Pick up some salmon from the local supermarket and it’s likely to say that it has been “farmed in Scotland”. But where exactly and to what standards? The answers are hard to find – unless you dig around online.
Research by Fidra, a charity, found that Aldi, Asda, Lidl and Morrisons all fail to offer any information on the farms used or their suppliers. Only Iceland, M&S, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose indicated their suppliers and sources on pack.
The findings, which have been published in a blog, have been shared with the UK’s 10 largest retailers. There is also a breakdown of the various certification schemes supermarkets use – from the ‘code of good practice’ and ‘organic’ to RSPCA Assured and ‘Friend of the sea’.
Even in the few cases where the farm is named, it is “extremely hard” to know how that farm is performing, Fidra noted.
The sustainability of the Scottish salmon sector has been in the spotlight in recent years. Most recently, a report by Just Economics for the Changing Markets Foundation, calculated the environmental costs of the industry at £1.46bn.
The Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation told The Guardian at the time that farmed salmon “has a great environmental story to tell – it has the lowest carbon footprint of any main livestock protein, it is a nutritious and healthy food”.
In a survey of just over 500 consumers in December 2019, eight in 10 shoppers said they’d consider paying more for “sustainably sourced” salmon. “…there is a clear desire to be able to access further information about the quality of the salmon they are buying and eating, and a big part of this involves understanding the processes involved in farming and production”, experts at Fidra noted.
Some 86% of consumers would be keen to know the name of the farm the salmon was sourced from. Almost two in three (64%) said they wanted to see more information on product labels about the salmon they were buying.
Indeed, the poll revealed how a lack of clear labelling was causing confusion: only 5% of respondents knew that all the salmon on sale in the UK is farmed rather than wild caught.
The findings supported those of more general surveys on seafood consumption: that is, an increasing preference for responsibly and sustainably produced seafood, and a willingness to pay a premium for it.
Fidra, as part of its ‘Best fishes’ project, wants supermarkets to use ‘farm of origin’ labels on their salmon. It also wants to see accessible, transparent, real-time information on environmental and sustainability issues to be available on a farm-by-farm basis online. Only then would shoppers be able to make informed decisions, it said.