Seafood is highly nutritious, offering a great source of lean protein, low in saturated fat and high in bioavailable micronutrients, which are more difficult to come by in plant-based diets. It also represents the only animal-derived source of omega-3 fatty acids found to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke. It also has a low carbon footprint- in fact, most seafood provides more nutrients at lower emissions than land-based proteins.
Despite their environmental and health benefits, seafood is often an overlooked component in UK shopping baskets. Similar to fruit and vegetables, there is a dietary guideline for fish consumption; to eat two portions of fish per week, one of which should be oily. The UK population consumes around half of the recommendation, estimated at 160g per person per week. Factors such as taste, price and lack of preparation knowledge are often stated as the main barriers to fish consumption.
Tinned seafood could be the solution. It is cheaper than the fresh and frozen counterparts and is often more convenient- many of the tinned fish products are now sold in delicious sauces and require little to no cooking. Tinned seafood represents a variety of species from mackerel and oysters to sardines and mussels. By incorporating them more into our diets, they could also reduce pressure on the “Big 5” (cod, haddock, salmon, tuna and prawns) species we predominantly eat in the UK.
To test this out, at our Rowett stand at the Royal Highland Show, we set up a “Tinned Fish Taster Session” where we asked members of the public whether they would incorporate tinned fish into their diets. On offer, we had tinned mackerel and herring in various sauces, anchovies and picked mussels. After tasting, we asked whether they would buy tinned fish or try it at home. Of 72 members of the public, 59 people (82%) voted yes, 9 voted no (13%) and 4 were unsure (6%).
Generally, we found that those who already ate fish were more likely to take part in the tasting trial, suggesting that there should be greater focus on encouraging those who do not eat fish. We also observed that children were more likely to try fish if their parents ate it first.
Tinned seafood consumption offers a low-cost, nutritious, green, tasty and convenient seafood option. Their presence in our diets should arguably increase as we transition to a net-zero food system. Promoting seafood such as tinned Scottish mackerel and mussels could contribute to bolstering the economy and health of the population.