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The Truth About CAnned Tuna -- What To Look For When Buying Canned tuna

Photo Credit: Wild Pacific Albacore Tuna

The Other White Meat

If a can of tuna reads “white meat” it’s albacore tuna. Canned skipjack and yellowfin tuna are sold as “light meat.”



Yellowfin is listed by the EDV (Environmental Defense Fund) as an Eco-Worst choice. “Troll” or “pole caught” albacore is Eco-best.


The levels largely depend on the age and size of tuna when caught. Tuna is a predatory fish, as it grows older and larger, it moves into deeper waters and consumes fish, these fish contain mercury.

Smaller, younger albacore caught by U.S. trollers, based on the West Coast, have lower mercury levels.

How The Tuna Is Caught Determines Everything

There are two methods used to catch albacore:

1) Long-lining: a boat drops one end of a long line into the ocean. The line can be up to 30 miles long. Off this big line are many little lines with hooks attached. The hooks float in waters, sometimes as deep as 300 feet. This method picks up older and larger fish, as well as by catch.

2) Trolling or pole catching: younger, low mercury tuna feed closer to the top of the ocean and are caught by towing a lure or baited hook behind a slow-moving boat. At the end of each line is a jig - a rubbery fishing lure with a barbless hook in it - designed to attract albacore. Fishermen can quickly release unwanted catch from their hooks since lines are reeled in soon after a fish takes the bait.

Read The Label

The fat content on a can’s label indicates the age of the fish. The higher the fat, the better.

Older, larger (longline-caught) albacore packed in water will show a total fat content of 2 grams or less on their label.

Younger, troll-caught albacore in water or natural juices will have at least 3 to 5 grams of total fat. The higher total fat content reflects the Omega-3 essential fatty acids. And since the younger fish are not nearly as dry as the more common older, larger albacore, you may end up using less mayonnaise.

Health Benefits

Younger troll-caught albacore contain more Omega-3 fatty acids than older, larger albacore. Omega-3s are associated with reducing the risks or effects of heart disease, strokes, high blood pressure, cancer, arthritis, lupus, and other medical conditions.

Mass Market Brands Vs. Custom-Canned

Most canned albacore found in supermarkets comes from large canneries using assembly-line techniques. They use larger, leaner albacore and cook it twice – getting rid of many natural juices, flavors, and Omega-3s. They add water, vegetable broth, soy, and salt.

With troll-caught tuna, you’re getting a better quality albacore. It’s hand-cut sashimi grade, packed in its own natural juices. The lid is then sealed, and the can is cooked only once, retaining the juices and Omega-3s. There is no need to drain the can when opening.

USA - The Largest Consumer Of Albacore In The World

To support this demand, large tuna canneries import less expensive, older, long line caught albacore from other countries where labor is less expensive and standards are less restrictive.

Bait & Switch

80% of Northwest troll-caught albacore gets sold to Europe and Asia and then sold back in the US, labeled as expensive “tonno” or “bonito del norte.”

Support A Century Old Domestic Profession

Like any artisan product, premium tuna comes at a higher cost than many of the mass-market commercially canned tuna. But just like supporting local farmers, spending your money to buy US custom-canned tuna helps a small-boat family operated industry.

More Information

For more information on Pacific albacore tuna check out:

- Western Fishboat Owners Association (WFOA) [www.wfoa-tuna.org]

- Wild Pacific Albacore [www.pacificalbacore.com]


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