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Buying salmon in Montreal


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Some of you probably saw this article in yesterday's New York Times:

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/04/10/dining/10salmon.html

Bottom line: NYC consumers are often being sold farmed salmon labelled as wild, and paying dearly for it.

eGullet discussion here:

http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?showtopic=65330

But rather than joining in over there, necessarily, I'd like to ask which Montreal fishmongers, if any, can be trusted on this particular labelling issue. Is it safe to assume that these merchants can also be counted on to have the best of the farmed fish if they have any at all? What about the "saumon bio" I see sometimes? Is that farmed fish raised on foods like krill?

More than once I've seen a customer asking the nice man how she can be sure that the fish that costs 50-75% more really is wild, and the answer always comes down to "trust me" and "you'll taste the difference" (long after you've paid your money). And since the only salmon I ever see here is Atlantic salmon (which also happens to be the only species that's farmed), I'm not sure what else the consumer can do.

Is there a better way?

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Some of you probably saw this article in yesterday's New York Times:

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/04/10/dining/10salmon.html

Bottom line: NYC consumers are often being sold farmed salmon labelled as wild, and paying dearly for it.

eGullet discussion here:

http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?showtopic=65330

since the only salmon I ever see here is Atlantic salmon (which also happens to be the only species that's farmed), I'm not sure what else the consumer can do.

There is a wide variety of farmed fish, including rainbow trout, greyling, and steelhead. I have noticed that a lot of smoked salmon from Norway is now labelled steelhead, and I doubt if it is wild.

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Ah, OK. I'd got that impression from the eGullet discussion, where some posters have mentioned that Atlantic salmon is what's farmed on the West coast. I obviously misread that as also applying to other areas.

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Ah, OK. I'd got that impression from the eGullet discussion, where some posters have mentioned that Atlantic salmon is what's farmed on the West coast. I obviously misread that as also applying to other areas.

I think you're right in saying that the only farmed salmon is Atlantic salmon. JayT's right, too: salmon isn't the only farmed fish. One farmed species not on his list is striped bass, not to mention shrimp, mussels and oysters.

You can buy Pacific salmon in Montreal, by the way. Nouveau Falero (west side of Park Ave. a few doors south of Bernard) regularly has it, as do the fish mongers at the Atwater and Jean-Talon markets, just to name the places where I've seen it recently. Note that it's usually referred to by the species name (coho, chinook, king, etc.) or place of origin (e.g. Copper River).

As for whether the wild Atlantic salmon sold in the city is the genuine article, I guess you have to take your fishmonger's word for it or judge by taste and texture, at least until one of the local fishwrappers decides to do an investigative article à la the New York Times. For my part, maybe I'm gullable but I trust the guys at Nouveau Falero.

edit: Other farmed fish not mentioned so far: catfish, tilapia and large-mouth bass. Arctic char is being looked at, too. And the Norweigans are reportedly trying to farm cod.

Edited by carswell (log)
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I personally have no problem with farmed salmon.  I don't see the problem with it.

Take a few minutes and study these threads--you may well find the facts illuminating, especially at the tail of the latter thread:

Our Endangered Coastal Fishery -- Is it already too late?

Wild Salmon, you say? Lies! Lies! Lies!

from the thinly veneered desk of:

Jamie Maw

Food Editor

Vancouver magazine

www.vancouvermagazine.com

Foodblog: In the Belly of the Feast - Eating BC

"Profumo profondo della mia carne"

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I personally have no problem with farmed salmon.  I don't see the problem with it.

depends on how you like your PCB's!!

I am not surprised at all on the NY times article.It is difficult to distinguish on what is farmed/non-farmed as the supplier has lost alot of $$,due to recent articles.I do however think the journalist did a great job at uncovering the facts-actually went to great lengths to prove something we all suspected.I am satisfied with my 2 suppliers of salmon,(one was named in this article)and I will continue to buy King salmon/Copper River salmon-as the product is great.Our customers love it.

Where it comes from,I guess I will try and trust the supplier as the fish don't speak!

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If a fishmonger is not sure of a fish's origin, there are times when I may buy it anyway, rather than find another store. It pays to know the season for most species. The north west group says Pacific Halibut is on now. I would expect wild west coast salmon a little later, and most sockeye in the fall.

In the east, shad is still available from the northern tributaries,

and even in Ontario, the smelts are running, with pickerel not far behind.

(I am finding pickerel fillets almost all year, so it might also be farmed now.)

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I appreciate the tips on locations and things to consider such as seasons. (I've wandered in to Nouveau Falero before, but either I didn't notice or they didn't have Pacific salmon that day. Can't remember when that was; it may well have been out of season.)

Based on the other two threads, and my own tasting experience, I'd say the only thing I have against farmed salmon per se is blandness, but from now on I hope to get more information about the kinds of conditions it was raised in. If the tales of salmon farming on the BC coast are accurate (and I have no reason to believe they are not), then I wouldn't want to eat farmed salmon from there; on the other hand, practices in the Bay of Fundy sound as though they're reasonable. Of course, being in Montreal I'd expect most of our farmed fish to come from relatively nearby.

Just as not every chicken, lamb, pig or steer is raised equally, I wouldn't expect every farmed fish to be necessarily raised in overcrowded, polluted conditions or to be by definition inferior to its wild counterpart.

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What is the cost (at a typical retail market) of wild versus farmed product right now in Montreal?

Just one sample: at Poissonnerie Antoine on ave. du Parc fillets labelled simply "salmon" are $8.99/lb, and salmon labelled "biologique" (organic) is $13.99/lb (maybe 12.99 -- I'm going from memory). Definitely pounds, not kilos.

I wasn't buying anything today so I decided not to wait my turn and ask questions, but I'd guess that the organic is Atlantic and farmed. It's certainly much nicer-looking than the regular: an attractive side of fish versus some motley roughly half-pound fillets. Of course, it's possible they fuss more with the presentation to encourage people to forget the price difference.

Antoine is not a top-notch place, and it's small. Not sure how that affects the price, but today's prices strike me as being similar to what you'd see in a supermarket. Next time I'm shopping there I'll be sure to ask about the provenance of the organic.

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Don't know about Antoine's "bio" farmed salmon, but Nouveau Falero's often (always?) comes from Ireland. Don't recall the price, though I do recall it's up there. While the quality is good, it strikes me as blander in flavour and softer in texture than wild Atlantic salmon. Ultimately, I can't say I find it better than the somewhat less expensive Nova Scotia farmed salmon — probably not organic — sold at Boucherie Atlantique on Queen Mary and Côte-des-Neiges. Of course, I haven't compared their PCB levels.

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I have a serious problem with buying salmon from any other country than Canada.

I have used the Irish Biological salmon-whatever.

Two questions: What the hell does Biological mean? Secondly, the Irish salmon is certified biological by who?

Scams, scams, scams. We need to have a little faith in our own food supply.

Bio/ Organic producers are in it for the money, not for the good of the public.

It also bothers me that you have to be rich to enjoy these products, because the normal family has to buy non-organic/bio products.

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Two questions: What the hell does Biological mean? Secondly, the Irish salmon is certified biological by who?

I can't link directly to the organic salmon page, so go to the Irish Seafood Producers Group website, click on Product Range and then on Organic Salmon.

* The salmon are farmed in accordance with organic farming standards established by Naturland Verband (Germany), the Irish Organic Farmers and Growers Association (IOFGA) which is recognised by the Soil Association in the UK and Eco Cert International (France).

* The farm and all its related sites are audited on an annual basis by the organic certifiers.

* Stocking densities are set at a maximum of ten kilos per cubic meter of water. This effectively means that every two fish share one cubic meter of water.

* The fish are fed an organic diet, which contains all organic or natural ingredients and is free from genetically modified organisms. The fish are fed by hand by local fishermen, who observe the fish and their environment on a daily basis.

* The fishmeal in the diet is derived from the by-products (offal/fillet trimmings) of pelagic fish caught for human consumption.

* The pigment used in the feed is a yeast based pigment called “phaffia”, it is a natural source of astaxanthin.

* The farming procedures adopted by the farm are altogether more environmentally friendly, examples of this include power washing of cage nets by seawater jet spray & the use of herbal remedies to combat the occurrence of sea lice.

* The high tidal exchange rates (minimum exchange rates are defined in the organic standards) and subsequent tidal swelling which characterise the area in which the farm is situated ensures that new water continually flushes through the cages and prevents the accumulation of parasites and pollutants.

I'm not as cynical as you about organic farmers' motivations. While I have yet to meet an Irish fish farmer, the Canadian and U.S. organic produce farmers I've spoken with and read about seem on the whole to be a well-intentioned bunch genuinely concerned with the quality of the food they grow and eat and convinced that the long-term viability of their operations is directly related to environmental sustainability. Few of them do more than make a decent living. The exorbitant prices we're charged are mainly due to middle men.

Edited by carswell (log)
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wow I didnt know all this. I was going to make this salmon casserole dish on the week-end and was wondering if canned salmon was farmed or bio and if so should I use bio...for better results and /or health benefits... thanks in advance.

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wow I didnt know all this. I was going to make this salmon casserole dish on the week-end and was wondering if canned salmon was farmed or bio and if so should I use bio...for better results and /or health benefits... thanks in advance.

Only Pacific salmon is canned. Only Atlantic salmon is farmed. Ergo, canned salmon is not farmed. Being wild, Pacific salmon is also "bio" in the fullest sense of the word.

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  • 2 weeks later...

There is alot of misinformation in this thread. I am not expert on fish farming but can state without hestitation that:

1. Atlantic Salmon is a specie, not a geographical location. The largest concentration of Farmed Atlantic Salmon is on the B.C. coast.

2. Salmon are carnivores and are fed large quantities of small fish like anchovies that are caught off the coast of Chile, causing huge environmental damage and economic devastation to local fishers.

3. Bio or Organic refers to farmed, not wild fish. The grower is certifying that the feed used is organic and that less chemicals are used.

4. Most farmed salmon live in large cages, in extremely crowded and unheathy conditions. They are fed large quantities of antibotics to prevent diseases. The beautiful flesh colour comes from dyes placed in their food 1 week before harvesting.

5. When you cook farmed salmon, notice the margarine quality of the fat that separates from the flesh.

6. When I was a kid, salmon was a premium food@ about $ 4.00 a pound. Other fish where under a dollar. Now good quality ocean fish are $10.00 a pound on the bone and salmon fillets are $ 5.00 a pound.

7. Restaurants that serve this very low quality product should be taken to task.

8. I used to eat salmon regularly but after a vacation in N.B.where we saw fish farms I have reduced my consumption to the odd morsel of smoked B.C. salmon. I did try Nouveau Falero's "Wild Chinook" but strongly believe that it is just a premium farmed fish. Wild salmon is seasonal and rarely has visable fat in the flesh.

9. Almost all ocean fish are endangered and I am as guilty as anyone else in the food chain. But I rarely order salmon in a restaurant.

10. Almost every fish is being farmed, so every time you see uniform sized fillets you can be almost certain that they have been farmed.

I am more foodie than environmentalist, but large scale fish farming is getting a reputation worldwide as being ecologically and socially damaging. We are what we eat and must make responsible choices in what we consume.

Recommended reading----The Empty Ocean by Richard Ellis.

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Thank you onion breath for keeping this thread real... Lot's of weird statement on this thread... Not sure about point 8 though. It's my belief that Nouveau's wild salmon is Alaska caught, which is open all year around. I have seen very lean fish under that moniker in the store. However, I will agree to have purchased a faily big variation of the wild vesion in the past. Maybe a question of streams...

On the front this year, the fraser run will be completely closed down has an expected stock of 1,2 million fish have suddenly disappeared.

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The new information and clarification are well and good, but the original questions remain essentially unanswered: how can you tell whether you're buying what you think you're buying? How do you know the "organic" isn't really just a top-quality specimen of ordinary-grade farmed salmon? How do you know "wild" salmon isn't farmed salmon? (I don't mean to cast aspersions on any of our local merchants; but remember this started with an investigation in a nearby major city that found a lot of farmed salmon being sold as "wild.")

The less-than-satisfying answer seems to come in two parts:

First, the consumer needs to be able to judge the fat content and character (no mean feat to eyeball that one -- remember I'm interested in figuring this out before purchasing);

Second, you need to be able to make a visual ID of the various salmon species. The problem here is that when you're looking at some pieces of fish, sockeye is the only salmon that really differentiates itself by its red flesh and smallish size, if there's a whole fish or side of fish on hand. (Leaving aside chum and pink, which are not likely to appear in eastern-Canadian stores except in cans.) Coho, chinook/spring/king, and Atlantic can be easily mistaken for each other if all you're looking at is flesh, and can even vary significantly from specimen to specimen. The good news is that if you can positively ID any of the Pacific species, you know it's wild. If you consider that to be good news.

As for environmental questions: given the state of the oceans and the size of the human population, it seems to me we will have to figure out how to farm fish sustainably, with healthy (in both senses) and flavourful food as the result. With some exceptionally good management a few wild stocks of the more desirable species may survive, but it seems to me that most of us are looking at eating farmed salmon or none. As onionbreath claimed a share of responsibility for the state of things, so do I. Which is essentially why I asked my questions: I'd rather be in a position to help in some small way to promote good management of wild stocks and good farming practices, instead of just buying the cheapest and forgetting about it.

One last thing: I can't remember seeing any salmon sold in Montreal for as little as $5/pound within the last few years. $7-9 is more in line with reality, AFAIK. And yes, of course, that's necessarily farmed salmon.

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Mr. Fagioli:

I have exactly the same questions, so I try to limit consumption of what I know to be farm-raised and organic (premium farm raised). I can live without salmon and use mackeral or king fish or sardines when I want an oily fish. We used to eat salmon alot, but I don't think our quality of life has gone down without it.

The fish store on Victoria @ Linton ( Frank's) sells a large quantity of New Brunswick salmon @ $3.99-$4.99 a pound for whole fish. Most of the Chinese owned fish stores sell it @ $4.99 also.

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Onionbreath, thanks for setting me straight on the pricing.

I've also cut way back on salmon, but I like it too much to give it up entirely; now that I'm somewhat better informed (but with a ways to go) I'll be sticking to the premium stuff, too, and having it rarely.

Unfortunately, everything I've seen regarding the state of the oceans and modern fishing practices says we'll be seeing drastically less wild fish of any kind in the near future. The despoliation really is that advanced. I hope we won't be having this same conversation about mackerel or sardines a few years from now, but I'm not optimistic. All the more reason, I think, to push for both sustainable farming and major improvements in commercial fishing practices.

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http://www.mbayaq.org/cr/cr_seafoodwatch/sfw_hd.asp

http://www.salmonfarmers.org/media/recent.html

I think there are a lot of good topics that are in this chat- The ecologically issues surronding aquaculture, the socioeconomics of aquaculture, the health of aquaculture, and finally the differentiation of farmed vs wild fish.

The first topic can be elucidated using the first link- It is the monterey bay aquarium and discusses what fish are able to self sustain and the fish that are being extremely overfished. Also discusses the dredging which is a HUGE issue in my world.

The socioeconomics can be seen with the disaster in Thailand and that area- Most shrimp farms are in that region and they have gone in a began purchasing the coastline land that was destroyed to put in more farms- The cost- Vital tourism which is so critical to so much of the economy- The nail is driven home in the recent movie Darwins Nightmare.

Health- technically speaking the farm raised salmon is higher in pcb's but still 100's of times below the federal health risk criteria- Wild salmon is 10000's less. Wild is also much higher in omega 3's and other vital antioxidants.

The differentiation! Wow- What a huge ethical issue- From chefs passing farmed off as wild- Or purveyors doing the same- Shady and it all comes down to the bottom line- Here is what I look for when I get wild Salmon in my restaurant. 1st- Color, size, and finally I will eat a piece of it raw in front of the delivery driver- I just shave a piece off- Wild salmon as a very unique taste- It is gamier- Now- Differentiating Farmed organic from Farmed regular- You cannot by sight and you would be hard pressed by taste- You just have to trust someone-

My thought- If you are going to shell out for Organic try to go the next step and get WILD. Copper River, Snake River, Etc etc- These are all high end Wild salmon that will come availble at the end of the summer-

Folks this is a great topic and eco awareness surrounding fish farming is so critical to our future- Get involved- Ask questions- Ask where your fish came from, how was it caught, things like that- for numbers people check out this site-

http://www.st.nmfs.gov/st1/market_news/index.html

pretty insane

Jason

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Here's an excerpt from todays CUESA newsletter - CUESA being "The Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture" - the organization that runs the Ferry Plaza Farmers market in San Francisco. It discusses California conditions for wild Salmon but some of this article is applicable for Canadian West Coast wild Salmon and Salmon Farming. It certainly gives insight into how far out on the razors edge we have come.

So - FYI:

This Week’s Feature: Salmon Season Stinted

This spring, demand for wild salmon is higher than ever, and in the waters off the coast of Northern California swim record numbers of the fish. But a painful irony means that the sale of local wild salmon could be a rarity this season. The Pacific Fishery Management Council, a federal agency that regulates all fisheries from three to 200 miles off the coasts of Oregon, Washington, and California, has officially adopted severely restricted 2005 management measures for salmon. Though the PFMC manages only federal waters, the California Department of Fish and Game, which plays a major role in helping to determine federal restrictions off the coast, adopted identical measures (along with a few additional restrictions) for state waters from zero to three miles offshore.

The reason for this year’s limitations is critically low numbers of Chinook (aka 'King') salmon in the Klamath River Basin. Although offshore numbers of Chinook are higher than ever, the number that hatched in and will return to reproduce and finish their lives in the Klamath River System is perilously low. A minimum of 35,000 Chinook need to return to their natural spawning grounds in the Klamath to keep the population from eventual extinction. Because anglers have no way of deciphering whether they are catching Sacramento or Klamath (the two river systems from which the salmon originate) Chinook, the entire catch must be restricted to ensure that the "spawner floor" is reached.

The reason for such slim Klamath Chinook runs is a major fish kill that happened in 2002, caused by a disease epidemic. Crowded conditions and high water temperatures resulting from low water flows led to the death of many juvenile Chinook. There is evidence that a decision made by the Federal Bureau of Reclamation to increase water flows to farmers, thereby restricting flows for fish, is to blame for the crisis.

Between both geographical and durational limitations, this year’s opportunities for catch will be about half of last year’s. In 2004, waters between Point Arena and Pigeon Point opened May 1st - this year’s catch is restricted to below Pigeon Point for the month of May, and below Point Sur for the month of June. Says fisherman Larry Miyamura of Shogun Salmon, “Looks like it's going to be real hit and miss as far as having salmon at the market in May. We haven't caught many fish below Pigeon Point since 2000. It's been longer than that for the area below Point Sur so June looks even more bleak.” In July, waters from Point Arena to the US Mexico border will be open.

For the many organizations that have worked tirelessly to dissuade shoppers from buying farmed salmon, the challenge now is to convince consumers that despite the shortage of wild salmon, farmed is not an alternative. Farmed salmon are raised in oceans waters within crowded net cages where diseases are widespread. Antibiotics are added to the feed to prevent sickness, but this does not stop diseases and parasites from spreading to wild salmon that swim free in the same waters. Additionally, the waste products created in these feedlots are let loose right into the marine environment, disrupting the ecological balance where salmon and other species live. The feed fed to salmon is often contaminated, and research suggests that farmed salmon contains high levels of PCBs and dioxins. Moreover, much farmed salmon is dyed pink using chemicals, so if we eat farmed salmon, we eat the antibiotics, PCBs, dioxins, and dye along with the meat.

What you can do on behalf of wild salmon, and to ensure a less restricted harvest in the future:

• Buy line-caught salmon from small-scale fisher men and women (supply this year is limited, but there will be some!)

• Eat only wild salmon until salmon farming becomes sustainable

• Help preserve salmon habitat by supporting small scale organic farmers

• Protect creeks where salmon habitat is being restored

• Urge your elected officials to enact laws protecting salmon populations and their habitats

• Support water policies that protect salmon’s ability to swim between ocean and creek

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