The truth about supermarket salmon: It’s come 22,000 miles ... and may be 18 months old!
WHEN you tuck into your dinner of Alaskan salmon, it’s fair to say you think it will have a travelled a fair distance.
But few would imagine that the fish has actually arrived on their plate via Seattle, China, Hong Kong, the Suez Canal, the Mediterranean and the Netherlands – a journey of more than 22,000 miles.
And even after their 13-week journey is complete, the salmon fillets can be left on ice for up to 18 months before reaching the supermarket shelves.
It means that every year tons of salmon are being shipped almost the entire circumference of the world before reaching the UK. This is despite the fact that Britain, particularly Scotland, has a thriving salmon industry.
However, because much of the salmon is processed here and turned into ready meals or fish cakes, it means it can be labelled as ‘Produce of Britain’.
Last night food campaigners said we should be buying more locally-sourced food to avoid eating food that has been left in a
‘Shipped to China for cutting and packing’
warehouse for over a year. The lengthy journey taken by supermarket salmon emerged after a Tesco customer’s Facebook post to the supermarket.
Blazia Thomas asked: ‘Why do my “Tesco Wild Alaskan Salmon Fillets” say “Produce of China” on them?’
Tesco responded: ‘The salmon is fished for in Alaskan waters but is shipped to China for cutting and packing. Therefore, we have to legally display the origin on pack where the last significant process took place.
‘The salmon is still Alaskan, this is just where it’s processed. I hope this clears things up.’ The Daily Mail has since established the likely route that salmon fillets follow before ending up in our supermarkets.
Salmon is the nation’s favourite fish, but Britain’s salmon industry is unable to feed the demand, leading supermarkets and food manufactures to heavily rely on imports of much cheaper wild salmon caught off the coast of Alaska.
At one time, factories in Alaska processed the fish to be frozen and exported to around the world. However, many of these shut down after the Chinese entered the processing market with an abundance of cheap labour. This meant it became economic to ship vast quantities of pink or chum salmon across the Pacific to China for processing.
The best way to remove the bones from salmon is by hand, which is something Chinese companies are able to do cheaply in plants around ports such as Dalian on the north east coast. In some cases, the salmon is doused in phosphates which encourage the flesh to take up water to ensure they remain moist and appear fresh when they reach their final destination.
Once frozen, the salmon is shipped via Hong Kong through the Gulf of Thailand, Bay of Bengal, Arabian Sea, Suez Canal, Mediterranean, English Channel and North Sea to the Netherlands. The final leg of the journey involves a trip to Felixstowe, Immingham or Southampton.
As well as Tesco, Young’s sells a pack of four Pacific Pink Salmon Fillets on which the country of origin is listed as China. Sainsbury’s sells 360g packs of frozen salmon fillets which are listed as ‘Packaged in the UK or China’.
Asda and Morrisons sell frozen salmon fillets without offering clear information on where they were processed. Ruth Westcott, of Sustain – a campaign group lobbying for better food and farming – said: ‘Common sense says we should be buying salmon locally, it is a species that, a long time ago, was plentiful in the waters and rivers around the UK.
‘With Brexit, we have an opportunity to manage our natural resources better ... Consumers can avoid buying salmon that has been shipped across the world simply by choosing oily fish species caught closer to home.’ The Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute said shipping salmon to the UK via China is good for consumers and the environment.
A spokesman said: ‘The carbon footprint is not as large as you may think. These fish could be filleted in Alaska, but it would add a lot of cost to the product to staff large fillet lines for short periods.
‘Salmon ... are exported to China because it is the most efficient means of providing a quality product.’ They added that hand filleting provides a better yield than machine filleting, which ‘offsets the CO2 footprint and means more of the fish is consumed and utilised’.