Now more than ever, there’s a considerable amount of discussion surrounding the topic of eating meat. Whether it’s for religious, vegetarian or environmental reasons, you might be considering the option of eating less meat.
Making this decision requires a clearer understanding of what exactly “meat” is. A common question people ask is, “Is seafood considered meat?” While it might seem clear-cut to some, there’s still some controversy surrounding this age-old question. Let’s take a closer look at why, with all the science around us, there’s even still a debate.
Why Is There a Difference in Opinion?
The real reason why there is some difference in opinion on whether fish is meat stems from religious views versus scientific views. Many only regard “meat” as warm-blooded animals such as pork and beef.
Since fish are cold-blooded, many view them as a different type of “meat.” It’s worth noting that despite being cold-blooded, fish aren’t free of blood. This is a misconception that many people often have. Fish do in fact have blood which should make them part of the meat classification.
What’s the Dictionary Definition?
If you’re more interested in the scientific definition to clarify your stance once and for all, most dictionaries all have the same explanation.
Meat is defined as the flesh of an animal when it is used for food.
If you’re going strictly according to the dictionary definition, then fish is meat since fish are animals.
What Are the Criteria For “Something” to be Regarded as Meat?
A simple way to determine if seafood is considered meat is to have a look at the scientific criteria that determines if “something” is classified as meat or not.
- Meat is defined as the flesh of animals. Typical examples are cattle, sheep as well as humans.
- Fish perform the functions of animals such as eating, moving, digesting and breathing.
- Meat contains proteins, fats, calories and a host of nutrients and vitamins. Fish meat is primarily made of muscle that allows the fish to move. Since fish flesh is very high in protein – how can it not be considered meat?
- Simply because the term “fish” might not be indicative of meat, bear in mind that fish is fish as chicken is chicken. The term “chicken” doesn’t imply meat, but we all know it’s meat!
What Does the USDA Food Pyramid Say?
Since many people rely on the food pyramid to calculate their daily intake of different food groups, it’s worth looking at what the pyramid says about fish and meat.
The food pyramid was first published in 1974 in Sweden. On it, meat, fish, poultry, beans and eggs are listed as the same type of protein source. In 2005 the pyramid was updated and only reflected the protein choices as “meat and beans”.
2011 saw the pyramid being replaced with “My Plate” which simply lists the recommended portion as protein. Since no specific sources of protein are listed, it’s easier to interpret as the consumer sees fit. So, eating fish is as good as eating beef or eggs – as long as the recommended protein intake is met.
So, Is Fish a Meat?
From a culinary perspective, seafood is ordinarily regarded as meat, despite some seafood types not having exoskeletons or nervous systems and is primarily the flesh of an animal that is consumed. While this is what science considers the criteria for meat, certain religions, however, don’t regard fish as meat.
How Different Religions Weigh In
One of the top reasons people search for more clarity on whether or not fish is meat is due to their religious beliefs. Many religions don’t allow food classified as meat to be eaten on certain days or religious events.
While they view meat and fish in different categories, there’s often a limit on the type and quantity allowed on certain days. It helps to have a brief understanding of these religious beliefs that dictate a particular dietary preference.
In general, Catholics around the globe will only eat fish on Fridays during the period of Lent. So, from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday. This custom is related to the day that Jesus was crucified which was believed to be a Friday. In commemoration, animals whose “blood is shed” should be avoided.
In the Islam faith, fish are regarded as being “halal” because they don’t “shed blood” in the same manner as cattle and pork when killed for food. The act of eating fish and fishing from the sea is permitted. However, Jafari Shia Islam excludes fish with exoskeletons.
Related Read: Is Seafood Halal?
Hindu dietary restrictions may vary but the rule against eating beef is universal. There are however different rules about eating fish. While some eat fish, the most revered Hindu texts live by ahimsa – which refers to non-violence against all life forms. This leads them to follow a strict lactovegetarian diet – no meat, fish or poultry.
The Judaism faith deems fish will fins and scales as “pareve.” Pareve food is regarded as neither meat nor dairy and is considered kosher for consumption. Many Jews also choose not to consume shellfish such as shrimp, crab or lobster.
Why is Fish Regarded as Healthier than Red “Meat”?
Another reason people don’t regard seafood products as meat is the difference in their nutritional profile. Red meat is high in saturated fat, iron, niacin, zinc and vitamin B12. Fish, on the other hand, is a superior source of omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, thiamine, selenium and iodine.
That being said, a mixed diet of red meat and fish is ideal for a balanced diet. However, people who want to give up red meat for various reasons can easily get all the nutrients needed from different types of fish.
Is Seafood Considered Meat for Vegetarians?
Can vegetarians eat seafood? This is a common question people often ask. The simple answer is no. Since seafood and fish are regarded as animal flesh, they’re technically not vegetarian-friendly.
When a vegetarian opts to eat fish for nutritional value, they are referred to as “pescatarians.” While pescatarians eat veggies, fruits, nuts, beans and grains they also eat fish and seafood for the nutritional value.
Is Your Favorite Seafood Considered Meat?
The broad umbrella of the seafood term involves a host of different types of fish, shellfish and crustaceans. For a better understanding of the fish that make up this category and if they’re regarded as meat, keep reading.
Is Fish Considered as Meat?
While many viewpoints only regard meat as the flesh from a fur-covered mammal, culinary experts refer to the flesh of fish as meat. This is because the portion being eaten is essentially the flesh of a living animal. Generally, this viewpoint is shared by vegetarians which are why they refrain from consuming fish or their by-products.
Are Shellfish Considered Meat?
- Squid (calamari)
- Sea snails (escargot)
Shellfish have less complex nervous systems, which according to pescatarian and some religious viewpoints, make it ethical to kill them for eating. While still regarded as meat by culinary and scientific opinions, many religious views differ.
Are Crustaceans Considered Meat?
Many seafood lovers always ask the question – is crab considered meat? Despite being crustaceans, crabs have muscle meat which adds them to the meat classification. Since crabs and other crustaceans live underwater, they don’t have all the characteristics of a typical fish. Therefore, they’re not always classified as fish but are regarded in culinary circles as meat.
Is Caviar Considered Meat?
- Kamaboko surimi (imitation crab & lobster meat)
- Tarama (salted carp roe)
Caviar and roe are essentially fish eggs. There are two interesting points to note here. Since the fish has to die for the eggs to be extracted, the process and the product aren’t considered vegetarian. Technically speaking, these delicacies aren’t the meat of any animal, so they are also not classed as meat.
Read More: Is Seafood High in Cholesterol?
It would seem the definitive answer to the question, “Is seafood considered meat?” is largely based on whether you’re looking at it from a religious or scientific viewpoint. The short and complicated answer will be – It depends on who you ask. Speak to a culinary expert such as a chef and the answer you get will remarkably differ from the answer you’d get when you ask the local priest the same question.
Essentially, based on the criteria of meat – protein, muscle and comes from an animal, the only conclusion that can be made is that fish is meat. The differentiating factor shouldn’t be that fish isn’t meat, just that it’s a different type of meat.