I love to eat seafood in the winter, but in a bit of economic irony, it is also when I’m working a lot less so I can’t afford to eat fish as much as I’d like. However my wife and I did a little splurging recently and after a few trips to restaurants on Cape Ann and in Boston, I noticed that Faroe Island salmon is showing up on more menus. Compared to typical farmed Atlantic salmon dishes, this stuff ain’t cheap with local prices between $28-$34 a plate. Why the premium price? Well, I understood after one bite of my wife’s dinner at the Black Arrow in Manchester-by-the Sea, it was like buttah…(sorry for the dated SNL reference).
On a recent trip to Boston’s Seaport District, she had another dinner of Faroe Island salmon at Gather Boston. While it was not as good as the first time, it was still pretty damn good, especially compared to what most places offer for Atlantic salmon. So what is the secret? Why does this farmed salmon look and taste so much better than the competition?
Faroe Island Fish Farmers Association
The FFFA is the representing body for the Faroe Island aquaculture industry. From research to lobbying to educating consumers, the FFFA ensures a common message and consistent, high-quality salmon from the fish farms. The organization was founded in 1980 but has roots that go back to 1967 with the first attempt at Faroese fish farming. Back then it was rainbow trout, ten years later the first Faroe Island salmon farms were established.
Although today Faroe Island salmon is top-quality, there was admittedly a learning curve through the 1980’s up until the early 2000’s. There were over 60 farms in the 1980’s but low prices and disease led to the conclusion that the industry needed more regulation. This led to a reduction in fish farms, down to 21 in the 1990’s. Disease outbreaks in the early 2000’s spurred the effort to create the “Faroese Veterinarian Act on Aquaculture,” one of the most stringent in the aquaculture industry.
From here Faroe Island salmon came into its own, with just a handful of the top salmon producers remaining. By 2010 the Faroe Islands were producing some of the best farmed fish in the world.
Faroe Island Salmon Producers
Regulation and consolidation has left the Faroe Islands with 3 producers: Bakkafrost, Marine Harvest Faroes, and HiddenFjord. Marine Harvest produces both fresh and frozen whole salmon. HiddenFjord only provides fresh whole salmon but Bakkafrost offers fresh and frozen whole salmon along with salmon portions and by-products.
As of 2019, if your salmon did not come from one of these 3 entities, then it is not Faroe Island salmon. Update 2023: Marine Harvest has been acquired by Mowi, the world’s largest farmed salmon company (largest does not mean best IMHO) and so I have removed the old link to their website.
What Makes Faroe Island Salmon Special?
The location of the Faroe Islands, in the cold North Atlantic gives these fish farms a near-ideal starting point to raise salmon. Sea currents and deep fjords also contributes to the quality of the farmed fish. Take a look at this promotional video for the whole story:
No antibiotics, lowest feed-to-conversion ratio, lowest mortality rates and highest smolt yields, combined with pristine waters and stringent regulations. All of this hard work can literally be tasted in some of the world’s finest farmed salmon.
Faroe Island salmon producers are also dedicated to to protecting their environment, which includes a major feeding ground for what is left of the wild Atlantic salmon population. These fish are protected and the FFFA has strict regulations to minimize containment breaches, which could seriously endanger the wild fish. The dedication to full traceability, both for Faroe Island salmon and even their feed allows consumers to feel confident in sourcing responsibly raised seafood.
How Does Faroe Island Salmon Taste?
I admit to not having a long history of eating salmon, but I know what I like. Meanwhile, my wife is a lot more picky when it comes to fish and has a low threshold for “fishiness.” Of course, some of that is up to how it is prepared, but after tasting Faroe Island salmon twice recently, there is a difference compared to other farmed salmon I’ve tried. The flavor is of real salmon, not of a fish tank, no musty flavors here. Also, the fish they select are bigger and thicker than most raised salmon so you tend to get a nice thick piece, which I believe helps in the flavor because there is less of the gray matter that can be strong tasting.
In the future I will be looking for Faroe Island salmon on menus because I know I will be getting quality fish, raised in the best possible manner with full traceability.
Stay tuned, I also discovered another amazing farmed salmon on this recent trip and I will be writing about them soon!