5/08/2008

Some Facts about Farmed Salmon


Let me start off by saying that I am not the biggest fan of Farmed Salmon. However, it has it's place in my fish cases. Here's why:
#1 and probably the most important as a fresh fish retailer is price point.
Because farmed fish is cheap to buy at wholesale, it is cheap at the counter. Selling for around 6 to 7 bucks a pound, compared to 13 to 25 bucks a pound for the wild salmon, it is an inexpensive solution to eating healthy a couple times a week. Instead of a "splurge" once a month or longer for the wild.
#2 Consistency - The farmed salmon you buy and prepare today will taste the same as the farmed salmon you buy next week, next month and even next year. I am able to order my farmed salmon with a specific fat (oil) content. I choose mine for the sushi customers. They love it a little fattier. And they love the consistency.
#3 Freshness - From swimming alive in their pens, to my cases is generally less than 18 hours! With wild salmon, with the exception of Copper River species, the fish could be on the boat, to be sold as fresh/never frozen, 24-36 hours and sometimes more. Then there is transit time which could be as long as another 24 to 36 hours depending on whether or not it goes through a wholesaler or if it is bought directly off the boats. To be sure, when buying farmed salmon from a reputable fishmonger, it is generally less than a day out of water.
The grain of salt: I have been studying the ill-effects of fish farming from the NGO's (Non Governmental Organizations). They make some strong points against farmed fish. For example, the energy it takes to farm fish is enormous. Everything from fishing for the junk fish which is used in fish feed, to transportation.
Now, being somewhat on the inside, I get to read all kinds of fun stuff about my industry. One thing that is missed by the mass media is the fact that as energy cost skyrocket, of course industry finds more economical ways to do things. They have been researching and testing with great results, new fish meal recipes that do not contain any ocean harvested fin-fish at all. Instead, they have turned to aquaculture (fish farming) to raise fish meal species. Furthermore, they are starting to use soy based proteins with fish oil processed during other fish harvest (such as the Cod fishery).
My customers often ask, "Don't they use dyes in the fishmeal?" Farmed Salmon is given a carotene (yes, in the same family as beta-carotene which colors the carrot), Astaxanthin. The same carotene that wild salmon eat, but this is man made. The same comparison of vitamin C is man made and an orange comes form a tree. The same Astaxanthin given to Farmed Salmon is sold in vitamin stores for human consumption because this carotene is good for you.
"What about PCB's?" they ask. I explain that, yes, once upon a time, PCB's were a problem in Farmed Raised Fish. However, the PCB issue is almost non-existent with controls that are in place at MOST fish farms. Aquaculture has changed markedly over past several years due to tight governmental controls and from fish buyers refusing to buy from non-regulated farms. Even China has joined the band wagon so they too can compete in the global market. It is no longer a case for the buyers looking for the cheapest product. Their customers demand C.O.O (Country Of Origin) and all FDA testing documentation. Aquaculture has come a long ways in very little time.
Again, I am not the biggest fan of Farmed fish. Mostly because of flavor. Then maybe a little about farming practices. In my wildest dreams I can see a future wild salmon fishery that has encompassed the management the Alaskan fisheries are so successful at. With the U.S. importing over 80% of it's consumable fish, there has to be room for aquaculture in order to supplement our growing appetite.
I will post more on this at later time. It is very complex issue that deserves more attention than I have given it thus far.
Once again, I refer to my subtitle, "The health benefits of eating fish far out-weigh any risks of eating it."

3 comments:

Junglefrog said...

Interesting article! I am a recently converted fish eater and really love it. I try to eat fishes that are considered sustainable but it is difficult, also since I know hardly anything about it! So I will definitely keep an eye on your blog as it has some great info for people like me!
Simone

Randall said...

Thanks for the comment junglefrog. You have hit upon a topic that I am rather timid to post about. And that is "Sustainable Fisheries." This topic has so many facets and opinions that I feel it has to written about very subjectively to let the readers come to their own conclusions. I promise that I will tackle this sticky issue soon.

SMJ said...

I wrote off farmed salmon years ago - it's good to know things have changed since then for the better - especially as my food budget has gone on a diet lately:)
Suzanne

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"The health benefits of eating fish, far out-weigh any risks of eating it"