A new report from the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future has answered one of the most perplexing questions in seafood: Where do Americans consume their seafood?

Americans spent roughly $102 billion (€85.5 billion) on seafood in 2017, and 65 percent of that was spent in restaurants and other foodservice outlets, leaving many to conclude, incorrectly, that more seafood is sold in restaurants than at supermarkets and other retail outlets.

The new study finally answers the question of where greater volumes of seafood are sold – retail or foodservice – and the winner is retail by a wide margin.

Flipping the script

When measured by weight sold, 61 percent of seafood was consumed at home, and 39 percent was consumed away from home, the report found.

The at-home consumption figure includes retail and self-caught fish with most (92 percent) coming from retail.

The study, published earlier this summer, investigated at-home versus away-from-home dining for popular seafood species.

It found the majority of salmon, canned tuna and tilapia are consumed at home. Crab, shrimp, cod and catfish are consumed in higher volumes at foodservice establishments.

  • Salmon 71 percent at home/29 percent away from home
  • Canned tuna 82 percent at home/18 percent away from home
  • Tilapia 84 percent at home/16 percent away from home
  • Crab 36 percent at home/64 percent away from home
  • Shrimp 45 percent at home/55 percent away from home
  • Cod 45 percent at home/55 percent away from home
  • Catfish 49 percent at home/ 51 percent away from home

“Seafood consumption amounts were larger among men compared to women, those of middle age (31–50) compared to other ages, and individuals with higher incomes versus lower,” the report found.

The average seafood meal size among adult seafood consumers is 96 grams (3.4 ounces), which was 13 percent more than the US recommended serving size for cooked seafood (85 grams, or 3 ounces). The average meal size from food purchased at retail stores was 97.1 grams (or 3.4 ounces) and restaurants was 90.8 grams ( 3.2 ounces).

Revising the numbers

On a per capita consumption basis the report also found that US consumption is lower than the number provided annually by the NOAA Fisheries, which measures consumption based on the raw edible weight of seafood.

The report's authors, led by David Love of the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, measured consumption based on the cooked weight of product and found per capita consumption to average 11.7 pounds per person versus 15.3 pounds per person over the period 2007 - 2016.

"The general message we're trying to give is that the retail sector is probably more important on a per-weight basis for what seafood consumers eat, and that cooking at home and eating at home is a healthy way to eat seafood," Love said.

"Further work is needed to understand the nutritional content of seafood at restaurants compared to home-cooked meals and to better align restaurant meals with recommendations in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans," the report said.

The study offers new insight to retailers, said Chuck Anderson, vice president of Certified Quality Foods, which helps food production industries objectively measure, monitor and improve quality, reduce food waste and and save money.

"From a retailer's perspective they can feel good about the fact they are actually doing a better job than they thought," he said.

"[Consumers] are cooking tilapia and salmon at home in huge numbers because we really have done a better job of communicating the quality and communicating the nutrition and how you cook it at home. All the efforts we've been doing for 20 years are actually paying off."