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Our Farmed Salmon Goes Beyond Industry Norms

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.

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.

Innovative Salmon Farmers

These 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

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

We 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?