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Chefs back a farm-raised salmon

US - With all the knocks against farm-raised salmon, it might come as a surprise that there's at least one variety that has won over some top US chefs and a Scottish environmental organization.

It is Loch Duart salmon, raised in pens off the coast of Scotland. It is sold at some Bay Area supermarkets, including Lunardi's for $13.99 a pound for fillets. And a number of celebrated Northern California restaurants have served it, including the French Laundry in Yountville, the Plumed Horse in Saratoga, and Aqua in San Francisco.

Loch Duart, an independently owned Scottish farm that was established in 1999, received a Scottish national honor in 2005, known as the Vision in Business for the Environment for Scotland award. It also was the first salmon farm to receive the Freedom Food certification from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals for its fish welfare practices.

Quattro restaurant in the Four Seasons Silicon Valley in East Palo Alto has been using the salmon for a year and a half. Executive Chef Alessandro Cartumini finds it a good alternative to the wild Copper River salmon he also serves that's available only for a few weeks each summer.

"I love the Loch Duart," Cartumini says. "It cooks well, stays moist and it's got a really clean flavor. I like the way they are raising the fish. It's one of those things you can feel good about."

Corey Peet, aquaculture research analyst with the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch program, acknowledges that Loch Duart exercises some good practices, but whether that's enough to negate all the problems surrounding the farmed salmon industry remains to be seen.

In general, the Monterey Bay Aquarium's "Seafood Watch" program recommends avoiding farmed salmon because they are grown in huge nets that float in the ocean, resulting in excess waste and food pollution. Farmed salmon sometimes escape from pens, too, and end up competing with wild fish for food and habitat. They also often are raised using pesticides, antibiotics and chemical additives that change the fish's normal gray pallor into the more familiar orange hue.

"People are appropriately concerned about what's going on in farmed salmon," says Tim O'Shea, chief operating officer of CleanFish, which promotes and sells Loch Duart salmon. "If we don't redeem and redefine responsible aquaculture, we're doomed."

Source: San Jose Mercury News