Dag Ivar Dahl steers his boat calmly through the rough sea. The 50-year-old Operations Manager has spent his entire life in these waters caring for the Atlantic salmon. We are off the coast of Northern Norway, just below the Arctic Circle. It is mid-winter and there is a brisk northerly wind. Massive mountains with snow-clad pointed peaks and hundreds of tiny islands stretch far off into the horizon. "The salmon love it out here," Dag Ivar says, before turning his attention to the wave buffeting against the hull of the boat.
Could and rough conditions
He is heading out to an ocean farm housing close to one million Atlantic salmon. "We are fortunate to have so many deep fjords and narrow straits in Northern Norway. These conditions and the cold and nutritious waters are perfect for Atlantic salmon," he says. Dag Ivar knows what he is talking about. He grew up on one of the many small islands that characterize the coast of Helgeland in Northern Norway. His first job as a young boy was working on the pen looking after the salmon. Here, in the extreme Arctic climate, he learned how to transform the salmon from a small fish into a delicious dish that would grace any dinner table.
"We are out checking on the salmon every single day," Dag Ivar says. "We have to be out here to make sure our fish are properly fed, healthy and happy." Out in the fish pen, a couple of salmon leap out of the water. "Leaping is in their DNA. Salmon are meant to jump; it shows that they’re thriving," he says.
There is no big secret to the natural flavor of Norwegian salmon. Nature takes care of it itself. "When the water is allowed to flow freely through the pens, it makes the salmon healthier and makes it taste as fresh as it looks," he explains.
Most sustainable salmon in the world
When the salmon reaches five to six kilograms (11 to 13 pounds) in weight, it is taken to a factory on the nearby island of Lovund, 18 miles off the mainland. Far away from shore, but close to the salmon.
"Our location means that we can deliver high-quality salmon around the world in less than 48 hours after it is brought out of the ocean," says Sabine Fossmo. She is the Quality Manager at the salmon factory and knows everything about the quality and food safety of this red and rugged delicacy. "Environmental standards for Norwegian salmon are among the highest in the world. That means that the fish farm minimizes the impact on the local ecosystem in a number of ways and that the health of the fish is managed in a sustainable way," she says.
Quality comes first
After almost 50 years of farming salmon, Norway has become a world leader. Norwegian salmon farmers continue to top Coller FAIRR’s annual rankings of most sustainable protein producers. "We are able to work fast and safely at the same time," explains Sabine.
Living in a perfect environment out at sea is not the only thing. The salmon are carefully handled and analyzed before going into production. A lab sample of the salmon is used to analyze the fish's DNA and microbiology to ensure the highest quality standards.
"There is nothing mysterious about what makes this the best salmon in the world. In the end, rough nature and the right type of handling are what give the salmon the fresh and raw qualities that the world loves," says Sabine.
A salmon that does not need to be frozen
Straight from the ice-cold Norwegian waters, Atlantic salmon can be enjoyed raw no matter where you get it. In addition to following strict regulations, the industry ensures that the salmon is fed only with high quality and nutritious pellets. This means that it is completely safe to eat the salmon raw without having to freeze it first. "The salmon get delivered fresh around the world, and as a result the Norwegian Atlantic salmon has an extraordinary fresh and clean flavor," says Geir Skeie.
Geir Skeie is an acclaimed master chef from Norway who has specialized in seafood and dedicated his career to salmon. He says that the fact that the best sushi chefs in the world prefer Norwegian salmon is no coincidence.
"You will not find any better salmon than the Norwegian Atlantic salmon. It is a global superstar."
Perfect salmon for sushi
Geir explains that in addition to its appetiszng red color and soft yet juicy texture, Norwegian salmon meat is strikingly marbled meat – it is the wagyu beef of the ocean.
"With this evenly distributed fat, tasting like the clean and clear Norwegian seawater, it is the ultimate salmon for sushi and other raw consumption."
The master chef explains that the salmon’s mild and delicate flavor makes it a versatile fish for different types of raw consumption. You can enjoy the salmon as a traditional and tasty sushi or make a delicious salmon tataki seasoned with cilantro, chili, lime and soy sauce to make the perfect quick and healthy meal.
There is no secret behind the taste of Norwegian salmon. It is simply about origin.