Scottish salmon is wild

Erwin Seitz

Commodity Science, October 2015

Visiting salmon farmers

Salmon from Scotland

If you leave Glasgow Airport in a rental car and drive northwest to the “Highlands” and “Islands” region, the road soon becomes quite narrow. As a rule, the route runs along the narrow banks of the inland fjords and lakes, while high mountain walls rise on the side facing away from the water. The driver has to be extremely careful in the winding passages that oncoming vehicles do not ram their own. The command is: drive slowly!

Slowness, pristine closeness to nature, closeness to water, raging mountain streams, sea fjords that are subject to ebb and flow: those are the keywords here. Speed, speed and industry cannot spread because the terrain is simply too impassable. It is ideal terrain for traditional, sustainable food production.

You keep seeing sheep and cattle grazing up the hills. At the same time, the combination of sparkling clean, cool and oxygen-rich water that shoots down the mountain flanks and the sea fjords, which are constantly in motion due to the ebb and flow of tides, is suitable for natural salmon farming, because for this you need both, according to the natural rhythm of this fish species : first fresh water, then sea water.

Initially, around fifty years ago, it was the Norwegians who developed the technology and know-how of salmon farming. But the Scots did not wait long to emulate the Norwegians on their own north-western Atlantic coast. Even more: the Scottish farmed salmon should be of special quality. The “Code of Good Practice” was developed for the “Scottish Salmon” and is guarded by the umbrella organization “Scottish Sea Farms”. Constant monitoring of the water quality and the health of the animals is mandatory for all salmon farmers there.

A two-hour drive from Glasgow takes you to Oban, which is picturesquely situated on a semicircular bay. The next morning the ferry unleashed here to bring the people to the Isle of Mull. The morning sun spreads a pink light on the water, it is like gliding through a dream region.

Scenic scenery on the Scottish west coast
Isle of Lismore and the mountains of Kingairloch
between Oban and the Isle of Mull
© Alan Partridge, source, license

On the Isle of Mull there is a salmon farm near Knock, which is supplied with cool fresh water that flows down from the mountains. Salmon eggs, which come from Norway and Ireland, lie there for around six weeks in incubators with permeable stainless steel drawers through which the oxygen-rich water flows. When the egg white has been used up, the seedlings move to a hall with a breeding tank and are fed with ground pellets.

Both the cool, clean fresh water, which has an annual average of around 10 degrees Celsius, and the quality of the pellets determine the health and quality of the young fish. They act quicklebding; the use of drugs and antibiotics, it is assured, is not necessary. It's about moderate growth of the smolts, as the fry are called, not about turbo speed.

In total there are around a hundred Scottish salmon farms in the countryside and around two hundred and fifty in the sea. Because after twelve to fourteen months, the young salmon, which were used to fresh water until then, are moved to marine enclosures with salt water. Such a marine enclosure can be found on the north coast of the Isle of Mull. There are eight square net enclosures, each 24 by 24 meters in circumference and 15 meters in depth. The salmon can constantly move in a circle and swim against the ocean current, which strengthens the muscles of the meat.

Underwater cameras in every enclosure, which are constantly checked, show whether the fish are moving well and harmoniously and appear healthy. If necessary, feed supply and stocking density can be changed. The salmon stay in these enclosures, which enclose nets made of natural material, for almost two years. After around three years of breeding in fresh and salt water, they weigh around five kilos and are taken to the slaughterhouse in a tank boat. The slaughter is relatively stress-free because the fish swim to the slaughterhouse themselves.

Such a farmed salmon has advantages over wild salmon. The slaughter is stress-free, and at a time when the fish is full of meat. A large number of Scottish farmed salmon even receive the French “Label rouge” seal of approval, which guarantees sustainable breeding and first-class meat quality. In this case, the pellets must contain at least fifty percent species-appropriate feed of maritime origin, fish oil and fish meal, the remaining part can consist of soybean meal and the like.

Scottish salmon with the “Label rouge” seal of approval actually tastes excellent, pure and aromatic. The meat is pleasantly firm and supple, particularly suitable for raw processing, for sashimi or carpaccio. In Germany, for example, Frischparadies offers Scottish salmon with the “Label rouge” seal of approval under its own brand name “Glen Douglas Lachs” - whether in stores or in the online shop (www.frischeparadies.de or www.frischeparadies-shop.de) with the belly flap and tail piece already slightly trimmed and well cut.

 

Further product information of this kind can be found in my book:

Erwin Seitz: Cooking close to nature - simple, good, healthy. Recipes and product knowledge. Insel, Berlin 2018

"Erwin Seitz recommends simple recipes made from the best ingredients in this refreshingly diet-free book." Claire Beermann, ZEIT magazine

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