FISH. The annual catch of fish in the United States—sea, lakes and rivers—averages about 2,200,000,000 pounds, most of which is consumed in this country. To obtain the actual quantity of food represented, the figures must be considerably reduced, as the loss of weight in dressing varies from 15% to 50%. To the net total is added the impor tation of nearly 200,000,000 pounds—fresh, salted, canned, etc. The final figures sound very impressive, but when due allowance is made for the large per capita consumption in certain sections, the result represents only a small per capita consumption by the general public.
Public opinion lias been enlightened from time to time by medical and other scien tific advocacy of a greater consumption of fish as especially suited to the semi-seden tary habits and lives of a very large percentage of the population, and the result has undoubtedly been an increased appreciation and consumption, but it remains true that, by probably the majority, fish is still looked upon as an "extra" course, an exclusively Friday meat or, in the case of canned goods, as an emergency item. A more general use of fish would tend to decrease the cost of living by relieving the pressure of our ever-increasing numbers on the beef supply.
It is somewhat curious to note the tenacity of certain erroneous impressions con cerning fish as a food. It is still commonly believed that it is an especially good brain stimulant because of the phosphorus contained in the flesh. As a matter of fact, fish contains little if any more phosphorus than beef, and even if it did, there is no reason to believe that it would therefore exercise any perceptible influence on the brain. On the other hand, many people undoubtedly eschew fish because they fear ptomaine poi soning—yet, under conditions of proper care and cleanliness, there is no more danger of poisoning from fish than from many other articles of food.
Stripped of all prejudices and tra ditions, fish is very similar to lean beef in its food composition. The many vari
eties differ considerably in their propor tions of the different elements, but they are all similar in that they supply the human system with a considerable per centage of protein—muscle and flesh building nutrients.
The fish which most closely corre spond with the average beef percentage of protein are the halibut, pollack, Maine salmon and sturgeon. Those exceeding the beef average in protein include : cod steaks, smoked and salted cod, smoked and salted halibut, smoked and salted herring, mackerel, California salmon and canned sardines.
A third list of those averaging a little below in protein percentage, takes in black bass, sea bass, bluefish, butterfish, cusk, fresh herring, fresh mackerel, yellow perch, pickerel, pompano, redsnapper, shad, trout, weakfish and whitefish.
The average of protein of all fish sold, including the lesser varieties, is about two-thirds of that of beef.
It will be noted that in the fourth paragraph fish was described as tallying closely with lean beef. The average cut of beef c mtains a considerable percentage of fat, but this element is found in similar proportions in comparatively few varieties of fish—the majority having more water and less fat.
There are, however, a number of fish which contain as much fat as such meats as young chickens, veal, etc.—among them being butterfish, smoked or salted halibut, smoked or salted herring, mackerel, salmon, canned sardines, trout and turbot—and a few which equal medium-fat beef in fat percentage, chief among them being California salmon, smoked and salted halibut and salted and canned mackerel—the last-named indeed frequently exceeding it in fat. The fat of beef is, though, generally more easily digested than that of fish.
Other fish which contain a fair proportion of fat are alewife, striped bass, fresh smoked haddock, fresh halibut, fresh herring, mullet, pompano, porgy, shad and whitefish.
Shellfish, being treated under a separate head, have not been included in these comparisons.