Farm-Raised Salmon Scam

Status: False advertising
It was only in the course of writing Hippo Eats Dwarf that I became aware of how widespread the use of deceptive marketing is in the food industry. 'Chicken nuggets' often contain mostly ground-up skin and bones from cows and pigs. Order veal at a restaurant and there's a good chance you'll be served cheap pork. And fish restaurants are notorious for serving cheap fish to their patrons, having creatively renamed it to sound more appealing. So, for instance, Pacific Rockfish becomes 'snapper,' and very often lobster is really South American langoustine. So this news from Consumer Reports about a widespread farm-raised salmon scam didn't really surprise me:
Salmon that is labeled "wild" may actually be farmed-raised, an analysis in the August issue of Consumer Reports reveals. Consumer Reports bought 23 supposedly "wild" salmon filets last November, December and March-during the off-season for wild-caught salmon-and found that only 10 of the 23 were definitely caught in the wild. The rest of the fish was farm-raised salmon... Typically, wild salmon costs more than farmed. CR paid an average of $6.31 a pound for salmon labeled as farmed (all of which was indeed farmed) compared with $12.80 for correctly labeled wild salmon. The most costly of the bunch was farmed salmon labeled as wild, with an average price of $15.62 a pound.
So how do you tell if your salmon is farm-raised or wild? They recommend two ways. First, if it's from Alaska it's probably wild, since Alaska doesn't allow Salmon farming. Also, "CR's expert tasters noted that wild salmon has a stronger flavor and firmer flesh than farmed." Of course, you also have to hope that your 'salmon' isn't really pink-dyed tuna.


Posted on Mon Jul 10, 2006


" 'Chicken nuggets' often contain mostly ground-up skin and bones from cows and pigs."

Are you serious?????? Thats bad.....
Posted by X  in  McKinney, TX  on  Mon Jul 10, 2006  at  04:57 PM
NPR had an ichthyologist or some such on recently. They did DNA testing on several commercially sold fishes and found that they were different species than advertised.

Also canned "sardines" are usually herring.
Posted by JoeDaJuggler  in  St. Louis, MO  on  Mon Jul 10, 2006  at  05:03 PM
I'm not very surprised after hearing this, mainly because I've read of much worse food treatment (mainly from your book). That's why I love Hippo Eats Dwarf and this site because I could randomly read these facts to people and gauge their reactions.
Posted by Archibold  on  Mon Jul 10, 2006  at  05:20 PM
The thing about chicken nuggets is definitely true for the UK. British food regulators started randomly checking chicken nuggets and found that a lot of them weren't chicken. I don't have any info about US nuggets, but I'm assuming the situation can't be much better here than in the UK. But these are store-bought nuggets. Not McNuggets from McDonalds.
Posted by The Curator  in  San Diego  on  Mon Jul 10, 2006  at  06:22 PM
I remember the whole chicken nugget thing going off in the UK but I only remember the revelation that chicken skin was a major component of chicken nuggets. I didn't worry too much about this as firstly I don't eat them and secondly I eat the chicken skin that is on roast chicken anyway.
If there are other meats in them, well that is bad. As far as I am aware the UK pet food industry is more closely monitored than processed meat for humans.
Posted by Torpid_rat  on  Tue Jul 11, 2006  at  05:08 AM
I've been in the restaurant industry for about 14 years, seven as a cook. This sort of stuff happens all the time. "Wild" salmon is often farmed... and most recently, I worked in a restaurant that advertised all Black Angus beef, when in truth it was some of the lowest quality beef I'd ever worked with, even though you need to have certain criteria and standards in order to be allowed to advertise Angus.
Posted by Kitchen Ninja  on  Tue Jul 11, 2006  at  10:02 AM
Yes, I read that Consumer Reports story.
The main way they detected farm-raised salmon was by testing for the dyes fed to the salmon to make their flesh orange-red. (Wild salmon get that color from a diet of crustaceans and carotene-rich algaes, but a similar diet would be too expensive to feed farm fish). The difference in what they eat is also the main reason wild salmon is considered to be a much more beneficial food from a nutritional point of view.

But isn't it sad that people actually think they can buy fresh "wild-caught" salmon in the northern hemisphere during November,December, and March. Even the most rudimentary awareness of the salmon's life cycle (don't they teach this in 5th grade anymore?) should make it obvious that the odds of this not being a hoax are vanishingly small.
Posted by Big Gary  on  Tue Jul 11, 2006  at  06:07 PM
By the way, there's an advertising legend (possibly true) that in the early 1900s canned salmon was America's fish of choice, and tuna was considered undesirable, but the tuna canning companies dramatically altered their market share by promoting their product with the slogan, "Guaranteed not to turn pink in the can."
Posted by Big Gary  on  Tue Jul 11, 2006  at  06:11 PM
Snopes thinks that the tuna/salmon thing is probably apocryphal.
Posted by Boo  in  The Land of the Haggii...  on  Wed Jul 12, 2006  at  03:39 AM
I have a couple of quibbles with the analysis of the "pink in the can" story, though not with Snopes's main conclusion (that it probably never happened).
1. Although Snopes mentions the tuna vs. salmon marketing war story, most of the versions she cites refer to "pink salmon vs. white salmon." As some MoH readers know, I've spent some time in Alaska, where salmon is a major industry and food staple. Different species of salmon show varying degrees of pinkness or redness in their flesh-- King salmon is quite red; Chum or Silver salmon is hardly pink at all; and others are in between. Alaska natives often make a salmon jerky (for home use) that comes out more tan or brown than pink. The pinker or redder salmons tend to be more expensive, not just for the color, but also because they have a higher oil content and thus a more pleasant texture in the mouth and a richer flavor. But I have never heard of any species of salmon, in any condition, being marketed as "white salmon." I doubt that such a term exists. Besides, what's funny about saying that light-pink salmon isn't as pink as dark-pink salmon? It's a much better story when the comparison is between salmon, which is usually at least a little pink, and tuna, which is not pink at all. So I think the "White Salmon" version must be a corruption of the "Tuna vs. Salmon" story.
2. Snopes illustrates this article with a picture of-- not a tuna nor a salmon nor even a can-- but a mackeral (probably an Atlantic mackeral). How hard would it have been to come up with a picture of a tuna, or at least a can of tuna?
Posted by Big Gary, MoHDCicoF  on  Wed Jul 12, 2006  at  05:13 PM
Posted by ELIZABETH BROWN  on  Fri Feb 01, 2008  at  04:46 PM
Now I am really confused? I spent about $2,000.00 on Wild Salmon, and had it shipped frozen, directly from Alaska. Some of it is labeled.."Wild Troll Caught King Salmonn.....Wild White King Salmon...Wild Silver and Wild Copper River Salmon. I did wonder? "Wild" verses "Farm Riased," because some is firm and fresh, some is soft and terrible to the taste. HHMMM? But there is the labeling "White."
Posted by Morgaine D'Clegg  on  Tue Feb 17, 2009  at  05:58 PM
Its rediculus. I saw a tv show where the lady in the restaurant was trying to sell tilapia fillets as more expensive types. I guess everyone is just trying to get by the easiest way nowadays. I couldn't believe that.
Posted by Sean  on  Sat Aug 21, 2010  at  11:34 PM
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