The Norwegian aquaculture industry constantly strives to reach new landmarks of environmental sustainability.
Responsible harvesting of the wild fish used in salmon feed is an important key to reducing environmental impact. To ensure sustainability, Norwegian feed producers demand that raw marine feed ingredients come from sources with scientifically regulated fishing quotas, and not from unregulated fisheries that exploit and deplete wild fish stocks.
In addition, salmon feed makes sure to only use species that are not suitable or in demand for human consumption. The majority of the natural marine raw material in salmon feed comes from fish byproduct (cut-offs, head, bone, skin) left over from other fish industries, or industrial fish (small species that have a short generation time and contain lots of bones, like anchoveta and blue whiting).
Salmon aquaculture is among the most resource-efficient methods of food production, as salmon are more than twice as efficient as pork and chicken at converting feed to energy, and ultimately meat for human consumption. One of the reasons why the salmon is so efficient at using feed is that it is a cold-blooded animal, as opposed to pork and chicken, which are both warm-blooded animals. Salmon do not need to add energy to maintain a functional body temperature. Furthermore, salmon don’t need energy to stand upright; they are essentially weightless in water. So all of that food goes to weight gain and is not lost on energy output.
Over the last 30 years, the industry has reduced the volume of feed needed to farm 2.2 pounds of Salmon from Norway by 15 to 20%, to a mere 2.5 pounds of feed. As farming techniques advance in the future, this number will continue to fall.
The independent Norwegian research institute, SINTEF, conducted in 2009 a study of carbon footprints and energy use of Norwegian seafood products. The conclusion of this work is that salmon from Norway is competitive compared with land-based production of meat products. The study states that the CO2 footprint of ocean-farmed Norwegian salmon at farmgate is 6.4 pounds. The numbers for beef, pork and chicken are 66.1, 13 and 6 pounds, respectively.
A similar study conducted by Environmental Working Group and CleanMetrics Corp in 2011 also concluded that ocean-farmed salmon is a better alternative than U.S. lamb, beef and pork.