Friday, July 15, 2011

What is the deal Charlie?

Tuna, it may seem to be an odd idea for a blog entry, but I am curious about tuna. Specifically I am curious as to what the hell I should be looking for in the bazillion brands and types of tuna. Why are there so many? Why do they charge so much for one, and not another?

I stand in the grocery aisle completely confused by the over saturation of information;  so  I set out to decipher this information. For one thing, this is a very complex topic. I got most of my information from the Environmental Defense Fund website at:, and Consumer Reports: For even more detail, see those articles.

The first thing one should know is that there are 3 main types of canned tuna. Light, Albacore or white, and Yellowfin. These are the main types we all come in contact with. The light tuna is, by far, the cheapest. The Yellowfin and Albacore tend to be more expensive. Supposedly they are better tasting. Light tuna is made more often from Skip Jack tuna, a smaller fish than either Albacore or Yellowfin.

That is the main difference. The rest of the information mainly deals with how it is packaged. Is it chunk or solid? Canned in water or oil? The titles seem confusing, but they are essentially saying the same thing. So the question is really, which tuna you want to eat, and in which method do you wish it to be prepared?

What most people, including myself, might not know is that the tuna that is pricier and highly coveted, may not be the healthier choice. We have all heard about mercury in tuna. But less well known is that different species of tuna have higher levels than others. The species touted as the best in flavor (and therefore more expensive), Albacore and Yellowfin, have the highest concentration of mercury levels due to the fact that they are larger predators than the Skip Jack used to make the standard light tuna most of us grew up eating. So, interestingly enough, you are paying a higher price (in many ways) for the more contaminated product. That will make you think before you pick up Charlie from the shelf.

Of all canned fish, it seems canned salmon is the best. Who knew? Mostly it is sustainably caught sockeye or pink from Alaska, and still very high in Omega 3s. Maybe I should make my usual tuna sandwich a salmon salad sandwich instead?

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