When it comes to responsible aquaculture, sustainability is key in every step of the process, especially the feed. Norwegian farmed salmon has the same genetics as wild salmon, but its feed allows it to grow faster, mature later and resist disease better. As the aquaculture industry has undergone substantial growth over the last decade, it has been forced to look for sustainable resources other than wild fish for its fish feed and has started to integrate sustainably sourced plant-based protein into the feed.
Today, Norwegian Salmon are fed a diet composed of 70 percent plant-based ingredients and 30 percent marine raw materials, like fish oil and fishmeal from wild fish, plus vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, guaranteeing an even better-tasting fish harvested with sustainability and health in mind. Plant-based ingredients come from a range of sources, such as sunflowers, rapeseed, corn, broad beans and wheat—they are a source of protein, carbohydrates and fat.
Fishmeal and fish oil are produced from short-lived, fast-growing stocks of oily fish such as anchovy, boarfish, menhaden, capelin and sand eel, for which there is little or no demand for human consumption. The fish feed producers serving the Norwegian aquaculture industry work together with The marine ingredients organization IFFO to ensure that the wild fish used for the production of fishmeal and fish oil come from responsibly managed fisheries. An increasing proportion is manufactured from byproducts of seafood processing companies, and IFFO estimates this to be approximately 35% of global total. IFFO is an accredited Observer to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and all IFFO members support and implement the FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries.
Salmon have a unique biology and produce their own omega-3 fatty acids. Thus, there is more omega-3 in salmon than in the feed they eat. As long as the feed has been blended correctly, the salmon are able to convert plant omega-3 to marine omega-3. Omega-3 fatty acids like EPA and DHA have been proven to reduce heart disease risk and enhance brain function in humans.
Feed conversion ratios tell us how much feed is needed to produce other sources of food, such as salmon or pork. As for farmed Atlantic salmon in Norway, the feed conversion rate today is around 1:1. This means that in order for the salmon to put on 1 kilogram of weight, it needs to eat around 1 kilogram of feed. Other sources of protein, such as pigs and cattle, require around three and eight times as much feed in order to grow 1 kilogram.
Unlike mammals, salmon is naturally efficient because it doesn’t need to use energy standing upright. It’s cold-blooded, which means that instead of using energy to regulate its temperature, it can harness the energy from food to grow. This means that it can use more of its feed for growth. Therefore, Atlantic salmon naturally has a lower carbon footprint than pork and beef.
Feeding methods and technology have also advanced in recent years, creating improvements to feeding. To grow sustainably, Norway has developed an efficient food system with as little waste as possible. Many salmon farms are now using computerized systems to drive automated feeding systems, with feedback mechanisms to detect when fish have finished feeding. This allows fish to be fed properly, without overfeeding and consequent feed waste. The use of new technology is a win-win, as the farmers also save cost on feed.
The color of Atlantic salmon often comes into question. The pink color of Norwegian Salmon comes from an oxycarotenoid called astaxanthin. In nature, salmon receive astaxanthin by eating crustaceans. Norwegian Salmon receive these same beneficial nutrients as supplements in their feed. Studies have shown that astaxanthin acts as an antioxidant and can actually boost fish and human immune response.
Marine ingredients & sustainability: http://www.iffo.net/marine-resources-sustainability
IFFO statistics: http://www.iffo.net/iffo-rs-statistics
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: http://www.iucnredlist.org/
Production of fishmeal from Peruvian anchovy: http://www.iffo.net/system/files/67_0.pdf
Sustainable Fisheries Partnership: https://www.sustainablefish.org/
Annual sustainability overview: https://www.sustainablefish.org/News/SFP-publishes-annual-sustainability-overview-of-reduction-fisheries2