Thousands of restaurant and food service personnel were treated to healthy choices at the recent Florida Restaurant and Lodging Show in Orlando. Sustainability was the buzzword at many seafood exhibits, and the emphasis on a Mediterranean diet of fresh vegetables, olive oil and fish was hard to miss.
European organic sea bream from Greece was the show highlight.
Mediterranean producers abide by the European Union's strict quality and freshness specifications, which state that the food given to farmed fish is formulated with certified organic foodstuffs without additives, antibiotics or chemicals. Because of this, sea bream has a nutritional advantage — high omega-3 fatty acids for brain, eyes and cellular health — over farm-raised fish, which are fed soy and corn pellets.
Canadian cultured mussels, grown on ropes in Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, were another tasty nutritious food featured. The versatility of mussels, which are a lean protein and are low in calories, was on display, with some steamed in wine and others sauteed in curries or pasta sauce.
Farmed alligator was a disappointment. The salesman said the meat came from Louisiana, where soy and corn are used as feed. Alligator tail fillet needs to be pretenderized before it is used in chowders or breaded tenders, and though the meat sampled came from an 11- to 15-month-old alligator, it required lots of chewing.
The Florida Aquaculture Foundation had the best slogans of the exhibition: "Friends Don't Let Friends Eat Imported Shrimp" and "Say No to Drugs — Don't Eat Imported Shrimp." The farm-raised shrimp that were featured are raised in Fellsmere, in Indian River County, in recirculating water systems free of chemicals and preservatives. (Be sure to ask where the shrimp comes from the next time you enjoy America's favorite seafood.)
When purchasing farm-raised seafood, be an informed consumer. Support fish farms that do not pollute the environment and do not feed their livestock soy and corn.
Request European organic sea bream or sea bass for the accompanying recipe, which was prepared during the show and was delightful. Substitute grouper or snapper if sea bream is not available.
Betty Wedman-St Louis is a licensed nutritionist and environmental health specialist in Pinellas County who has written numerous books on health and nutrition. Visit her website at betty-wedman-stlouis.com.