|Lunch: tuna and white bean salad with local|
tomatoes and garden herbs.
|Ingredients: red onions soaked in ice water, lemon juice,|
a can of tuna, a can of white beans, vinaigrette sauce made
with Edmund Fallot mustard.
Tuna canning in America began around the turn of the 20th century, and continued to grow for most of the century. Tuna was a staple for Americans from virtually all ethnic groups, with use by a very high percent of households: "For nearly nine decades, Americans ate more and more tuna out of tin cans. For nearly five decades — from about 1950 until 2000 — tuna, almost all of which was canned, was the most popular seafood in the United States." However, between 1990 and 2010, Americans' tuna consumption decreased from 4 pounds per person per year to just 2 pounds. As the industry grew over time, the original numerous small tuna canneries slowly consolidated into just a few, and began to engage in collusion to drive up prices. This year an executive of one company has even been convicted of illegal price fixing. (source, source)
After a decline in the early part of this century, tuna sales seem to be going back up now. Specifically a study from Fortune Business Insights reports: "Consumers are highly dependent on ready-to-cook and ready-to-eat food products due to the convenience of cooking offered by them. The rise in working women population and the less time spent on cooking has led to wide utilization of canned tuna. The millennial population is highly inclined towards such convenience food products as it is easy to prepare, nutritious as well as saves the food preparation time. Many manufacturers are focusing on launch of new products and certifications to provide the consumers with quality products and for serving them better." (source, source)
Despite the legal setbacks to specific producers, overall the market for canned and packaged tuna has been growing for a few years, and the market changes caused by the pandemic have driven up demand for all canned products, tuna included. Collectively, the tuna industry production totals in the tens of billions of dollars per year; though total consumption is still down, the value of tuna purchased is up because of higher prices and higher quality of the product. Here's a graph of recent and projected growth:
As for me: tuna salad is one of the easiest recipes in my repertoire -- a can of tuna with mayo, pickle relish, maybe chopped onion or celery, maybe hard boiled egg. We like it in a cold sandwich, as a classic tuna melt, or just as a salad with other veggies. We also like the Italian-style salad made with white beans and tuna. Another favorite: the French Salade Niçoise -- tuna, tomato, olives, green beans, pommes à l'huile (French potato salad), optional anchovies. A famous American classic, though I don't make it myself, is the tuna hot dish with cream of something soup and noodles. With all the challenges to grocery shopping we're facing these days, these pantry-shelf recipes are surely more valuable than ever. Tuna sandwiches (maybe made directly from a pouch, maybe by adding your own mayo) are still a mainstay of lunches throughout America.
Except for the self-serving National Fisheries Institute positions, most analysts recommend pole-and-line or trolling methods of fishing, which would mean purchasing tuna labeled to have these methods, and recommend albacore or skipjack species of tuna. The extreme vulnerability of the bluefin tuna isn't relevant to the discussion of canned tuna, as these giant fish are used only for sushi (but you might want to think about this if you do eat sushi). The "Eat This Not That" website points out:
"Resources like the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch Site or Greenpeace's canned tuna report, which ranks 20 well known brands for their sustainability, as well as ethical and fair trade practices, are good places to start making more informed choices with canned fish."Yes, I’ve been buying recommended ethically fished and handled canned tuna brands, namely Wild Planet and Whole Foods 365 brand, for some time, but I try to revisit these decisions occasionally in case the situation changes.
Blog post © 2020 mae sander for mae food dot blog spot dot com.