Longtime seafood restaurant chef Ed Brown visited the facilities of Skuna Bay and came away impressed. “I’ve been to a lot of these places and this one is pretty spectacular,” says Brown, now Senior VP at Restaurant Associates. “One of the biggest issues is the density of the fish. Skuna is the lowest I’ve seen.” (When too many fish are confined together, disease and parasites can spread more rapidly.)
Another major environmental concern is what feed and how much are given to farmed salmon. Some farms feed their salmon fish they would eat in the wild, such as herring. However, this depletes the stocks of wild herring just as if the farmed salmon were wild. It also normally takes three to five pounds of fishmeal to produce a pound of salmon.
Verlasso has reduced this “fish in, fish out” ratio to one pound of wild-caught feeder fish to one pound of salmon by supplementing the salmon’s diet with yeast that is rich in Omega 3 fatty acids, the heart healthy component from fatty fish like salmon and herring.
While chefs across the country are increasingly concerned about the ecological impact of the ingredients they use, the environment usually takes a backseat to quality. “I’m a green and sustainable guy. But the first thing I look for is the best tasting fish I can find,” Brown says.“Skuna Bay blew me away. It was nice and fatty with good texture and consistency throughout.”
Finding out what farmed salmon is the most environmentally friendly can be confusing because there are a number of organizations that audit and certify farms under a variety of criteria. One of the more prominent of these organizations is the Aquaculture Stewardship Council created by the World Wildlife Fund. At this writing standards for salmon farms (not companies as a whole) were a few months from being finalized.
Jess DeGuzman, chef at Sunda, an Asian restaurant in Chicago, said Verlasso’s “clean” flavor translated well to sushi and other Japanese dishes. “It’s not as fatty as some other farmed salmon. So it doesn’t taste as fishy,” DeGuzman says.
At home, I compared Verlasso and Skuna Bay with salmon farmed off the coast of Scotland by Scottish Sea Farms. Filets of each were broiled with only salt and pepper as seasoning. The Verlasso and Skuna Bay were so close, I’d hate to live on the difference. And yet, each was quite distinctive.
The Skuna Bay was meltingly delicious, almost as if it were bathed in butter. The Verlasso was meatier and less fatty though still silky in texture. It was also more subtle in its salmon flavor. The Scottish Sea Farms salmon was a solid third. Not as tasty as the Verlasso or lush as the Skuna Bay but still rich and flavorful and worthy of any restaurant table.
How to Get It
Consult the contact information below for where to buy salmon in your region.