Hello there. My name is Chris and I’m the Chefs Collaborative research and writing intern. That’s me on the home page–right there in the orange shirt–clipping around a grape vine. I’ll be doing some work on salmon in the coming months, looking at current issues and developments in wild and farmed salmon and what they mean for chefs. At the start of each week I’ll be posting something interesting I have found.
This week I looked into aquaculture, which now provides more than half of the world’s seafood. By now, we have heard about the dangers of salmon aquaculture. Salmon eat three to five pounds of wild schooling fish for every one pound they gain. Aquaculture critics cite the consequences of open-pen net farming. Salmon farmed this way are prone to disease, like sea lice, which can potentially be transferred to wild fish. To counter disease, salmon are often given antibiotics. Waste from the salmon farms threatens marine ecosystems. There have, however, been promising developments in salmon aquaculture. Salmon may not be so well suited to fish farming. But there is hope. Because other fish are.
Here are five of them:
Barramundi. A fish dubbed the “anti-salmon,” barramundi are tailor-made for aquaculture. The fish thrive on vegetarian feed, unlike salmon, and can live in tight schools and low-oxygen waters. Barramundi is a white-fleshed fish that compares to snapper, grouper, and sole. Get barramundi from Australis Aquaculture, a farm in Massachusetts that uses (and reuses) water from the Connecticut River.
Kona Kampachi. This species of yellowtail is raised by Kona Blue in Hawaii. The fish eat a feed of 30% wild fish–notable, considering that yellowtail are traditionally carnivorous. (The other 70% is comprised of sustainably raised proteins and oils.) Kona Blue’s net pens float in 200-foot-deep water, where the fish room to swim and strong currents keep things clean. Kona Kampachi are harvested to order and shipped directly to consumers.
Arctic char. The U.S. is the fourth-largest producer of arctic char, behind Iceland, Canada, and Norway/Sweden. Arctic char are well suited to aquaculture because they can live closely together. Char are typically raised in recirculating systems, which reuse water and often simulate lakes or streams. Taste- and texture-wise, arctic char falls somewhere between salmon and trout. The downside to arctic char is that it can sometimes be expensive or harder to find on the market.
Rainbow Trout. Like arctic char, rainbow trout are farmed in simulated streams. Water is diverted from a stream, runs through the trout holdings (or “raceways”), and returns to the stream after a quick filtering. Some three-quarters of U.S. farms are in Idaho, but trout is farmed all over the country. Sunburst Trout Company, in North Carolina, is a third-generation trout farm that doesn’t use antibiotics or growth hormones.
Cobia. Touted by many as the farmed fish of the future, cobia is still a work in progress for fish farmers. Cobia can grow to full size in just 12 months. The fish, however, require warm water and a low-salinity environment–two obstacles to raising them. Farms have been tinkering with their cobia stocks in an effort to find the best way to raise the fish. Cobia is a white-fleshed fish with a dense texture, not unlike mahi-mahi or sea bass.
Ask your purveyor about these farm-raised species.