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The Mass Market Rejects Farmed Atlantic Salmon

February 2, 2010

I love food but I hate what’s been done to it.  There are so many issues regarding food that I would like to help move forward.  But in my mind, the low-hanging fruit has always been moving people away from farmed Atlantic salmon to wild Alaskan salmon.

The inhumanity of factory-farmed meat, the widespread and unlabeled use of GMOs in our food supply, and the persistent creep of chemicals into what we eat all seem too big and overwhelming to tackle.

But last week there was a significant development in the move away from farmed Atlantic salmon.  Thank you, Albany Jane for bringing it to my attention.  Target, the mass market retailer with over 1,700 stores in 49 states and over $60 billion in annual revenue, made a startling announcement.

Target Eliminates Farmed Salmon From All Target Stores.

Here are the first few paragraphs of the press release.

MINNEAPOLIS (January 26, 2010) – Target® today announces that it has eliminated all farmed salmon from its fresh, frozen, and smoked seafood offerings in Target stores nationwide. This announcement includes Target owned brands – Archer Farms® and Market Pantry® – and national brands.  All salmon sold under Target owned brands will now be wild-caught Alaskan salmon.  Additionally, sushi featuring farm-raised salmon will complete its transition to wild-caught salmon by the end of 2010.  In consultation with the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Target is taking this important step to ensure that its salmon offerings are sourced in a sustainable way that helps to preserve abundance, species health and doesn’t harm local habitats.

Many salmon farms impact the environment in numerous ways – pollution, chemicals, parasites and non-native farmed fish that escape from salmon farms all affect the natural habitat and the native salmon in the surrounding areas.  Wild-caught salmon from Alaska is considered a “Best Choice” by the Monterey Bay Aquarium and is certified as sustainable to the standard of the Marine Stewardship Council.  Alaskan salmon is among the most intensively managed species in the world, with excellent monitoring of both the fish populations and the fishery.

“Target strives to be a responsible steward of the environment, while also providing our guests with the highest-quality food choices,” said Greg Duppler, senior vice president, merchandising, Target.  “Our guests now have an array of sustainable seafood choices at great prices.”

“Target’s decision to source sustainable wild-caught salmon, instead of farmed, will have a real impact in the marketplace – and ultimately, on the health of our oceans,” said Julie Packard, executive director of the Monterey Bay Aquarium.  “Increasing the demand for seafood from ocean-friendly sources, like this Monterey Bay Aquarium ‘Best Choice,’ charts us on a course not only to protect our oceans, but to improve fishing and fish-farming practices around the world.”

“Greenpeace applauds Target’s decision to replace farmed salmon with wild Alaskan salmon, a relatively sustainable and healthy product, throughout its operations,” said Casson Trenor, Greenpeace’s senior markets campaigner.  “The company’s decision to address this issue represents an incredible willingness to challenge old paradigms in favor of sound science and environmental preservation, as well as provide real market value to its guests.  We have no doubt that the leadership by Target will set a new standard for the seafood industry; one we hope is echoed by other retailers.”

When a mass merchandiser gets the endorsement of Greenpeace, you know something big is going down.

Now here is the big question.  Now that farmed Atlantic salmon is not good enough for John and Jane American who are buying their sushi at Target, will it still be good enough to be served in the finer restaurants across the country?  Will these restaurants continue to sell fish that was rejected by Target?

I say you drop them an email and ask them.  Here in Albany some of the more expensive restaurants that still seem to have farmed Atlantic salmon on the menu include:

My Linh – Grilled salmon, topped with our ginger nuoc mam. Served with perfumed rice and fresh vegetables. $16.50
email – manager@mylinhrestaurant.com

Provence – Pan seared Basil Pesto crusted Salmon topped with Baby Arugula, Tomato Salad with Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Fresh Lemon over French Green Lentil Salad. $22.00
email – catering@uniquecatering.com

Bellini’s – Seared salmon and Mediterranean vegetables in a light Chardonnay butter sauce. $19.95
Twitter feed

Creo – Salmon, oven roasted, soy mirin glaze served with a green tea soba salad & julienne vegetables. $24.00
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13 Comments leave one →
  1. Paul Kornblueh permalink
    February 2, 2010 11:34 am

    Very Interesting, thanks for keeping up with this issue

  2. February 2, 2010 3:33 pm

    Good for Target! I’ve rarely shopped for groceries there but now I will… and I will tell the manager why I’m making the change.

  3. llcwine permalink
    February 2, 2010 4:51 pm

    Kudos to Target, and I’m glad you posted about the local restaurants. Another fish to avoid is Chilean Sea Bass as it’s still way over fished, I just noticed it on the Valentine’s menu over at Chez Mike’s. Steve Barnes just posted it on his Table Hopping blog.

  4. Mr. Sunshine permalink
    February 2, 2010 5:53 pm

    Check out seafoodwatch.com for the list of sustainable seafood from Monterey Bay Aquarium, updated monthly. Interestingly, they do endorse farmed Arctic char, so similar to salmon, because it’s sustainably farmed in Canada. There are quite a few farmed fish on their lists, so it’s not that all pisciculture is bad. For one fish, I personally prefer the taste of farmed over wild: catfish.

  5. February 2, 2010 10:34 pm

    I’m glad to see your input on this. I was hoping you’d comment or somesuch on it.

    I’m also surprised that some of the more upscale places in the area are serving farmed salmon. Not really sure why, I just kind of thought since they tout/have a persona for being upscale they’d go with wild instead of farmed.

    I know I’ll be looking over the frozen salmon the next time I’m at Target. Usually I just glance and keep on walking.

  6. February 3, 2010 2:31 am

    Greenpeace Paid $300,000 in a Veiled Alaskan Marketing Campaign Against Farmed Salmon?

    When Greenpeace applauded Target for taking farmed salmon off of the shelves, what Greenpeace didnt say is that it was paid $300,000 by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation. The Monterey Bay Aquarium has had $409 MILLION from the Packard foundation.

    U.S. tax returns and the foundation’s on-line database show that since 2000 the David and Lucile Packard foundation has granted more than $60 million to support the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) and promote MSC-certified fish – most of which is Alaskan. This included $12.7 Million to get Wal-mart and other large U.S. retailers to preferentially sell MSC-certified fish and at least $12.4 Million to “reform” fish farming (read: thwart the competition).

    Facing stiff competition from farmed salmon, the value of Alaskan wild fish lost 75 percent of its value over the 1990s. Alaskan fishermen not only lost their prime markets, they nearly lost their cherished way of life. Since 2002 and the bad press over farmed salmon, consumers and restaurants have been swayed back to “wild” salmon. The ex-vessel value of Alaskan salmon has tripled from $125 million to $409 million in 2008.

    Taking farmed salmon off of store shelves is wrong for three reasons:

    1) Salmon farming avoids some of the worst risks to wild salmon: over-fishing, ghost nets, by-catch, and the strain of Alaska’s ocean-ranching of billions of hatchery-born salmon on the food chain and the carrying capacity of the Pacific ecosystem. Unfortunately, its too cold for salmon farming in most of Alaska.

    2) Farmed salmon is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids. In fact, according to a report from the U.S. Institute of Medicine, farmed salmon is higher in omega-3 fatty acids than any other commonly-eaten fish and lower in mercury than almost all other fish. Harvard scientists estimate that eating fish weekly reduces the risk of a fatal heart attack by one third. The American Heart Association estimates that cardiovascular disease kills 2,400 Americans every day and cost $409 BILLION in 2009.

    3) Fish farming provides sorely needed jobs in rural communities. In contrast, commercial fishing is seasonal. Canadian tax-payers spend about $30 Million per year on employment insurance for commercial fishermen in British Columbia alone.

    So, who benefits from the campaign against farmed salmon?

    When it comes to salmon, Alaska believes its got the real thing. The fuss over farmed vs. “wild” salmon is as much about marketing as Pepsi vs. Coke.

    Protecting a livelihood and a cultural heritage is a noble pursuit, but thwarting the competition in the name of sustainability is not the way to go about it. In today’s tough times, there are far better ways for American foundations to use wealth and tax-free privileges.

    More info: http://fairquestions.typepad.com/fishfarmfuss/2010/01/greenpeace-marketing.html

  7. Mr. Sunshine permalink
    February 3, 2010 8:58 am

    In case it’s not clear, Vivian Krause is a pro-salmon farming lobbyist and blogger.

    • Neil MacLeod permalink
      April 16, 2010 11:21 am

      And you would be … the self appointed gate keeper? What a great service you provide! Ooh! Krause not ANTI-enough and is a (gasp) … blogger, so she must be suspect – just to be ‘clear’ of course. Thanks for setting us all straight. Dear oh dear … troublesome bits of truth have crept into the farce. We can’t have that. Now can we?

  8. Chris permalink
    February 3, 2010 11:49 am

    Daniel, I see you listed the contact information for a handful of local restaurants. I know this post is focused on salmon, but for what it’s worth, about 6 months ago I sent out a mass e-mail to many of the local, upscale restaurants in the Albany and Saratoga area urging them to look into offering more sustainable animal products on their menu. Some options would include locally raised grass-fed & finished beef, wild-caught fish, and pastured poultry. I copied about 20 restaurants on the e-mail, and got only 1 response. That chef said it’s not cost-effective from a business standpoint to keep any of those items on the menu full-time, but he would be happy to prepare one as a special with advanced notice. Sadly, even the “grass fed” options are some local establishments are finished on grain for the last 30, 60, or 90 days of their life… which completely destroys any benefit of initially raising them on grass. The only exceptions seem to be Beekman St. Bistro in Saratoga, and Local 111 in Philmont.

    I think Target is taking a huge step in the right direction, but I’d still be interested in finding out where they are sourcing their wild salmon from. The only seafood source I currently trust is a company called Vital Choice, which you can Google to find out more about.

    Hopefully, as demand increases for “real food”, local restaurants will jump on board with their product offerings.

  9. Justin permalink
    February 3, 2010 3:32 pm

    Vivian’s assertion that farm-raised salmon has higher Omega-3 concentration is utter falsehood. Even the visual difference between farmed salmon and wild salmon is amazing…you can tell by the sheer difference in pigment that there just is something not quite right with the farmed stuff.

  10. beck permalink
    February 3, 2010 9:30 pm

    It’s too bad those of us in the Capital Region don’t have a Super Target where this might actually impact us. As far as I know, and perhaps I’m wrong, none of the Targets around here have fish in their limited grocery aisles, unless it’s in something like a Lean Cuisine frozen entree.

    Speaking of Lean Cuisine, which is owned by Nestle, and whose food is certainly not the epitome of haute cuisine, uses wild Alaskan salmon in some of their frozen meals. And yet restaurants can’t do it?

  11. Susan Reiss permalink
    February 5, 2010 3:25 pm

    Yes Vivian, too bad about job loss, but farmed salmon are fed some mightily unhealthy fish food and raised in hideous overcrowded conditons. You show me a humane way to farm them with a natural diet and I’ll be all for it.

  12. February 9, 2010 11:29 am

    Responding to Beck,

    I think Target is doing a ‘shiny diamond’ PR piece. Hey everyone look at this! We are amazed and think wow but no one questions if it is real. I think we need to do this to Target. Everyone should ask Target so how are you going to contribute back to wild Stock Salmon? Back to the streams and improving Salmon habitats? Back to increasing wild stock Salmon? Until they answer this, which they will not because Target has never in other food industries committed to long term environmental strategies. This a profit grab by exerting extra pressure on an already endangered species. You may think this is a good decision, it maybe … for today but long term for sustainability a bad one.

    Don’t sell out to Salmon for Target’s short term profits. The only thing that Target is doing is taking away choice, which is a foundation stone of America’s freedom; so is catching a Salmon with my grandkids in 20 years!

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