Gourmet Magazine
August 29, 2002 3:50 PM   Subscribe

Gourmet Magazine had a pretty interesting article (wish it was up on line) about farm-raised salmon v. wild salmon. Farm-raised salmon is scary, especially with regards to disease, waste handling, food (feather meal, blood meal, bone meal and other things that wild salmon do not eat) and an industry which is controlled by a very small number of multinational companies.
posted by plinth (23 comments total)
Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull fame has been a salmon farmer for 30 years
posted by jeffbellamy at 4:02 PM on August 29, 2002

It's not only salmon, plinth. They're literally crappy operations - they crap up the sea around them and themselves. Wild salmon are, at most, 2% of available salmon. They're not only extremely expensive (indeed as salmon used to be) but almost impossible to come by.

It's also (as far as I know) turbot, daurade and sea bass. Factory-farmed are all the same size, fat and colourful (from the dyes). They're quite tasty but the ecological cost is enormous. I read somewhere that each pound of salmon costs, in feed, something like 60 pounds of other fish (mackerel, etc.).

It is scary.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 4:24 PM on August 29, 2002

The book Salmon Nation is a great resource for learning about the hazards of farm salmon. Their site has a pretty cool tour if you want to learn the basics. I worked in the Wild Salmon fishing industry for years in Alaska and I think Wild is tastier than Farmed anyday. Don't buy that farmed crap.
posted by culberjo at 4:45 PM on August 29, 2002

5 reasons not to buy farmed salmon - Sierra Club
Acquaculture's Troubled Harvest - Mother Jones
posted by sheauga at 4:51 PM on August 29, 2002

Visit a feedlot or slaughterhouse sometime. Farmed beef, pork, and fowl ain't any cleaner, or healthier, or any better for the environment.
posted by fold_and_mutilate at 5:00 PM on August 29, 2002

What's the difference between wild and farmed salmon?

Farmed salmon spend their lives in small crowded pens where they are hand fed a pellet diet. A wild salmon migrates thousands of miles through open ocean hunting its own food. Wild fish has no visible fat.

If you see white lines of fat running through the flesh of salmon it is surely farmed. The flesh of farm raised salmon would be gray if not for all the additives shot through it.

Miguel...it's not at all hard to get. I eat fresh Alaskan salmon almost every day in the spring, summer, and fall. I order it straight from the source weekly , but I'm rather obsessed with it. Normal people can buy wild Alaskan salmon everyday at their local grocery store in a can. Almost all canned salmon is wild. I'd recommend paying the extra couple bucks for the sockeye which has the highest concentration of omega-3 and is high in healthy fats. Plus it just taste better.

Unfortunately most restaurants serve Atlantic salmon which is farm raised. So make sure you ask whether their fish is Atlantic(farm raised) or Alaskan(wild). I personally wouldn't eat farm raised fish on a bet.
posted by oh posey at 5:01 PM on August 29, 2002

Oh posey - while I'm lucky enough to live in a country where fish is plentiful, varied, fresh, wild and relatively cheap (Portugal), I've only tasted fresh wild salmon in Nova Scotia, Canada. It was as unlike farmed salmon as chalk and cheese.

The problem is political. Only ten years ago the best fish (sea bass, turbot, daurade) were prohibitively expensive. Nowadays, thanks to aquaculture, you can buy them for a tenth of what they cost then. So you have ordinary people eating what was once reserved for the very rich.

When you defend wild fish (as I do) you have to be conscious that ordinary people could never - and above all can't now - afford it.

This is what makes anti-farming initiatives doomed to failure. It's very difficult to argue against it when the fish is fresh, cheap and (according to prevailing opinion) healthy...

Though I must confess that anything Alaskan (that cold, clean water) makes me drool. King crabs, char, salmon...
posted by MiguelCardoso at 5:15 PM on August 29, 2002

Thanks sheauga, that Mother Jones article is great.
posted by culberjo at 5:17 PM on August 29, 2002

I eat salmon at least twice a week, always assuming Atlantic salmon was wild.

NO beef because of hormones and cholesterol.
NO shrimp because of over farming
NO lamb because its too expensive.

Now this, it's too damn depressing
posted by redhead at 6:35 PM on August 29, 2002

try the other white meat.
posted by dangerman at 8:51 PM on August 29, 2002

Y'know, until I read this article from East Bay Monthly, I thought farmed salmon was a healthier choice than wild, because of the fact that wild fish soak up environmental toxins (mercury, dioxin, etc.) and concentrate them in their fat. But upon reading this, I learned that the source of the "health" claim for fish - Omega-3 fatty acids - is extremely low in the farmed variety. So you can have Omega-3s plus poison, or you can have low poison and low Omega-3s. Or you can switch to stuff like flaxseed, hempseed, and walnuts for this nutrient.
posted by soyjoy at 9:13 PM on August 29, 2002

redhead: ditto.
posted by slipperywhenwet at 9:18 PM on August 29, 2002

"Big corporations bought out smaller operators"
See also: related topic

Wild tastes better than Farmed is certainly true for trout (and venison too).
posted by HTuttle at 9:38 PM on August 29, 2002

I was amazed when I first saw organic salmon. It's really, really pale pink - more like other white fish than the coral colour you get in non-organic salmon. But it's still farmed. I remember when the only time you'd have smoked salmon was as a starter on xmas day. Now it's just an alternative to ham in sandwiches.

So I've concluded that the only meat I can eat with a clear conscience is the free range, organic chicken I can buy in the supermarket (no butchers round here - driven out of business). Even then 'free range' can mean a variety of things. I only go for the ones where the labels specifically say the chicken has been allowed to roam free, have as many toilet breaks as it likes, take 25 days holiday a year and have regular access to a gym and sauna.
posted by Summer at 11:03 PM on August 29, 2002

Summer, I don't often laugh right out loud when I read something funny, but you got me on that one...
posted by taz at 12:21 AM on August 30, 2002

Summer, the difference in color that you noted is the exact opposite of my experience with salmon. or sall-mon if you prefer. Until this last year I regularly ate Alaskan salmon caught and prepared by my relative Glen (who ironically died in a fishing accident recently), and it was the most..well SALMON colored meat that I have seen to date.

As for organic foods...if you want foods without any "non-organic" chemicals in them, go ahead and grow them yourself and stop complaining about companies that don't grow foods how you would like. Nothing cracks me up like people living in a 10-story apartment building, who buy nothing but packaged foods from the supermarket, so concerned with living "naturally." I can say that the best vegetables that I ever eat come straight from my back yard, and I know exactly what may or may not have been absorbed from the soil.
posted by StrangerInAStrainedLand at 12:26 AM on August 30, 2002

So, what you're saying, Stranger, is that Summer probably lives in a 10-story building, but she should nevertheless grow all her own food or else shut up and eat what's given her?
posted by taz at 12:34 AM on August 30, 2002

Stranger - maybe they feed the organic salmon on nothing but milk and cauliflower. Perhaps they're victims of salmon vampires. Maybe they make the organic salmon pale so the other salmon looks more artficial. It's all just a marketing ploy. Maybe farmed organic salmon loses it's colour due to lack of exercise. I don't really know. Anyway, I didn't say I buy it, I just notice it.

I'm not really concerned with living naturally, I just don't want animals to suffer. Nor do I want to swallow growth hormones. Also, free range chicken tastes vastly better than factory farmed. But you're right, I should move out of my flat and go and buy a house with a garden. The fact that in my area it would cost about £300,000 (£500,000) and that I'm currently unemployed shouldn't concern me.
posted by Summer at 12:55 AM on August 30, 2002

Of course that second figure should have been $.
posted by Summer at 12:55 AM on August 30, 2002

I live in NYC, and have been shunning Factory-farmed everything for years.
I can easily get pacific Salmon, but I too and torn between the Soylent -grown farm fish or the enviro-toxified wild kind.

The bottom line is, the entire food chain has been entirely corrupted by the profit motive.

The USSR certainly had its probs, finally collapsing under the weight of its ideological corruption. The US has yet to face its own. I laugh everytime I hear about the wonders of a free market economy, how it will help the world. US Food production is a golden argument against.
posted by BentPenguin at 7:27 AM on August 30, 2002

I buy from a fishmonger at my local farmer's market. No doubt it's farmed as well, but it's many many times tastier than anything bought at the supermarket. That goes for the poultry and beef as well.
posted by GriffX at 8:40 AM on August 30, 2002

In contrast, Gourmet does recommend farmed catfish. They are raised on a vegetation based diet and are much more efficient in terms of poundage of feed to make poundage of meat.
posted by plinth at 12:43 PM on August 30, 2002

BentPenguin : The USSR's inability to feed their own people stemmed from a lack of incentive for anyone whose job it was to produce food. If they produced more than their quota they got paid the same as if they produced half of that amount. This led to a downturn in production, and mass starvation. Of course, I could be wrong, that's just what I remember from my AP European course last year. In a capitalist economy, there is an incentive to produce food. Profit. I agree that many companies lose sight (if they ever had the vision) of a quality food product, focusing instead on the largest profit margin attainable. We need stricter food laws that hold companies to a higher standard.

Summer : I understand that land is a little bit more difficult to come by in the UK..last summer when flying over the island I was amazed at how every last bit of land was used for something. I am speaking from an American viewpoint..here it is still possible to go into the backwoods of Montana and live off the land...for now, at least. Even where I live currently, it is becoming harder. The Metro city planning organization is starting to zone all of the rural land around here so that apartments and low income housing can be built here, but leaving our land as a tree farm. It won't be possible to run a successful business once we are surrounded by neighbors complaining if a pesticide is used to protect a field of trees from utter devastation.
posted by StrangerInAStrainedLand at 1:55 PM on August 30, 2002

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