For the past 6 months we have been at a farm that has drastically under performed - so we made the difficult decision to reduce supply rather than relax our standards. Our time at the Bennett sea farm reminded us that even our best efforts, even all the passion and experience in the world sometimes isn't enough to overcome Mother Nature. The main problem was that we were limited to harvesting from this one area as the fish at our other farms in Nootka Sound were not mature and not ready to be harvested. It meant that we had no other options. Bennett's troubles were due to a lack of oxygen in the water because of a lack of storm activity in the fall (this meant less turbulence in the water column and less oxygen - when this happens fish struggle and can't be fed and they fail to thrive which causes other problems). The fish were smaller and less of them met the Skuna Bay standard (a quality criteria we weren't willing to bend). This is the one farm location where we see this.
For more than 2 years we Craftsman Farmers of Skuna Bay have been proudly raising great salmon for great chefs. In doing this we have used our experience, our knowledge and generally our love for what we do to ensure that every time the chef receives their box of Skuna Bay in their kitchen, the fish in that carton arrive in 'fresh-from-the-ocean' condition. That has been the mission and we have searched for ways (small and large) to control every little variable that can affect that experience.
Doing this and seeing the chefs' response to our work has been very rewarding and it motivates us to continue doing what we are doing: improving and driving for better results for our chef customers.
Yet for these past few months we have been reminded that ultimately we Craftsman Farmers can't control everything, especially Mother Nature. We have been harvesting at a farm since last December that has consistently given us challenges that are
It’s Thanksgiving week which reminds me that it is a good time to reflect on the many blessings we at Skuna Bay have been afforded this year and since our inception in November of 2011 in Southern California when we delivered our first salmon to a chef. It sure has been humbling to have some of the greatest chefs in North America ask for and appreciate our salmon.
When we began this journey two years ago with our first distributor partner Santa Monica Seafood, we had no idea where things would go. We knew we wanted to achieve two things: one we wanted to give chefs a great salmon experience every time they ordered it so that they could always have confidence that they would be putting their best in front of their customers. And two, we hoped to show that it is possible to responsibly rear salmon in its natural ocean environment with more attention to detail and with a focus on high standards. We hope we are achieving that but the task is never complete.
The question I get asked the most seems to be "how do you ensure great texture?"
Texture drives all in a salmon experience and the variables that determine great texture are mostly controllable. So that's what we focus in on. The big picture is water that has a strong tidal current so fish are swimming against resistance and building up strong muscles. Lower pen densities are important too so the fish has room to swim. At harvest is the most critical time - we must make sure the fish are neither stressed nor fatigued because that would introduce lactic acid into their muscles and would affect texture. We ensure we harvest in small "pockets" and time it so the fish are in the pocket no longer than one hour. Then we move our salmon to the processor so they are inspected, selected and packed before they go into rigor so no one is handling a stiff fish and possibly tearing their fillets. The final piece is that closed system where, once the fish is packed, no one opens the box till it arrives in the chef's kitchen. That way, the fish always maintains the right temperature and stays like it was when it came out of the ocean.
I am a salmon farmer and very proud to be doing what I am doing. I have farmed fish for 25 years in Scotland, New Zealand, Canada and I even spent two years in Papua New Guinea as a volunteer helping people set up their own farms in order to feed their population.
I believe raising salmon in their natural ocean environment is one solution to the world’s problems. We help feed the world and in the process reduce pressure on the wild salmon populations. In fact, if there was enough wild salmon to go around we certainly wouldn’t need to exist. But there isn’t and we can help with that.
We realize not everyone in the world does a good job farming salmon but we are trying to show how it can be done right. And now with our development of Skuna Bay, we are challenging the status quo – trying to show great chefs in Vancouver (but also all over North America) how salmon can be raised responsibly. We hope that you will help us deliver on that vision.
from Wendy Bazilian, DrPH, RD Doctor of Public Health, Registered Dietitian and Author
We face a sea of choices when it comes to diet and good health. . .but salmon is one choice that offers so much when it comes to quality nutrition and fits swimmingly into our healthy lifestyle!
Salmon is a SuperFood
Salmon is a nutritional powerhouse, best known perhaps for being the highest whole foods source of heart-healthy omega-3 fats. But it’s also an important supply of a number of other key nutrients essential to health.
As a doctor of public health and registered dietitian working with clients, I am often asked what a person should eat for optimal health. The good news is that there clearly are some delicious foods that enhance health when eaten frequently, while other foods may do the opposite. And as a food enthusiast who works with professional chefs and at-home cooks—enjoying delicious meals in both settings frequently—I know that when it comes to food, while health is essential, flavor is also key.
NAME: Blair Billard AGE: 41
FARM: Nootka Sound farms – Williamson, Concepcion, Atrevida, Muchalaht South
REGION: West Coast Vancouver Island
YEARS AS A SALMON FARMER: 16 WHY YOU BECAME A SALMON FARMER: I have always been fascinated with the life cycle of salmon and have been working with them all of my life….. Salmon conservation, salmon enhancement, and then salmon farming. Salmon farming was a natural direction for me to take and I’m both happy, and proud to be a part of raising food for the world in a sustainable way. WHAT YOU LIKE MOST ABOUT RAISING SALMON IN THE OCEAN: I have the most beautiful office setting in the world. Some of the most incredible experiences I’ve had in nature happened while I was on the salmon farm in the Pacific Ocean. I’ve seen whales, dolphins, eagles, seals, sea lions, bears, and wolves just to name a few.
NAME: Steve Munro
AGE: Old enough
FARM: Williamson Pass in Nootka Sound
NUMBER OF YEARS AS A SALMON FARMER: 12 great years
WHY YOU BECAME A SALMON FARMER: Being a salmon farmer was a convenience at first. If I had known how fulfilling the work was, I would have gone to school and pursed a career in aquaculture years ago.
WHAT YOU LIKE MOST ABOUT FARMING SALMON IN THE OCEAN: Having the opportunity of working outdoors in some of the best waters in the world, while growing a viable resource for people to eat.
FAVORITE WAY TO EAT SALMON: There isn’t any way I wouldn’t eat salmon!
WHAT YOU ARE PASSIONATE ABOUT: Family, friends. I believe that what I do for a living helps people.
BIGGEST CHALLENGE YOU FACE DAILY: Being away from my family. It helps that I am working at something I love and having an understanding family
BEST MEMORY: The first time my family came out to stay on the farm, which gave me the opportunity to show them what I do.
THING YOU ARE MOST PROUD ABOUT: That I have had the opportunity of working with Skuna Bay, growing some of the best fish in the world.
At this year's US Open, the first for Skuna Bay Salmon to be available at the world famous tennis tournament, Dave Mergle and Jonathan Larry attended to make sure our salmon was meeting expectations. Here is their story...
Thursday, Sept. 6th: Last flight to Newark, NJ, only direct flight to NYC. Off to the Open to see, taste, smell how the Open's great chefs are preparing their Skuna Bay Salmon.
Friday, Sept. 7th: 10 AM: meeting at Food and Wine magazine for a private Skuna Bay unveiling and tasting for Tina Ujlaki and the chefs from the test kitchen. Top Chef Jen Carroll meets us at the door with her own special knives. Jen loves our salmon and agreed to fillet the fish and give her own special insights into why she likes it. We meet Tina - she seems intrigued. Takes us to the test kitchen where one of our customers, Jonathan Sawyer from the Greenhouse Tavern in Cleveland happens to be. Hugs and high fives for everyone!
This week our standards and our commitment was tested. It wasn't easy for our Craftsman Farmers. But they refused to compromise their standards and fly our fish to the market.
Here's what happened: - one of our customers had an administrative snafu this week and their order was held up in their outbox: the order was missed - when we discovered this important order was missed we had a choice: fly the fish to market, miss the order or send another truck.
WE NEVER FLY OUR FISH. Our Craftsman Farmers are serious about this because in addition to helping us keep our carbon footprint low (sending fish on a plane pumps out tons of carbon - sending it on a truck is better), it ensures we keep control of the cold chain and ensure our fish are never left on a tarmac somewhere.
We also think customers should see a benefit from these high standards and not be penalized - so missing the order was out of the question.