Did you know that by 2013, salmon became the most popular fish in America,surpassing even tuna? Trying to keep up with this ever increasing demand for salmon, grocery stores started to stock themselves with all kinds of salmon – wild and farmed – from all over the world.
When you are buying salmon, you should be aware about the things you need to take notice of, and the questions you need to ask to ensure that you get yourself the healthiest and most sustainable fish in the store. There are many debates around buying salmon, such as wild vs farmed, frozen vs fresh and the recent emergence of genetically modified salmon that was recently approved by the FDA, and the first GE animal to be so.
Flavor wise, wild salmon is the best. It has less saturated fat than the farmed variety, and is very rich in omega 3 fatty acids. These fatty acids contain a lot of benefits including helping us fight seasonal allergies. This is also considered to be a sustainable seafood, as the Alaskan salmon fishery—America’s main source of wild salmon—will ensure the plentiful return of wild fish in the future
the Seafood Watch app from Monterey Bay Aquarium will help you figure out what species to choose from and what to avoid, with suggestions for alternatives.
The blue sticker by the marine stewardship council (MSC) certifies that the fish you are about to buy is caught using sustainable fishing practices that consider factors such as catch methods, over-fishing, water quality and by catch problems. Always look out for this when you try to buy your fish.
Here is a check list to consider when you buy three of the most popular wild salmon species. Sockeye, Chinook and Pink
The smallest salmon in the sea but probably also the tastiest. Their orange flesh make them very popular. Always try to buy MSC certified fish, or get the ones sourced from Alaska, which has one of the most heralded commercial fisheries in the world.
Known as the king salmon, the Chinook weighs up-to 30 pounds and is the largest salmon in the ocean. Some Chinook varieties are in the threatened list under endangered species, so look for the MSC certification or choose fish sourced from Alaska where they are not listed as endangered.
This widely available variety of salmon is mostly sold in cans. Again foind mainly in Alaska, these fish populations are very well managed. The pink salmon only has a two year life cycle, so their availability is unpredictable. As always , keep an eye for the MSC label or choose the variety harvested in Alaska.
Generally, farmed salmon are not looked at too kindly as they are considered to be polluting the oceans and depleting the wild species. However, with recent breakthroughs in aqua culture practices, these fish are fast becoming a very sustainable choice.
The most consumed salmon in the US are the farmed Atlantic salmon, which is a species that seem to be growing very fast. The generally live in small pens and have a diet of fish oil, fish meal, essential nutrients and carotenoids that gives them the pink flesh the wild salmon get by eating krill.
Following years of poor and unsustainable environmental practices, some fish farms are investing on new aquaculture systems which ensure that the specific requirements for feeding, clean sea beds, and minimal impact on the wild population are met with. Look for the Aquaculture Stewardship Council certified label that tells you that your farmed fish comes from the right fish farm.
Certain grocers also go for a third party rating system such as whole foods with their “responsibly farmed” label. These will also help you choose the right salmon.
GENETICALLY ENGINEERED SALMON
Farmed salmon and genetically engineered salmon are virtually impossible to tell apart.
The Aqua Advantage salmon is the first genetically modified salmon, which is designed to grow twice as fast as a normal salmon. This helps the farmers grow them faster and supply more to the market at a given time. This was approved by the FDA in 2015.
Though people prefer to know that the food they consume are genetically modified, the decision on presenting this information is up-to the manufacturer. So unless specified, there is no way to know if your salmon is genetically modified or not, as the Aqua Advantage salmon will also be called “Atlantic” along with other farmed salmon.
Contrary to popular belief, fresh stands to say that the salmon you are buying has not been frozen before and does not mean that the fish just came off the boat. Ask your grocer when the salmon came in and when it was filleted to gauge how actually fresh it is. Salmon stays fresh for around a week after being caught. Also, keep in mind that salmon fishing is done from June to August so any “fresh” salmon seen in the other months are not really fresh at all.
Frozen salmon is the best you can get if you are looking for good quality and affordable salmon. Almost all wild salmon gets frozen immediately, locking the freshness and making transportation much much easier. The cost of these frozen salmon are also much lesser than the fresh salmon. The tem IQF on the package means that the item has been individually and quickly frozen upon capture.
Defrosting frozen salmon can be done by leaving it out over night, or if you are in a hurry, by letting it thaw in cold water for around 20 minutes. It also possible to cook frozen salmon without defrosting. Just cook for 20 minutes longer than is stated in the recipe.
Great for recipes such as salmon cakes, seafood stews and pastas, this is a great and affordable alternative to fresh and frozen salmon. Most canned varieties are wild caught, but not always. Check the labels and if it contains Alaskan pink salmon, sockeye, or red salmon you have chosen the right variety that is from well managed fisheries.
The term Atlantic salmon means its farmed, as the actual Atlantic wild salmon was fished nearly to its extinction. Always check for the Aquaculture Stewardship Council Certified label – if not found, pick another brand.
Choosing the best salmon!
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