When it comes to fish there are a ton of tasty and nutritious varieties out there to choose from but when it comes to ones that won’t hurt your budget there isn’t one fish more sought after in the US than swai. Imported from Vietnam and other nearby countries, swai fish is known by many other different names including Vietnamese catfish, basa fish and iridescent shark (though it’s not a shark).
Swai fish is also known for its moist and flaky texture and one of the reasons it’s become popular is its neutral flavor which makes it the best option for a variety of dishes. In fact, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) lists swai fish as the sixth most popular fish in the US and production and import of swai is one of the biggest in its industry.
However, despite its popularity swai fish is still riddled with controversy. Should you eat swai or pass? This article has everything you need to know about swai fish.
Swai fish facts
Swai fish or Pangasius hypophthalmus is a species closely related to Pangasiidae and is a species native to the rivers of Mekong, however, most of the fish that are sold in the US are breed in fish farms in Vietnam.
And although swai has slowly become a favorite in the US, most states like Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi where the catfish industry is big to have banned this fish because it is closely related to catfish.
Although fish is generally considered a great source of lean protein and omega-3 fatty acid, there is little to be happy about when you’re eating swai fish. While it packs a decent amount of protein (about 15 grams per 4 ounces) it has little omega-3 content (about 11 mg per 4 ounces). And since the nutritional value is hard to pin down because it varies per fish, one of the things worth noting is that swai fish are usually fed bran and soy, fish by-products and canola which aren’t necessarily healthy.
The trouble that surrounds swai fish is that it is produced under very shady circumstances.
Swai fish farms are one of the most dangerous when it comes to its effects on the ecosystem. Most fish farms that produce swai fish have been notorious for improper disposal of wastewater since these types of fish farms make use of powerful antibiotics, disinfectant and anti-parasitic drugs. Not only that but since swai fish are commonly fed smaller fish that have to be caught in the ocean food supplies for fish that are out in the wild will dwindle which may have massive repercussions to the food chain and our ecosystem.
The fact that swai fish come from fish farms are also a cause for many health concerns there have been reports of high levels of mercury within swai fish imported to the US that could very well be harmful to those that consume it.
Controversy also surrounds fish farms who periodically use antibiotics to combat bacterial infections among the fish. Since residues may be consumed and contaminate waterways. What’s more is that if powerful antibiotics (used for humans) are used periodically by fish farms, these could result in bacteria developing resistance to antibiotics.
Some reminders and alternatives
If you’ve all read all these and are still not able to pass up swai then we recommend that you make absolutely sure that your swai is produced and imported under ethical practices. Buy brands that are eco-certified which is a telltale sign that the farms that produce the fish are eco-friendly and reduces the damage done to our ecosystem.
And if you want to pass up on swai, there are some alternatives for it that are not only cheap but are also packed with nutritional value. Pacific cod and flounder are some alternatives if you want white-fleshed fish while wild-caught salmon, herring, and sardines are a great alternative if you want your omega-3 fatty acid boost.
Swai fish like all other fish is a great source omega-3 fatty acids and lean protein that we need, however, most swai fish may not be good for you. Considering where your fish comes from and whether or not they adhere to US food standards are important if you still want to eat swai fish or if you want to pass on eating swai there always alternatives out there.