture provides half of
the world’s seafood, with about 50 million tons grown worldwide
in 2006. Further
half the seafood consumed
in the United States comes from
aquaculture, and yet
about 85 percent of that
amount is imported.” (1)
How do you know
if the fish you are about to enjoy is from
Wisconsin? Unless a fish product
that it is farm-raised, it
can also be assumed it is
wild harvested. How do you know
if it farm-raised? Below
we offer several tips of what
to look for and how to tell where your fish
A. How to Find and Identify Wisconsin Farm-raised Fish
In Wisconsin, most of the
farm-raised food fish grown will be commonly known native or naturalized
species, or in other words, fish that are commonly found in Wisconsin lakes,
rivers or streams either because of natural wild populations or having been
introduced under Wisconsin DNR programs to enhance fishing opportunities. Some
popular food-fish species raised in Wisconsin include rainbow trout, salmon,
perch, bluegill, bullhead, catfish, and walleye. With the increase of
recirculation and aquaponics systems, you may also find Wisconsin farm-raised
tilapia. Many of these fish are not grown in great quantities, so their
availability for purchase is never guaranteed.
Direct from the farm
to find locally grown
fish and fish products is to identify local
growers. If you
find the source, you
find the fish. Some Wisconsin fish farmers sell
fish directly from the farm, at
through Community Supported
Agriculture (CSA) groups.
to find Wisconsin Farm-raised Food
Something Special from Wisconsin
In supermarkets, fish must be labeled as to the
country of origin,
and state of origin is also
usually labeled. Ask the butcher if you are not sure. Look
the Something Special from
ask the server for the country/state of origin.
Questions to ask the producer or retailer
If you are purchasing fish
from the farm, you
may have an
opportunity to gain information
directly from the
producer. If tours are provided, you may be able
to observe how the farm operates
while asking questions
of the producer. Some
questions you might ask include:
· How are the fish
· How is water used on the
· Are any chemical treatments used
on the farm? What are the fish
· How are the fish
· How (or where)
are the fish processed? When were the fish
· Do you
have any recommendations
on how to prepare the fish? Recipes?
you are purchasing a fish or fish product from a retailer, the retailer may not
know all the details relating to the products. However, if the retailer is
selling local products, you should be able to obtain information regarding who
the local farmer is and be able to backtrack to the farm of origin. Fish
farmers are proud of their product and want their products labeled.
B. How to Purchase and Handle Wisconsin Farm-raised Food Fish
Wisconsin fish farmers are
proud of their products. As with any farmed product, the whole purpose of
raising fish is to provide a product of good quality. To help ensure the
enjoyment of the fish product, it is important that the consumer selects and
handles the fish appropriately. Below are some tips summarized from the FDA Fresh
and Frozen Seafood guide. (2)
Ask yourself: What is my
general impression of this facility? Does it look and smell clean? Do I think
the seller is practicing proper food handling techniques?
Fresh fish is often purchased whole
(“in the round”)
or filleted with or without head, fins or skin.
Only buy fish that
or properly iced.
If you are
going to fee fish or
go to the farm market and intend to purchase fresh
fish, it is best to carry
along a small cooler with ice so that
anything you purchase for home use does not lose quality prior
to you preparing the
product at home.
products can be purchased
as fresh at the farm market will likely have no
the vendor should
be able to tell you exactly where the product was
• The fish
should smell fresh and
mild, not fishy or foul.
of the fish should be clear.
• The flesh
of the fish should be firm and shiny. (Note:
dull flesh could mean the fish
is old or that the fillet had
been previously frozen.)
If the gills are still attached they should be bright red and
fillets should not have any darkening,
discoloration or drying around the
2. Choosing Frozen
Frozen fish is often packaged. Seafood can
spoil if the fish thaws during transport or if it is left at
for too long.
Make sure the package has
not been opened or damaged.
signs of frost or ice crystals. This could mean the fish
has been stored a long time
or has been
3. Choosing Cured (Smoked,
Salted, or Dried) Fish:
Prior to refrigeration, many
people used traditional fish preservation techniques including salting, smoking
or drying fish. Consumers often seek these products out for the flavor and use
in selected recipes. Depending on the method of curing, the fish product can
have a varying shelf-life. Check with the vendor to determine the appropriate
length of storage. Also check the packaging for damage or if it has been
Smoked fish is often eaten
fresh. Fresh, smoked fish can be stored in a refrigerator for several days but
will dry out in self-defrosting refrigerators. Smoked fish can be frozen but
lose their delicate fresh flavor rapidly when frozen.
4. Choosing Canned or
or Pickled fish are often very shelf-stable if processed correctly. Check the
can or jar for any damage or degradation.
In general, refrigerated fish
and fish products should be kept below 38 degrees F (this includes fish
products such as spreads and smoked fish). Keep the fish on ice or in the
refrigerator if it will be eaten within two days. If it won’t be used within
two days, wrap it tightly in moisture-proof freezer paper or foil and store it
in the freezer.
Frozen fish need to be stored below
32 degrees F. Some fish may be purchased as frozen fillets in water, packaged
frozen without water, or individually quick frozen (IQF). IQF fish are packaged
in bags and have an individual water seal on each fillet. These fillets have a
very good shelf life however, in self-defrosting refrigerators and freezers,
the water seal may evaporate over time which would reduce their shelf life.
Thaw it safely: For frozen fish thaw it gradually, overnight in the
refrigerator or immersed in a plastic bag in cold water.
(b) Prevent cross-contamination
while preparing the fish:
Wash your hands
thoroughly before and after handling the fish.
Wash the cutting
board with soap and hot water and sanitize.
(c) Cook it properly.
Most fish should be
cooked to internal temperature of 145°F.
Check the fish
flesh. The internal flesh should be opaque and separate easily.
Ask your local fish farmer or
fisherman for recipe recommendations. Or you can check the “cook’s corner” on
the Wisconsin Aquaculture Association webpage.
Guide for Wisconsin Farm-Raised Fish
Developed and compiled by:
Wisconsin Aquaculture Association
UW Stevens Point – Northern Aquaculture Demonstration
UW-Extension Aquaculture Outreach
Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and