Wild Versus Farmed Salmon

Part
01
of two
Part
01

Wild Versus Farmed Salmon - Consumer Segments

In the absence of specific demographic data on salmon consumers, the triangulation done in the findings below suggests that salmon consumers in the US are in the age brackets of 25 – 33 years and 55 years above, gender is predominantly male, income-level is on the high side, educational level is at least college graduate level, and geographical locations of consumers are dominant in Alaska, Washington, Maine, California, Oregon, the Great Lakes.

OVERVIEW

  • Every year, the US market is said to consume nearly 400,000 tons of salmon.
  • According to a research institute, "Atlantic, Chinook, Chum, Coho, Pink, and Sockeye Salmon are the six types of salmon consumed in the US."
  • Out of these six, only Atlantic salmon is primarily farmed, while the other five are gotten from wild fisheries.
  • After shrimp and canned tuna, salmon ranks in the third position as "the most frequently consumed seafood product in the U.S. for most of the past decade."
  • The average consumption of salmon in the US has been at the standard of two pounds per individual in a year. Another study categorized it as per capita consumption of 2.41 pounds.
  • Norway, Chile, and Canada are the biggest exporters of salmon to the US, and farmed salmon constitute two-third of the consumption in the country.
  • The recent study released by the FMI in Q3 of this year states that American consumers who eat seafood frequently are just 21%.
  • The word 'frequently' in this sense is described as twice a week or more, while another 35% of Americans consume seafood about once a month.
  • From these American consumers, 29% purchases salmon often, 40% purchases it often, and 31% rarely/never purchases it.

GEOGRAPHICAL LOCATION OF CONSUMERS

  • In 2017, the commercial weight of salmon in the US was one billion pounds and at a value of $687.8 million.
  • About 98% of total landings were accounted for by Alaska, while Washington accounted for just 2%.
  • The remainder (less than 1%) was accounted for by California, Oregon, and the Great Lakes.

CONSUMER DEMOGRAPHIC ANALYSIS

  • Consumers of seafood are a relatively small group when compared to meat lovers.
  • However, this small group is described by the recent study as lucrative and ready to spend extra money on purchasing groceries every week.
  • Consumers who consume seafood frequently are believed to spend $143 every week on groceries and those who consume seafood one time or never in a month spend $116 on groceries per week.
  • According to the study, frequent seafood consumers are prone to purchasing higher-margin items and "their average basket is three times more profitable than non-seafood eaters’ purchases."
  • By inference of the spending characteristics of this small group, salmon consumers' income level can be said to be on the high side.
  • The above fact is further backed by the recent study that says "frequent consumers of seafood tend to have higher incomes."
  • As regards gender, the study states that seafood consumers are more skewed towards the male gender.
  • For the educational level, the study claims seafood consumers are "more likely to be college graduates and are more likely to live alone."
  • The study also reveals that a higher percentage of baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) eat seafood frequently than the general population.
  • Few millennials are said to be within a smaller percentage of seafood consumers.

OTHER CONSUMER PERCEPTIONS FOR DEMOGRAPHIC ANALYSIS

  • Primary grocery store accounts for 70% of where seafood consumers do their purchases.
  • Quality and freshness are the primary considerations for consumers when shopping for seafood, and are seldom bothered about the price.
  • The online shopping for seafood is not a trend as consumers prefer fresh purchases from a self-serve counter, and salmon is mostly fresh.
  • 34% of seafood consumers get it from their primary stores. While others shop in a variety of places like seafood markets, they don't shop online.
  • According to the study, "only 21% of adults eat seafood the recommended two times per week by the US Department of Agriculture."
  • The study further indicates that less than 30% of seafood consumers considered themselves as adequately informed about seafood.

RESEARCH STRATEGY

We started our findings by looking for relevant data on salmon from government agencies, research institutions, and media news outlets. Although we found tons of information on salmon, there was no breakdown of demography that we could consider for our study. What we came across had more to do with salmon trade exports/imports, benefits of salmon, classification/types of salmon, and consumer perceptions in other climes such as Europe and Asia. Based on the scarcity of this data, we concluded that such information on the US market is not available at the moment.

However, we were able to determine the geographical locations of salmon consumers based on total landings per state. Washington, Maine, California, Oregon, the Great Lakes, and neighboring states are among the geographical locations of salmon consumers. The biggest geographical location of salmon consumers in the US can be said to be Alaska since they account for 98% of total landings.

Secondly, we looked at trade associations/interest groups relevant to salmon, such as the Atlantic Salmon Foundation, the Aquaculture Fish Farming Associations, the North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organization, among others. None of these platforms pointed us in the direction of demography and based on content topics on their websites, we concluded their interests largely differ from our findings.

Lastly, we searched through a database of retail outlets selling salmon or seafood in general. We found a recent article published by the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) in the third quarter of 2019 that highlighted American consumers' perceptions of seafood. To buttress our earlier conclusion on the scarcity of data on the US domestic market for salmon or seafood as a whole, the vice president of fresh foods at the FMI stated this study is "the first of its kind and only represents data points rather than trends."

Since the study is largely based on seafood as a whole, we had to triangulate facts provided to infer the demographic analysis of salmon consumers in areas such as age, gender, income level, and educational level.

For the age demography, baby boomers are said to be more in percentage than the general population for seafood consumption. Also, college graduates are more likely to be seafood consumers and this represents the smaller percentage of millennials who consume seafood. 21% of adults are further profiled to eat seafood the recommended two times per week. Shrimp, salmon, and tuna account for 60% of seafood consumed. Based on these facts, we can infer that the age of a larger percentage of salmon consumers is likely from 55 years (1964 – 2019) upward and a smaller percentage within the bracket age of 25 – 33 years who are millennials (the median year of 1986) and college graduates (the median age of 25).

For the gender demography, seafood consumers are more skewed towards male and since salmon (with two other seafood) accounts for 60% of seafood consumed, we can infer that more than 50% of salmon consumers in the US are male.

For the income-level demography, a report states that while the farm-to-table movement of Atlantic salmon is gaining steam in the US, it could "have the effect of driving out cheaper options — pricing out lower-income consumers." This position is further strengthened by the facts presented above on the spending characteristics of seafood and non-seafood consumers. Since salmon (with two other seafood) accounts for 60% of seafood consumed, it is safe to conclude that the income-level of seafood consumers is on the higher side or salmon consumers are well-to-do.

Lastly, for the educational level demography, we have a smaller percentage of college graduates who are seafood consumers. Also, less than 30% of seafood consumers considered themselves as adequately informed while the majority of seafood consumers indicated that they would like to know more about all the aspects of seafood. The inference from this response associated with seafood consumers suggests a sense of literacy. More so, the practical spending characteristics of seafood consumers indicate they are either into high-paying jobs (likely enabled by college degrees) or are running a successful business (also likely enabled by college degrees). And since salmon (with two other seafood) accounts for 60% of seafood consumed, we can safely infer that salmon consumers at least went through college.
Part
02
of two
Part
02

Wild Versus Farmed Salmon - Pros and Cons

Farmed salmon meets the shortfall in supply caused by unequal distributions of healthy wild salmon populations. The combined production generates approximately 1.2 billion dollars in sales revenue.

ADVANTAGES OF EATING FARMED SALMON VERSUS WILD SALMON

  • Sourcing systems for farmed salmon have less of an environmental impact than for wild salmon.
  • Dioxins, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), organichlorine pesticides (OCPs) and mercury were lower in farmed salmon than the wild-caught fish.
  • Farmed salmon have higher levels of fat and vitamin C than wild salmon.
  • Wild salmon is more expensive than farmed salmon and is more accessible for use.

DISADVANTAGES OF EATING FARMED SALMON VERSUS WILD SALMON

  • Farmed salmon receive antibiotics and animal drugs to maintain good health and fight parasites. There is a concern that increased usage of antibiotics in farmed salmon can speed up the process to increase human antibiotic resistance.
  • Depending on its home environment, wild salmon are not subject to antibiotics or animal drugs.
  • Farmed salmon can be a pollution risk from concentrated levels of fish excrement in the farm.
  • Pollution can also occur when excessive fish feed enters local ecosystems.
  • Conversely, wild salmon pollution is also a risk from the fuel burnt by ships and land transport to get it to market.
  • Farm-raised salmon is higher in calories than wild caught. Wild salmon has 281 calories as opposed to 412 calories for a 198 gram farmed salmon steak.

NUTRITIONAL BENEFITS OF FARMED SALMON

  • Omega-3 rich seafood can reduce the risk of coronary death by 36%, increase life expectancy by 2.2 years and lower cholesterol.
  • Omega-3 consumption positively impacts brain function, eyesight, reduction of inflammation, sperm, and energy production.
  • Farmed salmon has 4.2 grams of Omega-3 as opposed to 3.4 grams for wild salmon for each steak weighing 198 grams.
  • Farmed salmon does not carry as high a risk for environmental pollutants as wild salmon, which has tested for higher rates of organic pollutants and mercury.
  • While farmed salmon has a higher occurrence of Omega-3, the ratio of Omega-3 to Omega-6 is lower in wild salmon than in farmed salmon which impacts negatively on nutrition given that elevated levels of Omega-6 can be inflammatory.

POSITIVE ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACTS OF SALMON AQUACULTURE

  • With wild salmon species such as sockeye, coho, chinook and Atlantic salmon listed as endangered because of over fishing, the lower carbon footprint of farmed salmon is key to meeting increasing demand.
  • Increasing the production of farmed salmon can meet the rising global demand and allow wild salmon populations to recover.
  • The carbon footprint of salmon farming is 2.9 kg of carbon equivalent per kg of edible product. For pork, it is 5.9 kg and for beef it is 30 kg.
  • Use of fish meal and fish oil in salmon feed is declining because of higher prices and reduced availability. Substituted with plant proteins or poultry by-products, fish feed now make up 20-30% of fish feed as opposed to 80% in 1990.
  • While environmental contaminants such as Mercury are a concern, wild salmon consume a varied all natural diets.
  • A feed conversion ratio of 1.1 makes farmed seafood a resource efficient activity. Conversion ratios for chicken, beef, and pork vary between 2.2 and 10. The fuel consumed to get wild salmon and to transport overland negates its resource efficiency.

NEGATIVE ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACTS OF SALMON AQUACULTURE

  • Salmon aquaculture can be a double-edged sword and can harm the environment under certain conditions.
  • Locating a fish farm in a high current area allows for better waste dispersal than in a low current area. This is not a concern for wild caught salmon with access to its natural environment.
  • Non-native stock becomes an issue should any fish escape. Aside from competing with the local species and changing the composition of the food chain, disease and parasites that did not exist in an area can arise because of salmon farming. Wild salmon exist in their native environment and are already a part of the food chain and adapted to the pathogens in that environment.
  • Depending on its composition, fish feed can contribute to over-fishing unlike wild salmon, which sources its diet from its natural environment.

RESEARCH STRATEGY

To meet the requirements of this request for the pros and cons of wild versus farmed salmon, the research team began with a straightforward search for the information. This search yielded several sources used in the brief along with information to satisfy the second research request on why farmed salmon is better nutritionally for someone. For the final request on the environmental impact of salmon farming, the team did a general search which yielded several sources used in the final brief. 


Sources
Sources

From Part 01
Quotes
  • "Atlantic, Chinook, Chum, Coho, Pink, and Sockeye Salmon are the six types of salmon consumed in the US."
  • "the most frequently consumed seafood product in the U.S. for most of the past decade."
Quotes
  • "frequent consumers of seafood tend to have higher incomes."
  • "more likely to be college graduates and are more likely to live alone."
  • "their average basket is three times more profitable than non-seafood eaters’ purchases."
  • "only 21% of adults eat seafood the recommended two times per week by the US Department of Agriculture."
  • "the first of its kind and only represents data points rather than trends."
Quotes
  • "have the effect of driving out cheaper options — pricing out lower-income consumers."