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Organic Labeling of Farm Raised Salmon – you’ve got to be joking, right!?

Something smells fishy with the farmed salmon being labeled as “organic” in supermarkets. When we see the organic label, we are conditioned to think of a superior product to conventionally raised varieties, from a health, environmental and animal welfare perspective. Not so any longer!

So, what’s the difference between organic farmed salmon and the much-demonised variety that’s kept in cages, stuffed with colours and pesticides, doomed to swim in its own faeces and prematurely slaughtered? Surprisingly little.

In reality, there is not much difference between conventional farm-raised salmon and its organic counterpart. For instance:

• Both are raised in cages. Whereas conventional salmon cages contain up to 70,000 fish, organic cages contain up to 30,000.

• Organic fish farmers use coloring on juvenile fish (in the form of phaffia, a processed yeast that contains high levels of astaxanthin — the same coloring used by conventional farmers), and Lead, not more than 5 parts per million, Arsenic, not more than 2 parts per million., Mercury, not more than 1 part per million, Heavy metals (as Pb), not more than 10 parts per million, and Astaxanthin, not less than 0.4 percent.

• Organic farmers feed both natural and synthetic vitamins and minerals, along with “binders” such as wheat flour.
• Organic farmers use as many of the same chemicals as conventional farmers as they want. These include pesticide-based anti-sea lice treatments [learn more about sea lice and farm salmon], which have been shown to adversely impact sea creatures and the marine ecosystem, veterinary medicines, and chlorine-based Chloramine-T and formalin, which are used to prevent fungal growth.

• Organic salmon are slaughtered at 2.5 years old, whereas conventional salmon are slaughtered at 2 years old. Wild salmon, however, can live for up to 16 years.

People who are looking for healthy salmon are therefore only getting at best a slightly better product by choosing organic farmed salmon over regular farmed salmon. The best sources remain wild salmon from Alaska that is certified by the Maine Stewardship Council, along with the more expensive Scottish and Irish wild salmon when available.

Joanna Blythman writes, in her artcile for the Guardian Unlimited“The farmed Scottish organic one is a nightmare to fry – it wants to fall apart like a badly built wall – while the tight-grained, orange-fleshed wild Alaskan fillet is holding its shape nicely. By now I’m not surprised to find that, in the mouth, these two salmons are chalk and cheese. The organic fish, hailed by the Soil Association as ‘the Lamborghini of fish’, tastes watery and bland with an ever-so-slightly tinny, bitter aftertaste. The wild fish is sweet and juicy.”

I couldn’t agree with you more Joanna! The salmon sold in US markets is just as bad. The salmon I buy has a wonderful salmon flavor (NOT fishy in taste or odor), is firm, stays together very well when cooked, is meaty and has a nice yet not tough chewiness, and the color looks like what different species of salmon SHOULD look like!

Find out where I get all of my seafood