These days, choosing what to eat has become an environmental and, therefore, (sometimes) a political choice. Salmon is no different. So it’s best to ask a couple crucial questions before you buy salmon from a fishmonger or order it in a restaurant. Salmon’s popularity has led to fish forgery, so you need to know where the fish comes from and, is it wild or farmed?
Unquestionably, the best salmon is wild Pacific salmon, mostly caught in Alaska. Waterways in Washington, Idaho and Oregon are too overfished to provide much to the commercial market. You’ll have to go catch one of those yourself.
Atlantic salmon always means farmed salmon because they are nearly extinct in the wild. Farming salmon has caused a number of environmental problems. Just like cattle, pigs and poultry, factory farm-raised fish live in overcrowded conditions that necessitate the use of antibiotics and result in pollution. Randall Curtis, co-owner of Harbor Seafood & Steak with Taylor Jacobsen and Chef Justin Jacobsen, insist on serving only wild-caught Alaskan salmon flown to the restaurant three times a week via FedEx. “We have a dedicated boat and crew,” says Curtis. “They break down the fish on the boat, then ship it as soon as they get to shore. When it’s out of season, it’s gone,” Curtis explains. “We switch to another type of fish.”
Farmed vs. Wild caught
Many people want to eat salmon often because of its nutritional value—those omega-3 oils have been credited for everything from fighting depression to improving eyesight. And they are undoubtedly good for you.
So what do you do when wild salmon is out of season? Check the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch list. The Seafood Watch assigns a red, yellow or green rating to seafood, based on sustainability and environmental impact. Red is “avoid,” yellow is “good alternative” and green is “best choice.” (Whole Foods also labels its seafood with Seafood Watch colored ratings.) For a long time, farmed salmon could not make the list. Salmons are carnivores and it takes three to four pounds of wild fish daily to sustain one pound of edible salmon. High-density pens encourage diseases and parasites that can spread to wild fish. But some ocean-farmed salmon has been given the yellow rating by Seafood Watch. One example is Verlasso, sold at Harmons. Decide for yourself. Go to seafoodwatch.org and look at the guide for which fish are best to buy in Utah.
GO FISH: tools of the trade
Rosle fish slice, $30, Orson Gygi, SLC
Wüsthof classic Ikon hollow-edge salmon slicer, 12”, $212, Williams-Sonoma, SLC
Cedar plank, $6- $14, Williams-Sonoma, SLC
Salmon-shaped cutting board, $35, Sur La Table, SLC
Lemon wraps, set of 12, $3, Bed Bath & Beyond, SLC
See more inside the Summer 2017 issue.