Love Scallops? Lucky You. They're a Great Sustainable Seafood Choice.

Ingredient Intelligence

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Tell me if you've ever had this experience. You're standing in front of the seafood case at the grocery store with a hankering for a quick and delicious dinner, but you are troubled by concerns about sustainability. Is any of this OK to eat? What about seasonality? Maybe chicken would just be a better choice?

Don't give up so easily! There are many smart choices in seafood, including one of my own favorite foods: scallops.

Scallops are one of my favorite foods. My husband loves them too; I can predict with 98% accuracy which appetizer he'll order when eating out judging by the presence of scallops.

I also find scallops incredibly convenient; they cook in less than 5 minutes, and they go beautifully with other quick dinner staples like pasta, quinoa, or couscous. Yes, they are a little splurgy, at least in my area, but when evaluating a Friday date night, $20 on scallops is a much better deal than eating out.

But until recently I confess I quietly ignored the questions of sustainability. Sustainability is a huge issue, of course, when it comes to seafood; there are many ways in which seafood is farmed, caught, and processed that either harm the environment, contribute to dwindling populations of fish, or are unhealthy for consumers. I talked about some of these issues and how to look for sustainable tuna fish with Sheila Bowman of the Seafood Watch, a great resource for understanding what's a good buy in seafood.

How Do Scallops Rank in Sustainability?

So I finally did my homework on scallops, too, my favorite easy-cooking, date night dinner. To my relief, scallops, it turns out, are almost always a good buy, sustainably speaking.

Out of a dozen or so types and sources of scallops listed on Seafood Watch, nearly half of those are rated Best Choice, the best rating for seafood. The rest are rated Good Alternative, also a rating that I'm very comfortable with.

Why is this? Why are scallops easily a good buy when other kinds of seafood struggle? Seafood Watch explains that scallops, like other bivalves, subsist on natural plankton, so no external feed is necessary. Scallops tend to be native to the environments where they're farmed so there are no issues of escape or feeding on other native populations. There are also no chemicals or antibiotics used in scallop farming, according to Seafood Watch.

→ Read the full report: Scallops at Seafood Watch

When it comes to seafood, it turns out, scallops are almost always a safe buy, grown and harvested with little environmental harm. Now, if only they were cheaper! Read on for a few favorite scallop recipes.

Try a Scallop Recipe

(Image credits: Leela Cyd; Nealey Dozier)

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