From podcast: https://bengreenfieldfitness.com/podcast/seatopia/
[00:00:53] Podcast Sponsors
[00:04:12] Guest Introduction
[00:10:06] How SEATOPIA is the pescatarian version of ButcherBox
[00:16:00] How James Got into The Fish Business
[00:18:59] Sustainable Vs. Conventional Fish Farming Practices
[00:28:35] Podcast Sponsors
[00:30:58] How to Avoid Heavy Metals and Microplastic Accumulation in Farm-Raised Fish
[00:38:06] James' Thoughts on The SEASPIRACY Documentary
[00:45:09] Food Porn: Ben and James Rave About SEATOPIA Product
[01:01:53] James' Top Recipe He Loves to Share
[01:04:52] How to Get Started Ordering With SEATOPIA
[01:09:37] Closing the Podcast
[01:10:44] End of Podcast
Ben: On this episode of the Ben Greenfield Fitness Podcast:
James: This is what Jacques Cousteau said many years ago: a mark of civilization is a transition from hunting to farming. And, we need to do that with the oceans. Our real customers are artisan aquaculture farms who are endeavoring to go against the status quo and find a market that appreciates and values innovation. And, quite frankly, we've adapted military technology to industrial-scale hunting, and we call it commercial fishing. And, it's just far too efficient.
Ben: Health, performance, nutrition, longevity, ancestral living, biohacking, and much more. My name is Ben Greenfield. Welcome to the show.
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Alright. Well, I think I've mentioned this a few times before on my podcast of late. But, I've been getting into sushi. And, it's not like I didn't like sushi before. I love sushi. I love sushi restaurants. I love sashimi. I just dig the idea of eating, I guess, what could arguably be called raw fish. I think I had my first bit of sushi when I was pretty old. I was probably, gosh, 23, 24 years old before I ever even tried sushi. And, I remember going to a sushi restaurant in Coeur d'Alene, and then leaving and bragging and telling my friends that, “Hey, you guys, I've had raw fish.” And, I thought it was cool just because–And, perhaps, I wasn't as cultured growing up as one could be at least to the extent of having ever had sushi before.
But, nonetheless. So, I got into sushi. I got enough fish. I got into sashimi. I have a whole pantry full of sardines and anchovies and mackerel and salmon. But, lately, I haven't been enjoying sushi restaurants, not very much at all. And, the reason for that is, well, it's multifactorial. A, I'm aware of the ever-increasing issue with metals and plastics and things like that in the fish food chain. But then, B, me and my sons and my wife, we've been making our own sushi and sashimi at home that's just the most mind-blowing mouthwatering super clean sushi that I've ever had in my life, along with a host of other fish products.
And, this was sparked by my guest on today's podcast who had reached out to me. And, he's like, “Hey, I got this box of seafood I want to ship to you.” And so, he sent it over to me. And, he's like, “You can literally just cut this with a knife and eat it.” I'm like, “Okay.” Well, I'm a little bit concerned about not trichinosis, I suppose, which one would get from bear or pig, but just rather just eating raw fish that arrives on the doorstep. But, anyways, I got some really good sushi knives. My sons and I began to figure out together how to make everything, from poke bowls to these Tahitian fish recipes, to hand rolls, to sashimi, to all these crazy sushi recipes. And, in addition to that, we've been cooking up all these crazy bits of the fish that I really haven't had a chance to cook before, probably, my favorite being fish collar, which is this super fatty luscious bit of fish. It just melts in your mouth. It's amazing. I broil it with a little bit of olive oil and get it nice and crispy.
And, my guest on today's show, his name is James Arthur Smith. And, James Arthur Smith–because it's cool to say someone's name as a three-part series rather than just James–James Arthur Smith is a guy who has been researching all these different aquaculture farms for the past eight years and trying to figure out how to, basically, harvest sushi-grade fish and have it shipped, almost like a ButcherBox of seafood, to people's homes.
And so, I got into this, and I am officially hooked. I get a shipment from James, typically, a couple of times a month. And, I'm eating the heck out of this fish. And, it's absolutely transformed the way that I cook. I have a few of his recipes in my new cookbook. I have a ton of people who come over to my house who are just blown away by how good fish can be, even if you don't even cook it. You just cut it with a knife and put a little olive oil and sea salt and lemon on it, and you're good to go. So, I want to chat with James a little bit about just fish in general, this new documentary called “SEAPIRACY,” that I personally haven't seen but that a ton of people are telling me is a highly problematic film when it comes to the fishing industry. And, I just want to talk all things fishy fish.
So, James, welcome to the show, man.
James: Right on. Thanks, Ben. It's a pleasure to be here.
Ben: Hey, did you have fish for breakfast?
James: I did actually, yeah.
Ben: You did? What would you have? I'm curious what a guy who just is immersed in the fishing industry has for breakfast when he has fish for breakfast.
James: Well, it's not just me, but me and my dogs got to eat some really beautiful salmon this morning. The dogs absolutely love it. And, in particular, I'd try to set aside the skins for them. I also appreciate the skins, but I had a luscious piece of salmon that was broiled with some homemade kimchi and some egg.
Ben: That sounds so much better than a smoothie that I–I had a pumpkin pie spice smoothie. But, honestly, I knew that you were going to do this podcast, and I actually don't have any of your fish right now in my refrigerator, in my freezer. By the way, folks, it's called SEATOPIA, James' fish stuff. And, I'll link to it all if you go to BenGreenfieldFitness.com/SEATOPIAPodcast, S-E-A-T-O-P-I-A, SEATOPIAPodcast. So, I didn't have any SEATOPIA stuff, James, but the fish that you had, or the salmon, particularly, you got two different forms of salmon that you have sent to me in the past. I think one's called the NordicBlu, and then the other one is a king salmon. Which one did you have, if one of those?
James: I had a piece of NordicBlu salmon, which is Atlantic salmon, the skin-on one. I like to cook those ones. I save the skin off, one that Ora King salmon for sashimi and crudo presentations.
Ben: I agree. The NordicBlu is the one–that is only the skin-on, right?
Ben: So, the skin on one. Dude, you told me to just go skin-side down and broil that for about four minutes or so. And so, I do that, just drenched in olive oil. And, I like to put a little bit of dill and pepper and salt on it. And then, I turn it skin side up for another four minutes on the broiler. You know how the skin gets just slightly bubbly and crispy, like a cracker.
Ben: Oh, my goodness. It's so good.
James: It's [00:10:00]_____, Ben.
Ben: I'm jealous about your breakfast. We'll get back into NordicBlu and King salmon and some of my other favorite cuts.
But, I'm just curious for you, personally, how you would describe SEATOPIA to people. Did I nail it with the ButcherBox of seafood?
Ben: Or, how is it that you describe what it is that you do?
James: Absolutely. I think that's the consumer-facing angle, is definitely it's the ButcherBox of seafood. It's a subscription box that goes direct to your home that delivers a blast-frozen product that you can put directly in your freezer and keep it for, you know, a month or months at a time, or transfer it to the refrigerator to thaw it out and work with it that same day. Everything arrives sushi-grade. And, one of the things that we're most proud about is that there's no plastic in our packaging. So, our freezer bags, those bags that the product comes in, the vacuum-sealed bags, are actually compostable. The insulation is completely compostable.
Ben: I didn't know that. I thought they were plastic.
James: They're a laminate of a vegetable and Kosovo-based bioplastic that's certified home-compostable. So, yeah, you can put that in your compost bin and go back and look at it in a month, and it'll be almost 100% dirt. It's compost very, very quickly.
Ben: Oh, my goodness. That totally flew under my radar. I guess I'm super hungry I could probably eat the plastic. It's [00:11:28]_____ right, or not the plastic, but this plastic, this full plastic that you're looking. So, you also said it was–You didn't say flash-frozen. I think you said blast-frozen.
James: Yeah, there's a big difference.
Ben: What's the difference?
James: The main difference is how quickly it freezes because any protein that has water content in it, in particular, fish that have even more water content than compared to, say, steaks, if you put it in your home freezer, those water molecules, they crystallize as they freeze. But, if it freezes slowly, you get very intricate and elaborate water crystal formations. And, those crystals start to cut through the muscle fibers. And, if you blast-freeze it, bringing it down to, say, negative 60 degrees as quickly as possible with big fans blowing over it that's wicking away the heat and wicking away the moisture, there's far less crystal formation. In fact, it's just little tiny daggers, any water crystallization that does happen. And so, there's less of the cutting of the muscle fiber and tissue. And, when you go to a grocery store and you buy a piece of fish that is refreshed, which most fish is there, it may have been frozen and defrosted multiple times.
Ben: Is that what refreshing means, frozen and defrosted?
James: Yeah. Most fish that arrives at a grocery store has gone through a supply chain where it's changed hands six to seven times, and it's gone through a process of being frozen and, in many cases, defrost it. And then, in some cases, frozen again, and then defrosted. And, that expanding and contraction of water molecules is cutting through those muscle fibers and results in a fish that's really mushy and has lost all of its flavor and, quite frankly, bland.
What we do is we take fish at peak freshness and put it in a blast freezer that has huge fans and is bringing the temperature down upwards of negative 60 degrees. And then, as soon as it comes out of that, it's kept out in a cold chain, a frozen cold chain, until it gets to your door. So, it's never been gone through a process of freezing and defrosting. And, it's only been frozen once at its peak freshness. So, when it defrost, it's still peak freshness. If you're looking at the shelf stability of a product that was frozen at peak freshness and defrost it once, versus a product that was caught fresh, kept fresh, gone through multiple chains of supply chains sits on a counter, and finally gets your door, our products generally will have a longer shelf life than the quasi-fresh stuff that comes through mainstreams supply chains.
Ben: Why is it that they have to freeze it and then defrost it so much?
James: Because supply chain for most seafood is designed to move industrial-scale quantities of a highly perishable product that may or may not have a home for it. So, for example, with wild-caught fish upon which most of the mainstream seafood supply chain is built, a giant Persinger might come across a breeding aggregation of spawning aggregation of huge, huge schools of fish that have come together, and they're going to catch all of that and bring it back to market. And, there's not necessarily a demand for that product. So, it's going to get frozen, and then it's going to get sold to consolidate. And then, it's going to get sold to a broker who's going to sell it to another broker and a speculator and then a distributor and then a retailer and to you.
So, as it goes through those supply chains, there's times in which it might be sold as a fresh product. And then, if they can't sell it in the period of time, they might refreeze it and then sell it as a frozen product. And then, somebody else might defrost it and sell it as a fresh product again. And, there's not really regulation in a lot of that. And, it's just trying to figure out how to find a market for a product that was, for example, in excess supply without a demand.
And, what we do is a lot different, very, very different. So, we're not dealing with any wild-caught fish, not that I'm against wild-caught fish, but I don't like to condone–
Ben: Well, I want to ask you about the farm fish piece because that's actually something I've always just said. Wild-caught, wild-caught, wild-caught, and I started getting your stuff and it's like, came from this farm, came from that farm, came from this farm. I'm like,
“Really?” I didn't think that was healthy, but I'll let you get into that.
But, before you explain what I think is you call an aquaculture or an artisan aquaculture farm, how do you actually get into this? Were you just a guy who dug fish and wanted to scratch your own itch? Or, what's the story of SEATOPIA?
James: Well, I guess, if you wanted to know my story, it goes back to when I was a kid and my mom was working at SeaWorld. And, I was just really enthralled. They had some unique opportunities to really connect with some of the marine mammals there. And, I thought I want to spend time with these animals. And, I was so intrigued with that, that as an adolescent, I was like, “This is my path in life, is going to be marine mammologist to work with Shamu and dolphins.” And, I started volunteering at an aquarium where I was cleaning the tanks. And, we had this huge petting pool with leopard sharks and stingrays and bat rays. And, one of the exhibits they had there was a demonstration hatchery project for steelhead that used to spawn in these estuaries where this aquarium is at in San Diego.
And, that really piqued my interest, the idea of regenerating wildlife, that these fish could be spawned, it could be breed, and they could be reintroduced, or they could be raised and harvested. And, that just put a seed in my head really early on the principles of regenerative aquaculture. And, fast forward 20 years, I met some people who were involved in aquaculture in Baja, where I'm at right now in the Sea of Cortez. And, I just wanted to get involved. I wanted to be a part of it. I wanted to be connected to a business model of regenerating the oceans of mitigating pressure on the wild stock and of being able to control what the fish are eating throughout their life cycle and produce an exceptionally clean product, like you might see with Wagyu beef, somebody is controlling what that animal is eating throughout its lifecycle or a pasture-raised beef. You're buying that pasture-raised beef because you know that it wasn't just wandering through landfills eating whatever. It's not a wild donkey, for example. You're eating something that had controlled feed throughout its life cycle.
So, I got into aquaculture, really, from the sustainability and ocean conservation and ecology. And then, for more selfish reasons, SEATOPIA was developed to be able to bring that product to my family and to my friends. And, slowly, it's grown. It's grown from what–Well, before SEATOPIA launched, we still have a wholesale business that services most of the farm-to-table restaurants in Southern California, whole fresh fish. And, when COVID closed down that restaurant business, we were able to allocate our energy towards launching this home delivery business, which we call SEATOPIA.
Ben: So, the deal with these farms versus wild-caught fish, that's something that I still don't quite understand, because obviously, in the health sector, everybody's like, “wild-caught, wild-caught.” They'll go in their farms. They feed the farm fish, basically, the equivalent of what you might see pigs and cows being fed corn and grain on a capable food lot would get. How is it that you can sustainably farm seafood and have actual healthy fish if they've been farmed outside of their native habitat?
James: It really comes down to the practices of farming. Just like farming beef or chicken or cattle or tomatoes, there are farms that you come to love and trust, and you have seen their practices that are following biodynamic principles. And then, there's industrial-scale commodity products that are just part of the problem that are poisoning our soil and something that has a demand but not from people who are really concerned about where their food comes from.
With aquaculture, it's the same thing. There are a lot of, I would say, the majority of aquaculture just like with agriculture, the majority of the mainstream is still following the mainstream path of producing as much quantity as possible with as low as risk for their investors. But, there are artisan aquaculture farms that are endeavoring to produce the best quality product in the world without the use of antibiotics or hormones, or genetically modified ingredients. And, those are the farms that we are endeavoring to create a market for, to create the demand for to support and to condone because this is part of the solution. There are farms that we're working with today that are absolutely examples of what we should be doing. This is like what Jacques Cousteau said many years ago, a mark of civilization is a transition from hunting to farming. And, we need to do that with the oceans. Simply, industrial expanding industrial-scale hunting is not sustainable. It's short-sighted. And, there's a finite supply. Also, there's increasing problems with the cleanliness of the oceans. And, depending on where those fish are coming from, they're bio-accumulating things through the food chain that are frankly unhealthy for us. So, in a controlled environment, we can control what goes into the feed. And, we can control other factors, like what comes out of the farm.
So, there are concerns about farming fish about it being unsustainable or being bad for the environment. So, for example, effluent or fish poop is a significant concern with finfish box.
Ben: What do you call fish poop?
Ben: Effluent, that's the scientific term for fish poop?
James: I guess so, yeah.
Ben: Sounds nice. I'm going to start calling my own poop my effluent.
James: So, your own poop or my poop, fish poop, from a certain perspective, that's waste, right? But, in nature, there's no such thing as waste. A stream of nutrients like nitrogen is only bad for the environment if it's highly concentrated and does not have a symbiotic partner for that. So, in nature, you have a lot of organisms that are consuming, unless it's being overwhelmed.
So, monocultures in aquaculture are just like monocultures on land. If you have too many of a living creature in a confined space, you're going to have a problem. But, it's not the only way to farm. There are farms today that are pairing finfish with shellfish and kelps that work symbiotically together, because those nutrients from fish poop, effluent, are highly nutritional for shellfish and seaweeds and mollusks and a whole host of other organisms. In the right balance, you can create an ecosystem that mimics what nature has taught us for years. We just have to get away from the mindset of just producing largest quantity as possible and the commodification of aquaculture.
It's really a reflection of the first aquaculture farms that were developed. Frankly, aquacultures are relatively new industry as a commercial enterprise. And, some of the first farms raised money from Big Ag and they followed that same business model. But, that's not the only way to farm. There's a growing demand for artisan aquaculture farms. And, that's what SEATOPIA is really about.
So, I think your first question is what is SEATOPIA is. It's the ButcherBox of seafood. But, behind the scenes, the less sexy part of it is SEATOPIA is a market-based solution to support regenerative aquaculture. And, while consumers are buying our products, our real customers are artisan aquaculture farms who are endeavoring to go against the status quo and find a market that appreciates and values innovation on sustainable practices, like how do you feed the fish the most optimal product, not just the most low-cost feeds?
So, if you want low-cost feed, you use genetically modified corn and soy to it, to put some oils and fats into the feed. And, that's generally accepted. In Canada, there's a lot of use also of land-based animal proteins in chicken and beef byproducts. That's just a decision that the farm is making. And, they're making it based on the fact that consumers aren't asking what's in the feed. What are my fish eating? Whereas, with SEATOPIA, what we're doing is we're saying we want to support the best available practices and advance the best practices.
Omega-3s, for example, fish don't produce omega-3s. A lot of people don't even realize that. If you're looking for an omega-rich diet, it's not coming from the fish. It's coming from algaes.
Ben: What the fish ate, you mean.
James: Exactly. It's bioaccumulating up through the supply chain. So, algaes are the source of most of those omega-3s. And, if you're feeding your fish just corn and soy, they're basically just getting omega-6s, which are inflammatory bolt in the fish and causes problems with their digestive tract and, also, in humans.
Ben: Is that actually what they feed the fish on all of these fish farms? Is it actually corn and soy?
James: Yeah. And, it's not because they're endeavoring to make unhealthy fish, but they're trying to reduce their impact on wild fisheries. So, for example, you don't want to just go and catch all the anchovies and sardines and anchovetas and krill in the world to feed these fish farms. Even though fish convert feed more efficiently than land-based animals, you still have to be conscientious of that, and trying to reduce your impact on marine resources, supplementing with land-based sources of oils is a solution to do that. But, you don't necessarily want to change the omega-3 versus omega-6 components of what the fish are eating to the extent where it's unhealthy for them and unhealthy for us.
How do you ensure that you're transitioning to mitigating pressure on wild stocks so that we're not depleting resources for the oceans while also optimizing health for ourselves and for the animals? Algae is the root of it all. Feeding these fish an algae-based diet, a diet that is supplemented, that's a pelletized diet, a controlled pelletized diet that adjusts the ratio of fats to proteins throughout the lifecycle of the fish. Using algaes is one solution that is far better than just corn and soy, for example. But, there's a myriad of solutions that are slowly gaining economies of scale as farms, as consumers, start to ban these things.
So, soldier flies is another example of an alternative feed. Using invasive species is another one. I've got a friend who has a project in the Midwest. They're taking Asian carp, which is an invasive species throughout a lot of the intercoastal river systems. Have you seen those videos of somebody going through a river, and all of a sudden, there's a million fish jumping out of the water, and they're hitting them in the boat? Have you seen that stuff?
Ben: I guess. I've probably seen a few little clips of that in nature documentaries before, but I never really actually know what it was.
James: Especially, in the South and in the Midwest, in a lot of the river systems, there's species of carp that was introduced, that is not native to these regions. It has just proliferated to the point where they're just consuming everything, and they've outcompeted all the other native species. And, there's so many of these fish that, now, they've been identified as a resource to harvest those and turn that into fish feed. And, that could be used as an alternative feed. So, to bring it back full circle is that, what we are eating has a lot to do with what we're eating is eating. And, with SEATOPIA, we're endeavoring to vote with our dollars every day to support those farms that are advancing aquaculture, not just for scale and commodity production, but to produce the best quality and the healthiest products that are available.
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So, on these aquaculture farms, do you have to worry about the same issues that you tend to worry about with, I guess, fish in general, namely metal accumulation and then, also, a newer phenomenon you see talked about a lot microplastic accumulation? I know you've told me before your fish are clean and that they don't have that. But, I'm curious how you can actually ensure that that's the case.
James: That's a really important question. Mercury is bioaccumulating the supply chain through the food system of animals that is coming from coal fire plants. So, coal-powered power plants are releasing microparticles of mercury back into the ecosystem that is then bioaccumulating back up through the phytoplankton and the sardines and the anchovies and the mackerel. And, as it goes up through the species because it sits in the flesh of the organism, it doesn't digest. As you get further up the trophic scale, highest trophic animals, like sharks and swordfish, have levels of metals that are unhealthy. And, in fact, if you look at the very top of the food chain, like killer whales, killer whales that have washed up on the beaches now have levels of mercury that are considered biohazards.
That is a very significant problem. And, we've mitigated that by controlling what the fish are eating and prioritizing them eating a low trophic diet. So, if you're feeding your fish sardines and anchovies and mackerel, they're still bioaccumulating because they're getting those mid-level trophic species throughout their life cycle. Whereas, if you're feeding them bottom of the trophic, the algaes and the anchovetas or what a lot of the firms we're working with do, is they are using a supplement of fish meal from byproducts of sardine canneries. So, not even getting the full flesh of the fish, getting mostly the head, the carcass, and the guts of the sardines and anchovies that don't go into a fileted can, whatever is left over from a MSC-certified cannery that is putting not a whole sardine or anchovy, but just the filets. The rest of that carcass gets ground up and turned into a fish meal. And so, that MSC-certified byproduct of a cannery becomes part of a fish meal for a lot of the farms that we work with. And, that is mitigating the concentration of the flesh and the mercury and staying as low trophic as possible. And, that results in a much cleaner diet that has a mitigated concentrations or exposures of mercury throughout the lifecycle.
But, what we do with everything that comes to SEATOPIA, when we're evaluating the farms that we're going to work with, is we take a sample of their fish and send it to a laboratory that can do analysis to the parts per billion and quantify the levels of mercury and a number of other things, omega-3s and omega-6s, plastics, radiation. And, we don't work with any farm that has more than 0.1 parts per million of mercury. And then, once we start working with them, we do that test with every harvest that comes in. So, every lot has a certificate of analysis that qualifies the mercury levels. And then, we can provide that information, not only to our customers, but also back to the farms and let them know if there's any inconsistencies, full transparency we've had issues where we've seen things change and we've said, “Hey, apparently, guys, you made a change in your feed or something change in the environment. And, until this happens, we need to re-evaluate this when these numbers are back within our guidelines.”
So, it's one thing to take a farm's word for what they're doing. It's another thing to actually test it. And so, all the farms that we work with have a third-party certification for sustainability and Fair-Trade practices. But, we then take the samples from every lot and get the certificate of analysis that also certifies the cleanliness. So, that's how we've done it. And, as a result, everything that's in the SEATOPIA box is certified mercury safe.
Ben: Now, what about plastics?
James: Plastics is a challenge as well. Plastics is increasingly becoming an issue. UC Davis put out a test a couple years ago, I think two years ago now, where they went to fish markets all up and down California Coast, bought fish that was caught locally, tested it for plastics, and found 25% one in four fish had microplastics in it. And, a lot of that has to do with where those fish are being caught. There's plastics in almost every corner of the world now, even in Marianas Trench to the top of the Himalayas, we've found microplastics.
And, really, you have to look at the currents and the cycles and the areas in which the plastics are aggregating. So, the kanpachi that we work with for example is up inside of the Sea of Cortez. And, because they're not getting fed wild sardines or anchovies, everything is in a controlled feed and they're in this area that's sheltered from, for example, the Pacific Gyre is spinning in a certain direction and the currents don't spin up inside of the protected Sea of Cortez, you have an environment that is protected from that, mitigated exposure to that. And then, we also have been working on getting that certified on a regular basis as well, because that data is a unique selling point. It is something that you can't really get from the wild-caught sources that come from a myriad of different environments.
So, plastics is a concern. I don't really want to be eating plastics. I think we have to pay more attention to this and help drive the industry towards being more open and transparent about actually the cleanliness and the health of the fish because wild-caught seafood is beautiful and romantic, but we have to ask deeper questions about mercury levels and plastics and how it was caught and where it was caught and what that fish may have been exposed to throughout its lifecycle. And, again, I'm not against wild-caught seafood. Some of my closest friends are fishermen, but they catch fish with a pole and a lime and a hook, not 10,000 hooks over a mile-long stretch that is being set for 24 hours and they come back and they'd pull in whatever bit those hooks. Even with circle hooks which is an innovation these days, there's still a bycatch is a big problem because, quite frankly, we've adapted military technology to industrial-scale hunting, and we call it commercial fishing. And, it's just far too efficient, too. There's a lot of things that shouldn't be condoned. To just romanticize it as wild-caught fish and not ask those deeper questions is doing a disservice to our relationship with the oceans.
Ben: So, this new film, “SEASPIRACY,” I haven't seen it but I would imagine that it's probably something you're asked about or something that's affected you somewhat. How exactly did SEASPIRACY affect you? What do you think about that film as a whole?
James: First, it's worth saying that those guys are really good filmmakers. They're compelling storytellers. They've previously made a handful of other films that were equally as effective in achieving their objectives. “COWSPIRACY” was their most recent film prior to that, which was just really talking about how we shouldn't be eating meat. And, in a sense, it's vegan propaganda. And, I think their intentions are good. But, what did they do? They brought some really good storytelling and filmmaking to the real issues about overfishing about issues of indentured servitude and slavery that happens overseas, about issues of plastics, about issues of bycatch. And, these are issues that, for years, have been told, albeit, perhaps, not by as good of filmmakers, but there are some really good non-profits out there trying to bring this information to the mainstream. And, those guys did an incredible job of getting people to–to getting mainstream conversations conscientious of the challenges and problems with the seafood industry.
And, they also brought to light issues with farming, issues with salmon farms, for example, that are following that industrial-scale monoculture model of packing as many living creatures as you can in a small space and inundating them with antibiotics to try to mitigate against disease. And, if you have a lawsuit, they have a loss. But, you have so much production that you're moving on. All of that was addressed in the film. And, they did an excellent job of really tear-jerking and conveying how horrific a lot of that stuff is. Super valuable.
What they didn't do, though, is they didn't address a single optimistic story of the good work that is happening with ocean conservation, with plastic mitigation, with organizations that are endeavoring to create marine protected areas, and having tremendous success in establishing marine-protected areas and allowing nature to do what it does best and regenerate and create these abundant environments. And, they didn't look at any of the beautiful stories of aquaculture, multi-trophic aquaculture, regenerative aquaculture. There's so many examples of farming and the evolution of how our relationship with the ocean can be, how we go back to following nature's example.
Farming seafood is not a new thing. Industrial-scale farming, it is. But, farming seafood goes back to China, goes back to the Hawaiians. It's been an integral part of many cultures for many years. And, it's just that we have to do it mindfully.
Ben: So, you said it's basically like vegan propaganda. That's how you describe SEASPIRACY?
James: Yeah, I would describe it as vegan propaganda and really good filmmaking that addresses the doom and gloom, but completely missed their–They had this amazing stage, one of the top-rated films on Netflix for a minute. And, they didn't put any spotlight on the examples of regenerative aquaculture, of marine-protected areas that are working. There's a site here in Baja called Cabo Pulmo that has been designated as a marine-protected area for the last 20 years. Because they overfished it and because the industrial scale long-liners from China came in and decimated these reefs that the local community came together. They banded together and said this isn't working. We can't just keep trying to fish. We've overfished it. There's nothing left. Let's, as a group, designate this as a marine-protected area. And then, international organizations came to support them.
And, today, 20 years later, that site is one of the most well-regarded diving sites, ecotourism sites, in the world, because nature has the ability to regenerate if we give her a chance. So, ring-protected areas, ocean conservation, and regenerative aquaculture is happening. But, I feel like that film missed the opportunity to celebrate a lot of the beautiful things that are happening. And, it's my perspective that I like to focus on telling those stories. And, that's one of the things that SEATOPIA does, is we're actually allocating a percentage of all sales to helping create marine-protected areas and support marine-protected areas, because those marine-protected areas need–marine-protected areas that's not well-managed, it's not a marine-protected area.
For what it's worth, I thought that that film missed their–It wasn't their objective, but their objective was just to tell people not to eat animals. So, I personally feel better when I eat animals. I just want to be very conscientious of what I'm eating and how I'm eating. Itadakimasu, I want to think this animal that I'm eating. Give recognition or respect for everything that went into that, everything that that animal ate, everybody who was involved in the process of raising the animal, the sunshine that went into the algae, the whole process, taking that moment to respect that, I think, is healthy and respectful.
And, personally, I've been involved in the harvesting and hunting of animals myself. And, I think that anybody who eats animals should have that experience. I think it instills an intimate respect when you've taken the life of an animal and respectfully said this energy is now coming into me, that I completely believe is important for humans who are going to eat animals to have that understanding and respect. I don't think it's necessary for us to all become vegan in order to change our relationship with the oceans.
Ben: Like farming, it's all about the way that the animals are treated. It's about the regenerative farming practice. It's about a lot of the stuff that seems similar to, when it comes to farming, the type of aquaculture farms you described for fish that you're sourcing your fish from.
James: 100%. It's not the cow, it's the how.
Ben: Yeah, it's not the cow, it's the how. We've just got to figure out a way to make that rhyme for fish. It's not the fish, it's the dish?
James: Let me know, fish.
Ben: It's the wish? I don't know. We'll get to that later. But, anyways. So, I'm taking notes. And, I'm going to put them all for people at BenGreenfieldFitness.com/SEATOPIAPodcast. It's S-E-A-T-O-P-I-APodcast.
But, I would love to talk a little bit more about the actual fish themselves. It's food porn time here, James, because we've been talking about metals and plastics and SEAPIRACY in the face, but I just like to eat amazing fish. And, the first fish I tried that you sent to me, I'd never had before. You mentioned a few minutes ago called kanpachi, K-A-N-P-A-C-H-I. It is the most buttery, velvety, amazing, flavorful fish. I like to broil the collars, like I mentioned, with olive oil. I broil them almost like I do with that skin side down, skin side up NordicBlu salmon recipe we're talking about where I'll just take the fish collar, drench it in olive oil, a little bit of salt and pepper, a couple of spices, and then just broil those bad boys up until they get crispy. And, it's just like the–Is it from the neck of the fish, those fish collars?
Ben: It's so good.
James: That's right behind the gills before you get to the belly. And, normally, it has just a little bit of the belly meat on it. And, there's so much fat on there. It's so luscious. And, that's one of the most beautiful things about these farms, is that you can control the feed and optimize the ratio of fat and muscle fiber that these animals are raising. And, it's the same thing with a chicken or a cow. You have your Wagyu beef. It doesn't get that naturally. It's not just genetics. It also has a lot to do with the environment. And so, feeding these fish, a kanpachi, for example, is almaco jack, [00:46:38]_____. In Florida and in a lot of places, these fish, when caught by sport fisherman, for example, are considered a trash fish because —
Ben: The kanpachi are?
James: Yeah, it's crazy, right? It's beaten all–And, it's primarily because, in the wild, their diet is not importing as much fat into the skin, A. And, B, they end up accumulating a lot of parasites and worms. So, because they're being raised on a pelletized diet, they're not getting live sardines and anchovies that have parasites in them or could have parasites in them that then get into the fish. A lot of amberjack or almaco jack–excuse me, almaco jack are not eaten sushi-grade when caught wild because people don't have the ability to distinguish whether or not there's parasites in it or destroy those parasites. So, FDA guidelines on destroying parasites sidenote is to blast-freeze it, keep it at that negative 20 degrees for 48 hours, and then keep it below negative 15 degrees Fahrenheit for another, I think, it's another 48 hours. So, freezing to kill parasites of wild-caught seafood is a FDA regulation for sushi-grade products.
With farm products, because they're getting that pelletized diet that has the optimal ratios of fats, they don't have parasites. So, you can eat everything sushi-grade and you don't have to cook it just to kill stuff. You cook it just to give it the texture that you want, the contrasting textures of that luscious fats to the crispy skin. I love the idea of food porn, because really, at the end of the day, the whole sustainability thing and health-conscious and mercury, that stuff doesn't get people as excited as really having that–the thing that resonates with us on a genetic level when there's the natural salts and the crispy skin and the luscious fats of these fish. So, the collar has all of that concentrated. And then, it's like the clavicle. The collar is right below the gills and right above the belly. And, because there is a couple of bones in that cut that are shaped like a V, it protects the oils. And when you cook it, it holds those fats in there. And then, it's imparting the flavor from the bones. And, just with beef or chicken, the flavor is rich is closest to the bone. And, because the collar has the bones that are protecting the meats and the oils and it's still–You almost can't overcook it. It's always going to have that luscious beautiful fat inside there. So, the collars are amazing.
Kanpachi are really special fish amongst all the different whitefish that are out there. It's one of our favorites because it has a high-fat ratio. It has a firmness that you don't see in a lot of other whitefish. It's oftentimes compared to a yellowfin tuna. Kanpachi is a really beautiful white fish that are raised here in the Sea of Cortez in these turquoise waters and has that miroir that flavor of these waters here. And, it's raised in these pristine conditions.
And, quite frankly, I almost never cook it other than those collars. I almost always just eat it raw as a crudo is my personal favorite. So, just Italian-style sashimi, essentially.
Ben: Wait, you eat the collars raw? Or, you mean the kanpachi?
Ben: You ship me both the collars, but then I also get the kanpachi filets. I love to eat the filets raw. I cut those with the sushi knife. And, one of my favorite recipes, you sent me the recipe, I think this is one of the first recipes you sent me, was for Tahitian cri, where I just take it and I cut it into little cubes. I put it in the fridge, a little lemon juice and olive oil. And then, I make myself this bowl of coconut milk and chopped tomato and chopped avocado and chopped cucumber. And then, I take that ceviche-styled kanpachi that I've got in the fridge, put it back into that, and then serve that over sushi rice with some low-metal nori wraps. So, I'll wrap on the nori wraps. Oh, my goodness. My sons and I and my wife, we would love to punish that recipe. It's like an upgrade on a poke bowl.
James: I've got an upgrade for you on that one. It's probably not something that you can procure locally, but if you ever come across young coconuts, the whole coconut, because I think you have a Traeger, right? So, take the fresh young coconuts. Cut it in half, so you drain the water out. But, you still have that layer of the soft meat inside of the coconut. Put those on your Traeger and smoke them, not for very long but long enough to impart this smoke into the coconut meat. Then, take them off. Pull out that coconut meat. Blend it with the water. And, make your own coconut milk that's been spoked with smoked coconut milk. And then, make your Poisson cru, throwing in the cubed rock kanpachi, that is going to take it to another level. And then, you get to serve it back in the half coconut shells.
Ben: Wow. Oh, gosh. I love it. So, kanpachi is one that, if people haven't tried kanpachi, that alone is worth grabbing a SEATOPIA box, because that just knocked my socks off. I've never had it before.
James: A lot of people are familiar with hamachi at the sushi restaurants. Kanpachi is a cousin [00:52:22]_____ and sell Co La Quinta, I forget the scientific name of it.
Ben: Got you.
James: They're relatives. In Southern California, there's a species, Seriola lalandi. It's our local yellowtail. And then, the kanpachi is a relative of that. Each one has slightly different fat ratios. Kanpachi is firmer than hamachi, little bit less fat than hamachi, more than the local yellowtail.
Ben: So, another one. We talked about the NordicBlu and the Atlantic king salmon. And, both of those–they're salmon, but they're really good salmon at NordicBlu with the skin on it, that's the way to go, in my opinion, for cooking. And then, that king salmon, just for using, again, on a crudo or thin slicing and just eating by the slice with little salt and lime juice and olive oil on it. It's so good. But then, you've got this trout. It's called the chalkstream trout.
And, what's cool is, when I get your fish, it's got these QR codes on it where I can scan the QR code. I've got these six sexy videos that walks me through the whole farm, which makes it super exciting to eat. I like to watch the videos before I eat because I feel this intimate almost cinematic connection to my food. But then, the QR codes, when you scan them, they give you recipes, too. And, the chalkstream trout, it's one that I will go back and forth. Sometimes, we'll do a sashimi with it. Sometimes, I'll cook it up. But, what does that mean that it's “chalkstream?” Is that the area of the world that it's from? What's that refer to?
James: Each of the farms that we work with are detailed in the packaging. So, the QR code on every packaging links directly to that farm. And, you can read about those farms. Chalkstream is a unique–It's actually a river system in the UK. We're working with farms all around the world. So, the king salmon is being raised in New Zealand. That's Ora king salmon. The NordicBlu is a different form that's in Norway, in one of the most unique fjords in the world. It's fed by a fjord that is renowned as having the most powerful tidal fluctuations in the world that literally has these huge tide pools or maelstrom, what's the word for it? It's almost unnavigable when currents are changing through there.
The chalkstream comes from a place that is renowned as one of the most, I guess, classic fly-fishing places throughout all of Europe. And, these river systems have unique miroir. So, everywhere–especially, with fish, you have a lot of water content in the fish. And so, it's picking up the subtle flavors, the minerality, of that particular environment. And the Chalkstream river systems are renowned for having these world-class fly-fishing streams and rivers. And, the flavors and minerality of those particular fish are reflected in the miroir water of that river. And so, that's where that particular trout is coming from.
So, every farm has, not only unique story, but unique flavors and waters that affect the miroir water of those. And, I personally don't do that one crudo very much. It has so much minerality. I like to put it against some really strong herbs. I like the dill, any very pungent herbs, I think, create a beautiful contrast in the marine [00:55:53]_____ of that particular chalkstream trout.
Ben: By the way, you mentioned the crudo few times before. Are you just referring to taking the fish and putting it on a small cracker or slice of bread or something like that?
James: No, crudo, I'm referring to the Mediterranean-style presentation of fish. So, I think, sashimi generally is associated into more of a Japanese-style raw presentation that might be paired with a little bit of soy, for example, a soy sauce or tamari. Whereas, with a crudo, a Mediterranean style, it's going to be paired with olive oil, citrus, and a bit of heat.
So, I generally, as a guideline, just want to hit it with a little bit of heat in the form of some sort of chili, a little bit of citrus, any citrus, even just the zest of an orange or a lime, and then a really nice olive oil, and some nice flaky salt. And, that to me, the crudo always evolving with what ingredients are available, what's at the farmers' market, different citruses, different chilis. For me, crudos are just so simple and so elegant. And, it's a nice way to–And, also, I think coating it with lots of olive oil, I love using different olive oils and just coating it, somehow, it can just sit on the plate with that coating of olive oil and protects it, just enjoying it slowly and savoring it.
Ben: I'm part of the Fresh-Pressed Olive Oil Club. In addition, your SEATOPIA club now. [00:57:34]_____ clubs or are just shipped to my house. It's so great. But, the good olive oil with a lot of these fish, and a good knife that you can draw through the fish with one slice so that you don't get it all. If you saw at the fish, it just tears apart. But, a good, sharp knife where you just draw through the fish, it's so easy. Oh, my gosh.
So, you've got chalkstream trout. I could talk to–I'm blue in the face about all your different options. Got the Ora king salmon, the NordicBlu salmon, the kanpachi, which we talked about. You also have a rainbow trout. I think that is the chalkstream river trout, right? It's a rainbow trout?
James: Yeah. We keep evolving through. There's different farms. Some seasons, we had some steelhead in there. We had the scallops from Peru, the cultured scallops that are being raised in these hanging lanterns instead of the scallops that are bottom-feeding in the sediment, sometimes have grainy finish to them. Whereas, these ones are in these hanging baskets in the mid-water column. And so, they're filtering super clean water. And, you eat them. They're just pristine. And, those are coming from Peru. Unfortunately, right now, there's some challenges with logistics and getting things from Peru. With COVID, they're having a lot of problems right now.
Ben: The scallops are so good, though. I didn't think I even could cook scallops. And, I literally just got them, patted them, dried with paper towel, similar with the fish. The skin, I pat everything dry with a paper towel because it gets this nice crispy, crispy flavor and cook when I do. But, the scallops, yeah, I just pat them dry with paper towel. I like to use a little butter or olive oil. I do about, gosh, 60 to 90 seconds per side. Finish them off with just a pinch of salt and a little bit of lime. And, those little bags of scallops that pop up like bonuses in the boxes I get from you, I'll just pop a few those on along with the fish. They barely take anything to cook. And, they taste like a restaurant-grade appetizer scallop recipes. It makes it easy because I can impress my friends who come over for sushi now. And, I'm still learning what I'm doing, but at least, I got Poisson, fortunately.
But, anyway, the fish is just so clean. It's just so clean. It's like I'm not even worried at all. I'd be remiss not to also ask you about something that my wife and sons made the other day. We just did a very simple like a curry stir fry with it. But, these are this shrimp. They come from this–I think you said it's some kind of a recirculating aquaculture site. And, what, are they Florida?
James: Yeah. So, we've been working with a farm in Florida that is raising shrimp in a closed system on land, so recirculating aquaculture systems. It's a form of aquaculture where, essentially, a huge aquarium where you're recycling all the water. So, the water goes through filtration systems. And, you're not wasting water, you're not putting dirty water back out into the environment. That's a recirculating aquaculture system or RAS system. And, their shrimp, actually, is certified to having never had any disease outbreaks in that environment. So, they're raising these shrimp on a super clean sustainable diet. And, again, it's a sushi-grade product. The scallops are sushi-grade. You don't have to cook either them. You can use them in crudos. You can use them in ceviches. And, you're not condoning this destruction of mangroves, which is a big problem with farming shrimp in some parts of the world, or wild-caught shrimp, which has enormous issues with bycatch. So, they're coming from this farm in Florida, Sun Shrimp. And, they harvest them and blast-freeze them, and put them in our vacuum-sealed bags. And, we put them in the SEATOPIA box. And, they're lovely. I've been searing them. I've been barbecuing them. I've been making tacos with them. I've been steaming them.
Ben: It's funny, James, because every time I get a box from you, I'll text you and be like, “Hey, how do I cook this, bro?” And, you'll send me videos and texts. And, obviously, you got that QR code on your website. It's just chock-full of recipes, too, which is great. But, sometimes, I like to just abuse the fact that I have your number, and I'll just text you and be like, “Hey, you know what? I'm going to feel way more confident about this recipe if James says I cook it like this.”
So, the thing I'd love to ask you, though, is if you had to choose one, like your kanpachi, your scallops, your salmon, your shrimp, your trout, what would be your top recipe right now, aside from having salmon for breakfast before you podcast with me and feeding the skin to your dogs? Well, it's like your–What recipe pops to mind as the top one you'd share with people right now?
James: Well, I think it's worth noting that I don't give them all of the skin because I appreciate and love the skin. I share them.
Ben: I am the guy who grabs the skin off of everybody's plates who set it aside when we're having fish, because I like more skin than I will fish, just like when I'm having chicken, I'll eat more the knuckles off the bones than I will the actual chicken flesh. I'm just the garbage disposal. But, go ahead, what's your top recipe?
James: That's where the healthy fats are, that subcutaneous layer of fat directly below the skin is where so much of the beneficial omega-3s is at. For me, though, I just resonate with I feel great when I'm eating products that aren't overly cooked. So, if I'm cooking it and I want that crispy skin, sure, I'll get that crispy skin, but I'd like to leave the middle rare. I want the full-chain omega-3s not to be cooked. I want them to be fully bioavailable. So, if I'm going to cook it, I'll go that way. And, I've been experimenting with it. And, some chefs are going to roll over in their graves, even when I say this, but I've been experimenting with cooking products from frozen because broiling it or high-temperature cooking, the correct thickness of that piece of fish that has a skin on, so that the outside sears but the inside is still rare is totally fine and can be delicious. And then, if I'm doing something–And, I just keep it really simple, frankly. I like to just get that contrast of crispiness with the juicy goodness of that raw flesh on the inside. But then, the other half of the time, I'm just keeping it so simple. I take the kanpachi or the Ora king salmon or the steelhead or even the scallops and I slice it with a really sharp Japanese single-bevel knife. And, that's a really important thing, is it's just super thin so that you're not pushing down on the meat. You want to just slide it through as thin as possible, hitting it with the olive oil, the good–I like spicy olive oils, too. Put a little bit of flaky salt and a little bit of zest from citrus. And, that's it. That is my jam. Pair it with some pickles or some kimchi. And, I'm happy.
Ben: I dig it. That's the thing is, to have a good protein, you go super minimalist on it. Even a wonderful, wonderful ribeye, it's thyme, salt, pepper, a little rosemary, and do reverse-sear with some butter. Same thing with these fish. Minimalist is the way to go, especially when the flavor of the actual protein itself is such a standout, such a star. See, I've watched MasterChef a couple of times. I'm slowly learning.
I'll link, if people go to BenGreenfieldFitness.com/SEATOPIAPodcast, I would imagine this isn't rocket science, but because you got me signed up for box, I don't have to go sign up myself, but, again, like a ButcherBox does for me, you can just go to your website and pick whatever size you want. I think you got small boxes, medium boxes, large boxes. And, you just ship them out each month?
James: Yeah. We're a little bit quirky in that we don't ship on a regular calendar. We ship on the lunar calendar. Other than that, yeah, you just choose what size you want. The small box is a nice way to get introduced to it, but it's more cost-effective to get the larger box, both on shipping and cost per serving. It works out to be $10 a serving. You get the big box, everything comes once a month in this 100% compostable cooler. Literally, the insulation is non-toxic. You take this stuff, put it under your sink, and pour water over it, it just dissolves down the drain. Those vacuum-sealed bags you've been getting, Ben, those go in your compost bin with all the other compost. It's home-compostable.
Ben: I haven't been doing that, but now I'll start, for sure.
James: Yeah, super important.
Ben: Why the lunar calendar, dude?
James: Because we're trying to be a little bit more mindful of nature's rhythms. It's quirky, and challenged us on this, really. why do you have to be so weird? There's a lot of reasons related to paying attention to nature's rhythms that has different benefits. Historically, fishermen are constantly aware of the moon phases and the tides. And, there are certain times when fishing is going to be more appropriate, depending on the moon, the same things with biodynamic farming, you're planting in harvest cycles, depending on the moon. And, for us just to pay attention to that and to bring everybody's focus back to the lunar cycles is important. And, for me, it started as something that was important for me personally and was fun. And, it seems to be really resonating with our community. One of the coolest little pieces of feedback that I get from customers every now and then. It's like, “Hey, we saw the moon is getting bigger. The moon is waxing. We know that there are SEATOPIA boxes coming.” And, I just love that, that everybody on the full moon is receiving this box and they're getting the same recipes and the same fish, and we all are essentially sharing a meal under that same moon. It brings us together. And, occasionally, we've done these Zoom and Instagram Live cooking classes that we've done also on the full moon, so everybody has that product. We get to come together.
And, because we started during COVID, it was just another way to bring everybody together and create the community because that's what we're trying to do with the SEATOPIA collective, is bringing people together to vote with their dollars for a new food system. And, food systems, in general, are not that sexy. But, it really is important for us to be conscientious of where we're voting with our dollars because three times a day, we're making decisions on food systems, either its industrial-scale monocultures or it's artisan farms. And, we're trying to vote for the latter.
Ben: Kind of hippy-dippy, the whole lunar calendar thing. But, I can totally get behind that. So, that's the first thing. Second thing, it is pretty cool that I can get an entire box of seafood to my house that basically gives me about, I would say, anywhere from four to six meals for the same cost as it would cost for me to take my family out to sushi once. You do need to have some sake, though. You got to have some sake, and maybe, some seaweed salad in there, eventually.
And then, the other cool thing is just the idea that you just totally changed my mind about farm fish and just about how good fish can take taste in general, and then just this idea of me no longer being afraid of getting out a sharp knife and just cutting off a slab of fish, squeezing lime on there, a little salt, pop it in my mouth. Oh, my gosh, dude, it's amazing. And, if anybody's listening in, if anything, try some kanpachi collars, a few of those scallops, maybe a nice slab of chalkstream trout. It's just like I'm in love with you, James, and SEATOPIA. You're so good. I don't even remember who introduced us, but either way, I ain't complaining.
James: Well done, dude.
Ben: So, I will —
James: That was Nate.
Ben: What's that?
James: That was Nate. Thanks to Nate.
Ben: Yeah, it was Nate. That's right, Nate's my carnivore buddy down in LA. He called it, right. He knows what I like. So, I will link to all this. I know we've got some deals for people to be able to sign up. You were just interviewed by Forbes magazine. And, I'll include a link to that in the show notes as well. Great article where they pick your brain about a lot of this stuff. And so, that's going to be at BenGreenfieldFitness.com/SEATOPIAPodcast. It's S-E-A-T-O-P-I-A-Podcast. I've been excited to interview James for a while, just because I love it when I can connect my audience with the same type of amazing food I'm eating at home, same stuff I feature in my cookbook, too. And, anyways, it's all going to be there, BenGreenfieldFitness.com/SEATOPIAPodcast.
James, thanks so much for being the ultimate healthy fish hunter on the planet and shipping this stuff out. I really appreciate what you're doing, man.
James: Man, it's a pleasure to share it with people who care about these things. So, thank you for taking the time to educate your audience and yourself and really care about where your food comes from.
Ben: I dig it. Alright, folks. Well, I'm Ben Greenfield, with James Arthur Smith, signing off from BenGreenfieldFitness.com. Get yourself some fish. Enjoy it. And, have an amazing week.
Well, thanks for listening to today's show. You can grab all the show notes, the resources, pretty much, everything that I mentioned over at BenGreenfieldFitness.com, along with plenty of other goodies from me, including the highly helpful, “Ben Recommends” page, which is a list of pretty much everything that I've ever recommended for hormones, sleep, digestion, fat loss, performance, and plenty more.
Please, also, know that all the links, all the promo codes that I mentioned during this and every episode helped to make this podcast happen and to generate income that enables me to keep bringing you this content every single week. So, when you listen in, be sure to use the links in the show notes, to use the promo codes that I generate, because that helps to float this thing and keep it coming to you each and every week.
A few times in the past month, I've mentioned that I've been destroying sushi restaurants for myself, forever.
OK, maybe a bit of an over-exaggeration, but, basically, my family and I have been making our own amazing, mouthwatering, super-clean sushi and sashimi in my own kitchen now, thanks to a new service I discovered called “SEATOPIA.”
SEATOPIA—recently featured in Forbes magazine—delivers (literally) on its promise to make “eating and exploring truly sustainable gourmet seafood easier and more fun.” How? By delivering, like, essentially the Butcher Box of seafood, award-winning seafood direct from artisan regenerative farms, right to their customers’ doorsteps, all in 100% plastic-free and styrofoam-free packaging—100% transparency, 100% sushi-grade, 100% antibiotic-free, certified sustainable, and mercury-free. Plus each shipment includes QR code scannable recipes from celebrity and Michelin Star chefs.
Over the last eight years, the owner, and my guest on today's show—James Arthur Smith—has been personally visiting aquaculture farms, eating the feed the fish eat, swimming in, under, and around the grow-out pens, and lab testing the harvested products to quantity claims. Through SEATOPIA, James is endeavoring to revolutionize the seafood supply chain and empower health-conscious consumers to directly support artisan farms, helping to foster regenerative seafood practices. He thinks that despite the information shared in documentaries like SEASPIRACY, there are a handful of success stories of sustainable fisheries and innovative aquaculture projects regenerating the oceans while producing some of the healthiest protein on the planet.
Currently, in the Sea of Cortez, Baja Mexico, James Arthur Smith and his wife have been living aboard their vintage sailboat for nearly a decade. Immersed in the ocean since childhood, at age six, James Arthur became the youngest junior lifeguard to complete the La Jolla, California open ocean swim challenge. At age 12, he began volunteering at the Chula Vista Marine Science Discovery Center where a steelhead trout breeding and hatchery program sparked his interest in the principles of regenerative aquaculture and marine conservation. While James' childhood dream of being a Shamu trainer has since evolved, a commitment to connecting with nature and protecting marine environments has been consistent.
For the last eight years, James Arthur has been connecting boutique aquaculture projects from around the world with award-winning farm-to-table restaurants. Through these relationships, James Arthur developed one of the most trusted wholesale seafood distribution businesses in Southern California catering to world-renowned farm-to-table restaurants and Michelin Star chefs. When Covid-19 closed restaurants, James Arthur switched his energy to developing a 100% plastic & styrofoam-free home delivery box for truly sustainable seafood. Today, SEATOPIA is revolutionizing the seafood supply chain by connecting home cooks with sushi-grade products directly from the world's best farms and has garnered a cult-like following from health-conscious foodies and environmentalists nationwide.
During our discussion, you'll discover:
-How SEATOPIA is the pescatarian version of Butcher Box…10:05
- Product is blast-frozen (not flash-frozen) to allow freshness for months
- Everything is sushi-grade
- No plastic in the packaging—everything is compostable
- Blast-frozen practice allows far more proteins to be retained than flash-frozen
- Most fish in grocery stores have been frozen and defrosted several times prior to purchase
- SEATOPIA (use code BENGREENFIELD to save $25) fish is defrosted at peak freshness and the most nutrients and taste possible
-How James got into the fish business…16:00
- Worked at SeaWorld as a kid and fell in love with the species
- Covid restaurant shutdowns enabled the launch of the home-based subscription service
-Sustainable vs. conventional fish farming practices…18:52
- We eat grass-fed beef because we know where it was raised; same applies to farm-raised fish
- Artisan aquaculture farms are focused on sustainably raised fish
- Fish poop is a major problem to the aquaculture at large; there is no waste in nature
- Too much of one type of animal in a small space is problematic
- Fish don't naturally produce Omega 3s
- You are what you eat
- Majority of fisheries feed their fish corn and soy
- Algae is the root of healthy fish (pelletized diet)
-How to avoid heavy metals and microplastic accumulation in farm-raised fish…31:07
- Coal-fired power plants release microparticles of mercury into the ecosystem
- Killer whales that have washed up on shore have mercury levels that are considered to be biohazards
- Low trophic diet
- Each vendor's product is tested for heavy metals prior to purchase, or as a condition of continued purchases
- UC Davis did a study that found 1 in 4 fish have microplastics in them
- We “romanticize” the idea of wild-caught fish without considering the implications of modern fishing practices on the environment
-James' thoughts on the SEASPIRACY documentary…38:05
- “Vegan propaganda”
- All doom and gloom with nothing on the shining examples of regenerative aquaculture throughout the world
-Food porn: Ben and James rave about SEATOPIA products…45:10
- Ben loves the kanpachi (use code BENGREENFIELD to save $25)
- Farm products have pelletized diet; easier to make sushi-grade fish
- James mentions a trick with young coconuts to create a saliva-inducing upgrade to the kanpachi
- Kanpachi is a cousin to the more popular hamachi
- NordicBlu and Atlantic king salmon (use code BENGREENFIELD to save $25)
- Chalkstream trout (use code BENGREENFIELD to save $25)
- Picking up subtle flavors and minerals unique to an environment
- Fresh-Pressed Olive Oil Club
- Podcast with T.J. Robinson, the olive oil guy
-James' top recipe he loves to share…1:01:50
- Products that aren't overly cooked; rare in the middle
- Cooking products from frozen
- Crispy vs. raw middle
-How to get started ordering with SEATOPIA…1:04:45
-And much more…
Resources mentioned in this episode:
– James Arthur Smith:
- SEATOPIA (use code BENGREENFIELD to save $25)
- Atlantic King Salmon
- Chalkstream Trout
- How Seatopia Is Pioneering Regenerative Aquaculture For The Direct-To-Consumer Market
- What Olive Oil Should Taste Like, The Scary Truth About Olive Oil, Can You Cook With Extra Virgin Olive Oil & Much More!, with T. J. Robinson.
– Other Resources:
- Fresh-Pressed Olive Oil Club
- Butcher Box
- 9 Ways UC Davis Is Rescuing Oceans: Scientists Trigger New Federal Law, Create Healthy Practices for Marine Life
- SEASPIRACY documentary
- Keep up on Ben's LIVE appearances by following bengreenfieldfitness.com/calendar
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