Safer farmed Salmon with Wegmans and Bon Appetit

The opportunity

Americans are eating more salmon, drawn to its rich taste and health benefits. Increasingly, they are choosing farmed salmon because of its wide availability and low price. In the last five years, salmon consumption in the U.S. jumped nearly a third, and most of that increase was farmed salmon.

Worldwide, salmon farming has exploded over the last 20 years, from 36,500 metric tons in 1983 to nearly 1.5 million metric tons in 2003. But farmed salmon has become controversial due to its health risks and ecological impacts. Studies show that some farmed salmon is higher in contaminants like PCBs than wild salmon. Concern is also growing over the dangers that fish farming can pose to wild salmon populations and the release of untreated wastes from salmon farms into the ocean.

Our strategy

In 2004, Environmental Defense announced a first-of-its-kind partnership with Wegmans Food Markets, one of the country’s most successful and innovative grocery retailers, and Bon Appétit Management Company, a leading food service company.

We aimed to create new purchasing policies for farmed king salmon that meet strong health and environmental criteria. Both companies were willing to challenge suppliers to:

  • Meet stringent health standards for PCBs and other toxic contaminants,
  • Take unprecedented steps to reduce potential impacts on wild salmon,
  • Use innovative production systems that do not discharge chemicals and metals into the ocean, and
  • Reduce dependence on wild fish for salmon feed.

The overall goals of the partnership are to:

  • Improve the healthfulness of farmed salmon for consumers
  • Reduce the damage of farmed salmon production to wild fish populations and the ocean environment
  • Promote innovation and establish guidelines for responsible aquaculture

Results

Wegmans and Bon Appetit instituted a new salmon purchasing policy that encompass the following standards. Since then, other companies have adopted these guidelines in whole or in part. Here are examples of companies that are meeting these criteria:

  • Ensures salmon meet a stringent health standard for contaminants and are safe to eat regularly
  • Uses fewer wild fish in salmon feed, helping to conserve ocean fish stocks for humans and wildlife
  • Uses innovative techniques to reduce and mitigate the impact of farmed salmon escapes on wild salmon populations
  • Prohibits the use of hormones and genetically modified fish and limits the use of antibiotics and other drugs in production
  • Requires use of production systems that do not discharge chemicals and metals (except in feed)
  • Requires continuous reductions and regular reporting of disease rates on farms
  • Reduces water pollution through an innovative technique called integrated aquaculture
  • Bans the killing or routine harassment of wildlife and requires annual third-party audit and reporting