Farmed salmon greener than pork, beef


SeafoodSource staff

Published on
May 10, 2009

A study administered by fish feed manufacturer Skretting found that farmed salmon leaves a smaller carbon footprint than its terrestrial counterparts.

Conducted by Swedish Institute for Food and Biotechnology (SIK), the life cycle assessment  (LCA) compared the amount of carbon dioxide emitted to produce a salmon meal to chicken, pork and beef meals. The salmon meal yielded about the same amount of CO2 emissions per kilogram of meat as a chicken meal, but half as much as a pork meal and one-seventh as much as a beef meal.

The study encompassed the entire life cycle of a salmon dinner. The fish were raised in Norway and shipped to Stockholm, Sweden, for consumption. The LCA began with the raw materials used in the feed, feed production and transportation, fish farming and processing, delivery to the wholesaler and retailer and then to the consumer, ending with preparation of a salmon fillet in a home. The study quantified all emissions that contribute to global warming, acidification and eutrophication and all electricity and fuels used.

The comparisons are based on the food’s GWP (Global Warming Potential). The study revealed that salmon’s GWP was 2 kilograms CO2-equivalent per kilogram of salmon fillet.

The study also showed that salmon feed production contributes 80 percent of the total emissions.

“On the one hand, this shows us that if we want to improve the salmon’s GWP, then the feed would be the right place to start,” said Trygve Berg Lea, international product manager at Skretting. “However, we must not allow ourselves to be blinded by figures either. The reason why the percentage of greenhouse gases is so high for feed production is because the fish farming phase and the activities that come after feed in the value chain produce very little greenhouse gases.”

”We were aware that the marine raw ingredients in the feed contribute significantly to the salmon’s GWP, but the study also shows that use of vegetable raw ingredients results in greenhouse gas emissions,” added Berg Lea. “This shows just how complex it can be to decide whether a product is ‘eco-friendly.’ A sustainable feed with a low content of marine raw ingredients does not necessarily need to be a greener feed.”

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