Like any artisan product, premium tuna comes at a higher cost than many of the mass-market commercially canned tuna. But just like supporting local farmers, spending your money to buy US custom-canned tuna helps a small-boat family operated industry.
80% of Northwest troll-caught albacore gets sold to Europe and Asia and then sold back in the US, labeled as expensive “tonno” or “bonito del norte.”
To support this demand, large tuna canneries import less expensive, older, long line caught albacore from other countries where labor is less expensive and standards are less restrictive.
Most canned albacore found in supermarkets comes from large canneries using assembly-line techniques. They use larger, leaner albacore and cook it twice – getting rid of many natural juices, flavors, and Omega-3s. They add water, vegetable broth, soy, and salt.
Younger troll-caught albacore contain more Omega-3 fatty acids than older, larger albacore. Omega-3s are associated with reducing the risks or effects of heart disease, strokes, high blood pressure, cancer, arthritis, lupus, and other medical conditions.
The fat content on a can’s label indicates the age of the fish. The higher the fat, the better.
Older, larger (longline-caught) albacore packed in water will show a total fat content of 2 grams or less on their label.
Younger, troll-caught albacore in water or natural juices will have at least 3 to 5 grams of total fat. The higher total fat content reflects the Omega-3 essential fatty acids. And since the younger fish are not nearly as dry as the more common older, larger albacore, you may end up using less mayonnaise.
There are two methods used to catch albacore:
- Long-lining: a boat drops one end of a long line into the ocean. The line can be up to 30 miles long. Off this big line are many little lines with hooks attached. The hooks float in waters, sometimes as deep as 300 feet. This method picks up older and larger fish, as well as by catch.
- Trolling or pole catching: younger, low mercury tuna feed closer to the top of the ocean and are caught by towing a lure or baited hook behind a slow-moving boat. At the end of each line is a jig – a rubbery fishing lure with a barbless hook in it – designed to attract albacore. Fishermen can quickly release unwanted catch from their hooks since lines are reeled in soon after a fish takes the bait.
The levels largely depend on the age and size of tuna when caught. Tuna is a predatory fish, as it grows older and larger, it moves into deeper waters and consumes fish, these fish contain mercury.
Smaller, younger albacore caught by U.S. trollers, based on the West Coast, have lower mercury levels.
Yellowfin is listed by the EDV (Environmental Defense Fund) as an Eco-Worst choice. “Troll” or “pole caught” albacore is Eco-best.
If a can of tuna reads “white meat” it’s albacore tuna. Canned skipjack and yellowfin tuna are sold as “light meat.”
The environment that the fish lives in is pristine. Low in contaminates and contact with environmental concerns caused by humans. The Tuna is also young which results in less chance that harmful elements like Mercury have had time to build up in the meat. The waters of the North Pacific are also naturally high in Selenium a powerful antioxidant that helps neutralize the negative effects of Mercury.