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trillium

Farmed Salmon

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An interesting article in Science came out today, showing that farmed salmon has more polychlorinated biphenyls and other carcinogens than their wild counterparts. They did a fairly wide sampling of various farmed products and fish from Scotland came out the worst. Here's a pointer to the abstract, I'm not sure if you can read the "news and views" bit without a subscription.

regards,

trillium


Edited by Smithy Capitalisation (log)

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http://www.chicagotribune.com/features/hea...ll=chi-news-hed (registration req'd)

However, I guess the reports are little more 'dire' than necessary and the FDA seems to indicate that Salmon (even farm raised) does more good than harm - especially if cooked and with the skin off. Also, the salmon with the highest concentrations are European Farm Salmon, not US Farm Salmon. (hmmm...who doesn't think this might be a bit of propaganda thrown out by the US to counter-act the flak by the EU about our agricultural subsidies).

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http://www.chicagotribune.com/features/hea...ll=chi-news-hed (registration req'd)

However, I guess the reports are little more 'dire' than necessary and the FDA seems to indicate that Salmon (even farm raised) does more good than harm - especially if cooked and with the skin off. Also, the salmon with the highest concentrations are European Farm Salmon, not US Farm Salmon. (hmmm...who doesn't think this might be a bit of propaganda thrown out by the US to counter-act the flak by the EU about our agricultural subsidies).

I'm talking about the actual research article published in Science, not what some reporter wrote up about the study. I highly doubt that this is "propaganda" thrown out by the US, it's a serious study done by a colloborative group of scientists from more than one university. While the authors state that many toxins levels were the highest in salmon fillets obtained from Frankfurt, Edinburgh, Paris, London, and Oslo, they also state that those purchased in Boston and San Francisco approached similiar concentrations. The peer-review process a paper undergoes to be published in Science is extensive and not limited to review by reviewers from the US alone. If you look at the funding source for the study, it's from the Environmental Division of the Pew Charitable Trusts.

The FDA doesn't have guidelines for amounts of all of the toxins that were analyzed in fish flesh nor what concurrent exposure to more than one might entail, healthwise. If you follow the EPA cumulative risk assessment methods for PCBs, toxaphene, and dieldrin then it isn't entirely clear that salmon does more good than harm for every person. My interpertation of their data was that the health benifits from eating farmed salmon need to be looked at more closely, and perhaps the fish feed used be given more serious thought.

regards,

trillium

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The relevant numbers from Science's news story:

The researchers used EPA guidelines to calculate the maximum amount of salmon that can be eaten before boosting cancer risk by at least 1 case in 100,000. For the most contaminated fish--from farms in Scotland and the Faroe Islands--the limit came to 55 grams of salmon (uncooked weight) every month, or a quarter of a serving. One half-serving a month of farmed salmon from Canada or Maine adds no significant risk, they say; and double that is acceptable for fish from Chile or the U.S. state of Washington. Some types of wild salmon from Alaska or British Columbia are safe to eat eight times a month.

Although no U.S. government agency has said how much fish one should eat, the American Heart Association recommends 168 to 336 grams per week. Consumption of the omega-3 fatty acids found in fatty fish reduces the risk of sudden cardiac death after a heart attack. For people with cardiovascular disease, that benefit outweighs any added cancer risk, Carpenter says.

I'm generally inclined to take these kinds of risk numbers with a grain of salt, but whatever you think about that, the difference between wild and farmed salmon is striking. Of course, there are many other reasons not to eat farmed salmon, like the taste.

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I'm talking about the actual research article published in Science, not what some reporter wrote up about the study.  I highly doubt that this is "propaganda" thrown out by the US, it's a serious study done by a colloborative group of scientists from more than one university. If you look at the funding source for the study, it's from the Environmental Division of the Pew Charitable Trusts. 

Hmmm...well...I apologize for my ignorance. I should have known these facts since my life-time subscription to SCIENCE magazine gained me access to BOTH of the links that you provided to the written study. In the future, I will disregard factual reporting by the Chicago Tribune and the NY Times (both highly suspect, trash-tabloid pulp).

And, yes, I do question studies, regardless of the funding, that show that farm salmon from Europe is worse than farm salmon in the US, when presented in an environment that has finger-pointing and agricultural tensions at an all time high. Of course, the Pew Charitable Trusts is a reputable source, but this is the first I've heard of their sponsoring of this study.

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I'm generally inclined to take these kinds of risk numbers with a grain of salt, but whatever you think about that, the difference between wild and farmed salmon is striking. Of course, there are many other reasons not to eat farmed salmon, like the taste.

Well yeah, that would be the main one for many people! But wild-caught salmon just isn't economically feasible for everyone and farmed fish isn't going away any time soon. If you can easily reduce the levels of PCBs et al., in farmed salmon by cleaning up the feed, it would be a good thing.

regards,

trillium

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I'm talking about the actual research article published in Science, not what some reporter wrote up about the study.  I highly doubt that this is "propaganda" thrown out by the US, it's a serious study done by a colloborative group of scientists from more than one university. If you look at the funding source for the study, it's from the Environmental Division of the Pew Charitable Trusts. 

Hmmm...well...I apologize for my ignorance. I should have known these facts since my life-time subscription to SCIENCE magazine gained me access to BOTH of the links that you provided to the written study. In the future, I will disregard factual reporting by the Chicago Tribune and the NY Times (both highly suspect, trash-tabloid pulp).

And, yes, I do question studies, regardless of the funding, that show that farm salmon from Europe is worse than farm salmon in the US, when presented in an environment that has finger-pointing and agricultural tensions at an all time high. Of course, the Pew Charitable Trusts is a reputable source, but this is the first I've heard of their sponsoring of this study.

I wasn't bashing you or the Trib or the NYT just making clear what I was referring to. Sometimes the second-hand science reporting that went on in the Trib made me nuts when I read it regularly. I like to look at the original stuff rather than something written to sell newspapers (although one could clearly argue that the articles are published to sell advert space in the journals!). The funding source for the article is given at the bottom of the reference list in the study. I found it very interesting that the Pew Charitable Trust was funding these sorts of studies as well. From reading the original article I didn't get the idea that the main point was that European salmon was worse than US salmon, but rather that it might be a good idea to pay attention to feed sources.

regards,

trillium

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I happened to see Costco Canada's internal reply to the Science article and the hoopla it raised.

The company claims its farmed Atlantic fillets are trimmed of all skin and fat , and measure 2 ppb (parts per billion of PCB's) while the gov't allows up to 2000 ppb PCB.

What is the methodology used in the Science article (I haven't seen it)?

The company also states that the colouring agent in farmed Atlantic is derived from shrimp and other shellfish, and they state that antibiotics are used only under veterinary care, followed by a specific detox period in the penned waters.

It's good to know that the standards are high, but we know very little about how they are followed by the commercial industry.

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I am reviving this ancient discussion to ask about the current state of farmed salmon. Originally, the biggest issue was the fish feed for the farmed salmon contained the same chemical used in making clothing fire-retardant. The gist was that you didn't want to eat the farmed salmon because of this chemical/additive (the additive also helped to give the farmed salmon the same distinctive pink flesh as their wild counterparts). 

But now I keep hearing people talking about how great farmed salmon is.

So was the feed changed? Is that chemical eliminated from the salmon diet? Is farmed salmon now safe to eat?

Let's discuss...


 

“Peter: Oh my god, Brian, there's a message in my Alphabits. It says, 'Oooooo.'

Brian: Peter, those are Cheerios.”

– From Fox TV’s “Family Guy”

 

Tim Oliver

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Somewhat ashamed to admit, since it seems to be so popular, that I really don't care for salmon. Good tuna, now, I'll eat all you will give me.


Don't ask. Eat it.

www.kayatthekeyboard.wordpress.com

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46 minutes ago, kayb said:

Somewhat ashamed to admit, since it seems to be so popular, that I really don't care for salmon. Good tuna, now, I'll eat all you will give me.

 

I enjoy most varieties of salmon but I actually prefer Steelhead...quite similar but, to me, it's tastier.  I think what we get here, whether salmon or steelhead is all farmed.  Of course, Copper River King,  that's another story...yum.

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Posted (edited)

steelhead is genetically a rainbow trout - which goes to sea . . . but is not a salmon.

its wild / sea diet gives it (a deeper red than) salmon coloration and it is a most tasty dish.

due to fishing pressure, last I heard only Canadian native peoples may harvest steelhead from the wild - the rest of  it is farmed.

 

as to run of the mill farmed salmon - it's pretty bad.

our fish monger usually has Scottish farm salmon - big ones - fresh, never frozen, and it is seriously superior to supermarket salmon.

 

edit:  the pix reminded me - arctic char is also a super option in that "taste family"

 

salmon.jpg


Edited by AlaMoi (log)
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3 hours ago, heidih said:

My understanding that methods changed, but not everywhere. It is suggested that we research how the fish was raised before purchasing. 

 

2 recent fairly informative articles:

 

https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/green/reports/2019/05/13/469730/american-aquaculture/

 

https://www.fishwatch.gov/profiles/atlantic-salmon-farmed

 

Thank you for posting the links.

But I keep coming back to the main issue which led to my post:

Is that fire-retardant chemical still being used in farmed salmon feed? Or do all current salmon farms use feed that no longer contains such chemicals?

I've been buying the wild-caught salmon at Costco which gets very expensive and the farm-raised salmon isn't quite as pricey. 

Thanks for your feedback.


 

“Peter: Oh my god, Brian, there's a message in my Alphabits. It says, 'Oooooo.'

Brian: Peter, those are Cheerios.”

– From Fox TV’s “Family Guy”

 

Tim Oliver

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15 hours ago, heidih said:

My understanding that methods changed, but not everywhere. It is suggested that we research how the fish was raised before purchasing. 

 

2 recent fairly informative articles:

 

https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/green/reports/2019/05/13/469730/american-aquaculture/

 

https://www.fishwatch.gov/profiles/atlantic-salmon-farmed

Many feel that the gold standard, going forward, will be dry-land recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS), which hold the salmon in enclosed tanks until they're market-ready. There are a few small-scale producers now, some of whom I've met in the course of my freelance writing. Unfortunately RAS operations are much more capital-intensive as a startup, which forces producers into a small and unstable premium-product niche. So far the two Canadian operations I know, one in BC and one in NS, are close to becoming self-sustaining, but are still soliciting additional financing so they can increase capacity enough to get over that hump.

The head of Virginia's Freshwater Institute, the keynote speaker at a conference I attended, pointed to that - a profitable, commercial-scale operation - as the tipping point that would begin to push RAS into the mainstream. That was five years ago, and we're still not quite there yet.

 

In the interim, it certainly helps if you're in a position (as I was, with my restaurant) to meet and evaluate the potential providers. In my neck of the woods, we have two very different open-pen salmon farming operations.

One is Cooke Aquaculture, a local success story I suppose you could say, as they're now one of the global giants in aquaculture. They're also the company cited in the record escape of Atlantic salmon into the Pacific, in that first link Heidi posted. Their record in the matter of following the laws and guidelines of the countries where they operate has not been great (here in NB there was a furor a few years ago when a banned pesticide was used at one of their farms, killing lobsters - and presumably other aquatic life - for a wide radius around the affected area).

I've toured one of their local fish farms. Open-pen installations don't look like much, from the surface, as most of you will know. They're ring-shaped pens with mesh over the top, which serves the dual purpose of making escapes harder and preventing predatory birds from treating the pens as an all-you-can-eat buffet (one of the first things the industry would have learned, I guess). Inside the pens, Cooke stocks salmon at a rate of 10,000 per pen. They're not large pens, as you will know.

 

The other is a smaller company called Northern Harvest. NH hews to a "best practices" philosophy from top to bottom, so it makes for an interesting compare-and-contrast with Cooke. The articles above point out the environmental hazards of scraping the oceans for small, non-commercial "bait fish" species to use in salmon feed. NH doesn't use those, instead using a land-based RAS to grow its feedstock fish. Other producers actually consume more protein than they generate in marketable salmon, but NH does not. They stock their pens at a density of 3,000 salmon per, less than a third of Cooke's numbers, and situate them in areas where the tides (the highest in the world, here in the Bay of Fundy) create an unusually good flushing action to carry away and disperse waste, instead of having it build up in one area.

 

The lower population densities, and excellent water movement, mean the fish are healthier and less stressed, attract fewer parasites, and experience less disease. This in turn means a sharply reduced need for chemical pesticides or antibiotics.

 

There are a number of certification bodies out there (and it's well worth learning their criteria and how they're applied). The industry's own certification is Best Aquaculture Practices, or BAP, and producers can earn up to 3 stars in a given category. Northern Harvest was the first to earn 3 BAP stars across the board for its feed mill, the farms proper, and the processing plants.

So yeah, that's the one I chose to buy from (and still do, for my own use).

Is it a perfect scenario? Well no...I don't think those exist in the real world (RAS systems have a larger carbon footprint, for one thing). Also, critics and cynics consider BAP suspect, as it *is* the industry-sponsored certification body (its oversight committee is 1/3 industry, 1/3 academia, 1/3 conservationists).

 

This is a topic I've been thinking about and occasionally writing about for several years now, because aquaculture will inevitably continue to grow and there's work to be done to get it right. I've had more than a few "devil's advocate" conversations on the subject over the years, which typically follow this broad path:

"I don't buy farmed fish, only wild-caught."
"So...you're in favor of depleting the last remaining healthy stocks of wild fish?"
"No, of course not! The fisheries have to be managed so they're sustainable!"
"Oh. So...you're in favor of only the affluent being able to afford fish?"

"I didn't say that!"
"Well you did, kind of. If you limit harvests while demand is growing, that means the prices will skyrocket. It's basic economics."

"But...That isn't necessarily how it would have to work."

"No, in practice unethical players would continue over-fishing and just circumvent any monitoring process international regulators put into place." *
"But...but..."

 

Lather, rinse, repeat. After a while the arguments get kind of circular. The bottom line, though, is that wild harvesting won't continue to meet the modern-day demand for fish, any more than hunting in upstate New York could keep NYC furnished with meat. Also, from the environmental perspective, producing fish on farms has a significantly lower carbon footprint than producing meat on farms, which means it's a "greener" protein option for the non-vegetarians (healthier, too).

 

So as I said above, getting it right is important. At the consumer end of the chain, that means knowing the certifications and asking for them when you shop. Some are now monitoring the entire supply chain, providing traceability right back to a specific boat (or farm, and pen) on a specific day. That's pretty impressive (predictably, some are built on blockchain technology and are pitching VCs on that basis because it's the tech "flavor of the month"...).

 

Most shoppers, to be blunt, will *always* buy the cheapest product that looks passable. Getting a big enough "critical mass" of activist consumers to push the pendulum in the direction of certified seafoods (whether wild-caught or farmed) is the quickest way to get the attention of producers and regulators alike. Ultimately, that's what will force better baseline regulatory standards.

 

* Here on the East Coast, we had that issue for a few years with the Spanish and to a lesser extent, the Portuguese. There's a portion of the Grand Banks that extends past our territorial waters, and the Ibernian fleets would simply loiter there (at a time when our stocks were reaching critical levels, and the government was frantically trying to prevent them reaching the point of no return) and hoover up everything that swam. "Accidentally" crossing into Canadian waters was a frequent occurrence, as well.

It got to the point that the Canadian and Spanish navies were eyeballing each other across the jurisdictional line, the Canadians to apprehend fishing vessels crossing the marine boundary and the Spanish to try and prevent them. The crisis was eventually solved diplomatically, with the Spanish grudgingly conceding that fishing cod into extinction on this side of the Atlantic may have been a bad idea after all.

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“What is called sound economics is very often what mirrors the needs of the respectably affluent.” - John Kenneth Galbraith

 

"Not knowing the scope of your own ignorance is part of the human condition...The first rule of the Dunning-Kruger club is you don’t know you’re a member of the Dunning-Kruger club.” - psychologist David Dunning

 

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