Why you should never buy fish from Walmart

Walmart can be hard to avoid. Stores pop up in big cities and small rural towns, offering low prices on large quantities of everyday products, that big (and small) families want and need. However, Consumer Reports found that Walmart was "by far the most complained-about purveyor of groceries" when it surveyed 50,000 customers about their food shopping habits and preferences in 2017 (via MSN). A top complaint: The quality of the meat and poultry.

As is true with most big box stores, there are many products for sale that are best avoided, whether it's for the good of your pocketbook, your health, or the environment. One of these items is fish. A bit of clarification here. We aren't talking about the pet fish that used to be at the back of the store. Sales of those were discontinued in 2019, according to Pet Business. We're referring to the fresh seafood that's usually found near the meat, and the frozen seafood found in the freezer aisle. Whichever one you might be considering, take a moment to reconsider. What do you know about the seafood in your shopping cart? And what don't you know?

Think twice before putting seafood in your Walmart cart

While prices can be lower on many items at Walmart, this isn't true for all products, including seafood. The Kitchn found that wild Alaskan salmon was nearly $1 cheaper per pound at Costco than at Walmart. If sustainability is important to you, Greenpeace says that Walmart still has some work to do when it comes to its seafood sustainability measures, noting that customers are not given enough information to make sustainable choices. "Walmart ranks among the mediocre stores in the industry," Greenpeace says.

And, if you're in the mood for shrimp scampi or grilled shrimp skewers, steer clear of the bags of imported shrimp. Not only can they be harmful to your health, but many countries have a record of treating seafood facility workers poorly (via The Guardian). Even Walmart's canned tuna isn't a good choice, according to Greenpeace, who says that "progress on sustainable canned tuna has stalled and [Walmart] is one of several companies mentioned in reports concerning slavery in its supply chain." Instead, buy shrimp from an ethical fishmonger — it may not be cheap seafood, but will be totally worth it.

Walmart's frozen salmon receives dismal reviews

Even if value and sustainability aren't big factors for you, taste likely is. Who wants subpar salmon? Based on reviews of Walmart's Great Value wild caught pink salmon, that might be what you're getting. The frozen offering is rated at just 2.1 stars out of five, and reviewers don't hold back about what makes this fish so bad. 

One review notes, "Disgusting. Is this even salmon? Small individual frozen portions that thaw to a very soft and mushy consistency but will firm up once cooked. It is very pale and has very little oil that other salmon has. There is a very unpleasant metal, fishy after taste. Again, disgusting." Another suspects you're not really getting the salmon you think you are, noting, "This NOT 'Wild Caught.' Upon closer inspection, on the back of the package it states: 'This product comes from a fishery that has been independently certified to the MSC's standard for a well-managed and sustainable fishery.' Typical scam and mislabeling of a salmon product."

Walmart's frozen cod doesn't fare much better

While a nice white fish seems safe, Walmart's Great Value frozen wild caught Pacific cod fares similarly to its salmon when it comes to reviews. Coming in at 2.6 stars, shoppers don't have great things to say about this product either. 

"Disgusting, smells and tastes dirty. All of Walmarts frozen farmed fish seems to have the same issue, I hoped the cod would have been ok after trying the tilapia and flounder with the same issues. I will never buy their frozen fish again," noted one reviewer. Another noticed the overly salty taste, saying, "Why why why is salt added to fresh frozen fish!!!! It is terribly salty — I even tried soaking it in water. Package says almost 400 mg of sodium per serving! It tastes more like 2000 mg / super salty — will NEVER BUY FISH FROM WALMART AGAIN! Such a waste of money and food — can't even eat it."

If you must shop for your seafood at a large retail grocer and you don't live in a coastal town, look for seafood that's native to your region, buy frozen fish caught in America (except maybe not Walmart's frozen salmon and cod), and avoid shellfish if you live inland (via The Spruce Eats).