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Generation Meh actually cares about aquaculture

The fish farming industry has a real advantage over much of its competition, and suddenly young people give a damn.

I must have made roughly two visits to a farm as a child, and I'm fairly sure they were both the kind with bouncy castles.

My memories of the experience? Manure, bouncing, scary animals and the abiding thought they would soon all die for a purpose of which I wasn't entirely sure.

As a city-dwelling youth who quite possibly may not have been able to tell you that bacon came from a pig, food provenance was as far removed from my mind as the possibility of an electronic world wide web.

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And as for aquaculture, well, let's just say that fish in my life was limited to the tasteless white battered or breaded kind, which I probably had a slight inkling came off a boat in the sea, a place I visited once a year to sit behind a windbreak and eat sandy sandwiches.

So research from Cargill showing the younger generation is far more in touch with food's production roots is heartening news and seems to indicate we are beginning to turn a corner in our craving for convenience.

While far from our hunter-gatherer days, the excessive processing drive we decided was needed to achieve convenience in our lives and the knock-on societal ignorance around food provenance seems finally to be receding to a gentler medium.

The research showed that, inevitably, those with children are taking more care to make value-based changes. Kids have that irritating effect of making you care about things previously ignored: personal alcohol intake, traversing roads at allocated crossings and the healthiness and sustainability of your consumption choices.

In this vein my husband and I recently took our three kids to a Cambodian bug cafe to bribe them to eat spiders, crickets, silk worms and scorpions. It was supposed to be fun, but also aimed at starting a conversation with them about food sustainability and instilling a sense of "give a damn."

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Jumping straight to insects was definitely a move made to overcompensate for my ignorant and misspent youth eating Pot Noodles and microwave burgers. But similar to many parents today, it came from a growing sense of responsibility and care towards future generations' health and environment.

The survey also dispels assumptions made in the west that other parts of the world, in this case, China, don't care about where their food comes from.

Around 81 percent of 18-to-34-year-old Chinese participants in Cargill's survey said they had visited a livestock or seafood farm during their lifetime. For a country forcibly moving towards urbanization of all but a tiny fraction of its society, this shows a concerted interest in food production and provenance.

While I fear this might not be amazing news for many sections of the mass food production sector -- hello, battery farmed hens -- it is, in the main, good news for aquaculture.

Held to a far higher bar from pretty much the word go, seafood's youthful new production methods are an incredible story and deserve to be promoted and highlighted to this younger generation of consumers.

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A recent visit to one of my local Malaysian Ikeas the other morning confirmed this, with several of the Scandinavian giant's restaurant menu screens playing a video of production at a Norwegian salmon farm.

Switching back intermittently to show the snapshot and price of its smoked salmon salad, the screens stood out against the static menu boards of its chicken, beef and pork (is that what's in those meatballs?) offerings.

The aquaculture provenance story is strong and remains far closer to nature than any equivalent protein mass production sectors. And as younger generations begin to forcibly remove the veil from food production, the time is now to tell the story. So milk it. Your time has come.

Send comments to rachel.mutter@intrafish.com.

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