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Our Farmed Salmon Goes Beyond Industry Norms

By Carrie Brownstein, May 10, 2014  |  Meet the Blogger  |  More Posts by Carrie Brownstein

Are you concerned that fish farming can be harmful to our environment? We are. That’s why we developed strict standards for aquaculture that go above and beyond industry norms, raising the bar and creating a model for more sustainable fish farming practices. The small handful of salmon farmers we partner with are the leaders in environmentally responsible aquaculture.

Report on the Industry

Monterey Bay Aquarium® recently issued reports assessing industry norms for salmon farming in Norway, Scotland, Chile and British Columbia. They found that the “norms” aren’t so good. Typical farmed salmon production practices in these four countries earned a red rating under the Aquarium’s criteria.

Kvarøy Fiskeoppdrett, Salmon Farm, Norway

Our Approach

While we source from a small number of farms in Norway and Scotland (as well as Iceland) the farmed salmon at Whole Foods Market comes from farms with production practices that that go way beyond industry norms.

Rather than look at a country’s aquaculture performance as a whole, we examine each fish farm individually to ensure they comply with our industry-leading requirements for environmentally responsible aquaculture.

We use third-party auditors to confirm the farms raising salmon for our stores meet our standards, which are:

  • No use of antibiotics, added growth hormones or poultry and mammalian by-products in feed
  • Traceability that allows us to track our farmed seafood right back to where it swam
  • Requirements that producers minimize the impacts of fish farming on the environment by monitoring water quality and surrounding habitats, and sourcing feed ingredients responsibly
  • Strict protocols to prevent farmed fish from escaping into the wild and to protect wildlife around the farm
  • No treatment of nets with toxic chemicals to get rid of algae
  • No pesticides
  • Genetically engineered fish are prohibited
  • Colorants only come from non-synthetic sources

If you are interested in knowing more, you can review our complete, very detailed standards in pdf form.

Kvarøy Fiskeoppdrett, Salmon Farm, Norway

Innovative Salmon Farmers

Lumpsucker fishThese standards lead our seafood buyers to aquaculture partners who’ve found innovative ways to raise the highest quality fish. In Norway, for example, we source from family-owned salmon farm Kvarøy Fiskeoppdrett. Kvaroy farmers use small lumpsucker fish instead of chemical pesticides to keep their salmon free of the pesky parasite called sea lice. Check out Clare Leschin-Hoar’s article: These Tiny Fish May Cure Salmon Farming’s Environmental Problem. This non-chemical approach is just one example of how Whole Foods Market’s farmed seafood suppliers go way beyond the norm.

Here’s another: unlike most salmon farms worldwide, our partners in Norway don’t use any toxic anti-fouling paints to keep algae off their nets. Instead, they manually power wash them and use a natural wax treatment on the nets to keep them clean. Clean nets mean good flow of water through the pens and dissolved oxygen levels that the fish need to stay healthy. That’s the kind of industry innovation we want to support.

You can learn more in our post: The Truth about Farmed Salmon at Whole Foods Market.

Feed for Farmed Salmon

Salmon feed

In response to that recent blog post, we received some questions about what the salmon are fed, so here’s an overview.

Feed for farmed fish includes protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins and other essential nutrients. The specific ingredients in feed vary according to the species that’s being fed because nutritional requirements are different among species. In addition, feed ingredients vary according to the location of the farm, as the availability of ingredients is not always the same globally.

Our Quality Standards for feed for farm-raised fish prohibit antibiotics, synthetic pigments, poultry/mammalian products, and parasiticides in feed.

Feed for farmed salmon specifically includes fishmeal and fish oil from species such as herring, anchovy and mackerel. We encourage producers to utilize by-products of fish processing to reduce direct pressure on wild fish populations.

Other feed ingredients may include wheat, soybean meal, sunflower meal, maize gluten, vitamins and minerals. We’ve received a few questions about grain in feed.

It’s important to understand that fish metabolize the feed that they’re fed before we actually eat the fish.

Another common question is about pigment in feed. In the wild, fish like salmon get their reddish color naturally from the wild species they eat, such as shrimp. When they’re farmed, their feed contains fish species that do not necessarily contain the same pigments, so a non-synthetic pigment is added to give salmon the color that customers are used to seeing and are expecting.

If you’re still concerned about feed, we recommend farmed molluscs like clams, oysters and mussels, which do not receive any added feed, or you can choose from our wild-caught seafood selection.

A Great Partnership

Kvarøy Fiskeoppdrett, Salmon Farm, NorwayWe value our partnership with Monterey Bay Aquarium on wild-caught seafood, which is based on evaluating and rating specific species, catch methods and fishing areas.

For farmed fish, Whole Foods Market will continue to look at each farm individually and make sourcing decisions based on their specific production methods.

Together, we’re changing seafood production for the better.

Do you have any questions about how our farmed salmon differs from the industry?

Category: Seafood




Lisa BRIEGEL says ...
This is very interesting to read and am glad Whole Foods does such a good job finding the best aquaculture. I invite you to check out Sustainable Harvesters in Houston, TX that use tilipia as a way to grow produce without any chemicals by using the fish waste as the nutrients (aquaponics) and then they also sell their fish. I believe the Houston Whole Foods would be a great partnership.
05/12/2014 2:13:40 PM CDT
Christopher Albright says ...
Do the farm raised fish contain similar heart healthy oils as wild salmon? Are they raised in waters cold & deep enough to stimulate the natural production of these substances?
05/14/2014 2:53:32 PM CDT
Thereasa Gargano says ...
Amazing! Great Article Thank you for all you do.
05/14/2014 3:55:24 PM CDT
Sandra says ...
I would like to know about the mercury content of your farmed salmon.
05/14/2014 4:21:11 PM CDT
Linda Wheatcraft says ...
I applaud you efforts to get in quality wild Salmon and other fish. How long can I freeze fresh Salmon and other fish as I live in Goodyear AZ and I don't drive and it's hard to get there.
05/14/2014 4:46:36 PM CDT
Michael P oSHATZ says ...
Excellent article. You should be proud of the way you operate. Have you focused on the serious problem of the mercury content of fish?
05/14/2014 4:56:27 PM CDT
Rosemary Vaughn says ...
Are any GMO products or by products included in the fish food. Does Whole Foods allow any GMO in products you sell? If so you are bowing to big agribusiness and this is not okay with consumers.
05/14/2014 5:14:12 PM CDT
Steve Wilson says ...
Are any GMOs used in feed? The wheat, corn, etc?
05/14/2014 6:10:00 PM CDT
Jess Grasso says ...
We had Norway farmed salmon this evening and it's taste and texture was wonderful. You have a mad us a new convert. Whole foods has our seafood business.
05/14/2014 8:27:00 PM CDT
Evelyn k says ...
You almost had me reconsidering farmed salmon until I reached the section on "other ingredients". They just had to add soy and grain and other stuff not naturally found in the ocean. Will they never learn from past mistakes? Why don't they leave the colorants out altogether so we can see what farmed salmon looks like. Still won't eat or support farmed salmon.
05/15/2014 7:25:29 AM CDT
Nancy Krol says ...
What exactly is a non-synthetic pigment?
05/15/2014 8:01:34 AM CDT
Joan Overcash says ...
The only farmed salmon I buy from you is the salmon spread and i wish that were made from wild salmon to the extent that I sometimes but the wild version from Maine - even though it has more mayonnaise. Otherwise I buy no farmed fish at all - ever - from anyone.
05/15/2014 1:56:16 PM CDT
Nikki - Community Moderator says ...
@STEVE - If you're looking to avoid GMOs, I would suggest looking for wild fish options. We have announced GMO labeling for our stores with a deadline for 2018. Our non-GMO labeling transparency initiative includes all the products we sell, going far beyond what any of the state initiatives and legislation have proposed so far. Products based on or containing ingredients created from government approved GMO crops will need to be labeled by manufacturers. This includes our aquaculture producers who will also need to verify by 2018 whether or not their feed contains GMO corn, soy or alfalfa.
05/15/2014 4:00:26 PM CDT
Nikki - Community Moderator says ...
@NANCY - Our Quality Standards for farmed seafood require that if pigment is used, it comes from a non-synthetic source. There are two sources of carotenoid pigment used by our producers today: Phaffia, which is sourced from a type of yeast and Panaferd, which is from a type of bacteria (specifically the bacterium Paracoccus carotinifaciens).
05/15/2014 4:10:13 PM CDT
Seraiah says ...
Is there a way that a farm can have something that will make the fish jump as they would in the wild so that they can use their muscles?
05/15/2014 4:45:43 PM CDT
Adriana Tavenner says ...
Is it too much to ask what non synthetic pigment is that you feed salmon? is it a seaweed? Thank you so much for going to this extent to help me care about my family's health.
05/15/2014 7:44:23 PM CDT
Pat Spradling says ...
The more I read about farm rised salmon, the more I plan to only buy wild salmon. Why take a chance and why not have the safest and the best tasting?
05/15/2014 9:20:54 PM CDT
dee sunstrom says ...
Thanks for this article . I saw the framed fish in your Dallas store and wondered why seemed odd tho I was fairly confident it was good quaility I still wouldn't buy it . However, I will buy a small piece now. I' m not looking for perfect but I expect the best that is possible thank you for making the effort. .
05/16/2014 11:26:25 AM CDT
Nikki - Community Moderator says ...
@ADRIANA - There are two sources of carotenoid pigment approved to use by our producers: Phaffia, which is sourced from a type of yeast and Panaferd, which is from a type of bacteria (specifically the bacterium Paracoccus carotinifaciens).
05/16/2014 12:55:30 PM CDT
Nikki - Community Moderator says ...
@SANDRA & @MICHAEL - Fortunately, most farmed fish are low in mercury. They live for a relatively short time so they do not accumulate as much mercury as some species of wild fish. And if they are fed fish, it is usually types low in mercury. Learn more about methylmercury in seafood at http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/about-our-products/food-safety/methylmercury-seafood.
05/16/2014 1:45:26 PM CDT
RoseMary Evans says ...
As I don't have a Whole Foods close to me (70) miles away, would it be possible to purchase some of your foods like the salmon patties on line and have them mailed? Thank you
05/18/2014 8:22:56 PM CDT
Nikki - Community Moderator says ...
@ROSEMARY - We do not currently offer shipping for perishable items. We'll make sure to announce this if we do!
05/19/2014 10:48:39 AM CDT
Ruby says ...
Your comment "Other feed ingredients may include wheat, soybean meal, sunflower meal, maize gluten, vitamins and minerals. We’ve received a few questions about grain in feed," my question is, are the fish grain meals provide GMO free? Thanks.
05/19/2014 11:16:39 AM CDT
Nikki - Community Moderator says ...
@RUBY - If you're looking to avoid GMOs in the animal feed, I would suggest looking for wild fish options.
05/19/2014 2:08:50 PM CDT
a says ...
Linda, ask the fish seller about freezing each thing you buy. In Colorado (far from the ocean) everything is usually previously frozen and they don't suggest re-freezing it. Sometimes they can find a still-frozen piece for me to put in my freezer at home. Arizona might be the same.
05/21/2014 1:15:45 AM CDT