James Merryweather – 5 September 2018
The labelling of farmed so-called ‘Scottish’ salmon has recently been refined. Not very long ago, farmed salmon was proudly presented as ‘farmed’, but then it turned into ‘Scottish Salmon’, still with clear notice that it was farmed (often given quite prominently as ‘Farmed in Scotland or Norway’ – yes, Scottish Salmon farmed in Norway).
It’s still called ‘Scottish Salmon’, but these days the front label either says nothing about its being farmed or otherwise, in large type, they tell us that it’s been ‘Responsibly Sourced’. Examples: ALDI (right), M&S ‘Lochmuir’, Sainsbury’s and Tesco. Morrison’s actually say: ‘responsibly farmed’, which is at least honest, though ‘responsible’ is questionable.
If you turn over a pack of ‘responsibly sourced’ salmon and scrutinise the small print, that’s where you find the word ‘farmed’. It takes quite a bit of finding. If customers don’t check for that (most won’t), they will probably accept without question that if the label says it’s been responsibly sourced, then it must have been responsibly sourced, without further considering its origin further. Clever marketing of an increasingly unpopular product.
I expect that’s precisely what the advertising moghuls intended, on instructions from the boardroom not to tell customers any more than is legally necessary, rather give them some impressive clap-trap and leave it up to them to work it out for themselves – or, predictably, not give the ‘responsible source’ a second thought; just buy their salmon.
I recently bought a smoked salmon product from ALDI. Their standard farmed salmon is labelled as described above, but this Mini Roulé was boldly labelled ‘WITH SMOKED WILD SALMON & DILL’, so being wild it must be OK.
That had me thinking: It’s fine to advertise wild salmon clearly, but not farmed salmon, the nature of which must be hidden. Is one label more marketable than the other? I wonder why? Could it be that the salmon buying public are becoming concerned about farmed salmon, the way they did about battery hens and eggs? [Thank you, Compassion in World Farming for a long, hard-fought campaign that succeeded in changing peoples’ minds.]
I also wondered if the wild salmon most supermarkets sell, alongside the fatty farmed stuff but clearly labelled wild sockeye, keta etc. (often citing the biological name of the fish), is reasonable for us to eat. Wild populations of most of the world’s salmon are now facing extinction or have been reduced to levels that forbid our eating them, thanks to fish farm generated sea lice and diseases. Should Alaskan wild salmon now be off limits?
How was the Roulé? I hear you ask. It was … er … alright, I suppose, though some Philly and proper smoked wild salmon – I can prepare that in my garage – would have been a lot better. It was just ordinary cream cheese containing a pink spiral and a strong smell/taste of cold-smoked fish. But it cut very strangely! The ‘salmon’ part had no fishy texture to it – it should have resisted the knife a little and didn’t – and, as I cut the Roulé in two, it just smeared all over the knife, very difficult to remove without soapy water (which wouldn’t have improved the flavour). It spread on the bread like cream cheese with farmed-salmon-coloured juice in it and because they didn’t mix or stay separate, just smudged randomly, looked rather unappetising. The salmon surely wasn’t a slice of smoked fish, as one might expect. Rather it was a micro-thin layer of SalmoFanTM Pantone 1645 U (27) pink sludge rolled up in cream cheese with a sprinkle of dried dill. Everything about it was smear. It was edible, but not particularly pleasant due to the suspicions that accompanied its eating.
Consumers are having to navigate confusing and downright misleading labelling when buying salmon. Often, products such as Loch Duart’s‘organic’ farmed salmon, proudly display the RSPCA “Freedom Food” label with the RSPCA logo along with the unimpressive claim: ‘Salmon from the clean, clear waters of NW Scotland’.
What many people do not realise is that the RSPCA’s farmed salmon standards technical advisory groups consist of 24 representatives, 21 of whom also represent the aquaculture industry (88%). No wonder salmon farms can boast Freedom Food approval. The Soil Association, the monitors of so-called ‘organic’ salmon farms, are similarly infested with aquaculture people: 10/17 (59%). Check it out HERE.
When the Scottish Salmon Think-Tank exposed these anomalies on Twitter @scotsalmontank, there was a howl of protest from the RSPCA that, didn’t we realise they needed a panel of experts to determine aquaculture standards and who best but the specialists?
Inmates running the jail …