Category: News

What does a farmed salmon eat? Lots of nutritious wild fish…

3rd Mar 22 by Lia ní Aodha

Salmon are farmed using fish oil and meal made from millions of tonnes of wild-caught fish most of which are food-grade.

Based on current practices, farming salmon demands wild fish for feed. But what if we ate some of those wild fish directly instead and only used byproducts (the heads, bones and other trimmings) left over from fish processing in salmon feed? How about if we added some mussels or carp—aquaculture species that don’t rely on wild caught fish for feed—to our plates too?

Building on our previous work on farmed salmon, these are questions that Feedback, along with a team of scientists from Cambridge, Lancaster and Liverpool Universities set out to answer in a study recently published in PLOS Sustainability and Transformation.

Highlighting some stark ecological and social inefficiencies surrounding the production of farmed salmon, the analysis shows that if we removed whole wild-caught fish from salmon feed and made some changes to the types of seafood we eat, we could leave millions of tonnes of fish in the sea and produce more nutritious seafood at the same time. We could even still eat a little farmed salmon.

Sounds like a win-win!

Often presented as a way of relieving pressure on wild fish stocks and providing much needed nutrition for a growing population, aquaculture is the world’s fastest growing food sector. But some aquaculture species, like Atlantic salmon, are farmed using fish oil and meal made from millions of tonnes of wild-caught fish, most of which are nutritious food-grade fish that could be eaten directly instead.

We know salmon farming’s (continued) dependence on wild caught fish is unsustainable—ecologically and socially—in terms of the quantities of wild fish it requires to grow a kilo of fish and the fact that, fueled by the industry’s rapid growth over the past two decades, fish for feed are increasingly caught off the coast of West Africa, where there is increasing evidence that this is impacting both livelihoods and food security.

Looking at Scotland’s salmon industry specifically, the third largest worldwide and the UK’s largest food export by value, what’s novel about this research is its focus on the transfer of micronutrients from the wild fish fed to farmed salmon. Placed fourth in terms of the ‘big five’ fish species (cod, haddock, tuna, salmon and prawns) consumed in Britain, (farmed) salmon is marketed as being a rich source of important vitamins, minerals and fatty acids. And it is. Interestingly, however, many of the wild fish fed to farmed salmon have even higher concentrations of key micronutrients than their farmed counterparts

So, what happens to those essential micronutrients when these ‘feed’ fish are eaten by salmon? It turns out a huge proportion are a lost. More than half (!), in fact. In some cases, up to 99%! In other words, farming salmon, from a nutritional perspective, is an inefficient way of delivering required micronutrients to human diets.

Prawns aside. the ‘big five’ fish species currently favoured by British consumers are all just that, big, high trophic species. In contrast, many of these ‘feed’ fish are small – think herrings, sprats, sardines, and anchovies. So, what if we were to eat some of these small ‘feed’ fish instead? To investigate this, three alternative production scenarios were developed whereby farmed salmon were only produced using fish byproducts, and then more wild-caught fish, mussels or carp were added for human consumption. All alternative production scenarios produced more seafood that was more nutritious than farmed salmon AND left 66-82% of feed fish in the sea.

Based on findings on the Scottish salmon industry, theses alternative scenarios were then applied at a global scale. One scenario shows that farming more carp and less salmon, using only feed from fish byproducts, could leave 3.7 million tonnes of wild fish in the sea while producing 39% more seafood overall. So now we’re talking a socio-ecological win-win-win! More and better fish on our plates, and more in the sea.

These findings show salmon farming, in its current form, is not only an inefficient way of producing good food but quite irrational from a social and ecological standpoint – in terms of human nutrition and food security, unnecessary pressure on fish stocks, and overall fish production. Removing whole wild caught fish from aquafeed would go some way to mitigating these impacts.

Aquaculture will have an important role to play in terms of meeting global food demands in a manner which is sustainable – indeed, a key aspect of this study is that it does offer more sustainable alternatives. However, until marine-fed aquaculture, such as intensive salmon farming, moves away from using whole wild fish questions will remain regarding the extent to which this can become a reality.

In its current guise certainly, the ‘unpaid’ environmental and social costs of farming salmon for high income markets means this mode of production is not only unsustainable but raises serious ethical questions as well.











What can you do next?

Follow us on Instagram to see our work in action.

Follow us

Wild fish stocks squandered to feed farmed salmon, study finds

3rd Mar 22 by Christina O'Sullivan

Wealthy nations accused of depriving poorer ones of nutrient-rich food and wasting mackerel, sardine and anchovy stocks.

What can you do next?

Follow us on Instagram to see our work in action.

Follow us

Swap salmon for sardines to keep 4 million tonnes of fish in the sea

2nd Mar 22 by Christina O'Sullivan

A leading cause of overfishing is, ironically, the demand for fish feed. Over 1/3 of all fish caught worldwide are fed to farmed animals.

What can you do next?

Follow us on Instagram to see our work in action.

Follow us

Supermarkets in the Netherlands are avoiding responsibility for one third of their CO2 & methane emissions

2nd Nov 21 by Frank Mechielsen, Campaign Lead, Netherlands

Our new report explores whether Dutch supermarkets are doing enough to tackle the climate impact of their meat and dairy.

Today, Feedback EU published its first report (in Dutch or read the English summary here): a brief exploring the role of Dutch supermarkets in addressing the country’s climate footprint by taking responsibility for the environmental impact of their high meat and dairy sales. Frank Mechielsen, Campaign Lead in the Netherlands, explores how they’re measuring up.

During the Climate Summit COP26 this week in Glasgow, it is important that Dutch supermarkets show their ambitions in their fight against climate change. In their announcements, they emphasize the reduction of CO2 emissions in their own stores and their transport, but what they don’t mention is that this is only a small part of their overall emissions. Like in the UK, 95% of supermarket emissions come from the supply chain. About a third of this is caused by the production of meat and dairy. Two major retailers, Albert Heijn and Lidl, are starting to become transparent about their meat sales, but no supermarket has a plan to reduce meat and dairy sales.

The report draws on a poll by IPSOS among a representative sample of 994 Dutch citizens. Four in ten young people see a greater role for supermarkets in reducing meat consumption. For example, by fewer promotions on meat and more promotion of meat substitutes. Supporters of the Green party (GroenLinks), the Party of the Animals, and Democrates D66 also expect more leadership from supermarkets on this theme. Furthermore, 18% of young people up to the age of 35 say they do not buy meat, almost twice as high as average.

With an 80% market share, the five largest retailers have an enormous influence on the food system in the Netherlands. Last year, supermarkets saw their turnover increase by 14% thanks to the impact of Covid-19. Nearly half (45%) of consumers under 35 believe that supermarkets should reinvest their Covid-19 profits in offering more plant-based and sustainably produced products.

Dutch supermarkets continue to offer too much cheap meat, which causes more than half of the food-related greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. In the Netherlands, livestock is the driving force behind the nitrogen crisis, and growing emissions of methane, a highly potent greenhouse gas. Supermarkets must take more responsibility for the climate impact throughout their entire chain by halving the sale of meat and dairy by 2030, and offer more healthier and plant-based food. If they don’t, they won’t be able to achieve their climate ambitions.

The report analysed data and commitments from the five major retailers and concludes that Albert Heijn, through parent company AholdDelhaize, is the only retailer to be transparent about greenhouse gas emissions across their entire supply chain, including the part caused by animal proteins.

Supermarkets are starting to respond to this growing climate priority. Albert Heijn is committed to achieving a 50/50 balance in animal/vegetable proteins by 2025 and showed for the first time its current ratio in protein sales: 70% animal to 30% vegetable. Furthermore Lidl announced that 25% of their total revenue derives from fresh meat and dairy products.  Jumbo set a new target to increase their plant-based alternatives from the current 4% to 10% by 2025. But no major supermarket has so far set specific targets to reduce meat and dairy sales. The much smaller Ekoplaza is at the forefront of this and has specific targets to reduce meat sales by 2022.

Feedback’s UK scorecard, published in June 2021, showed that none of the UK’s 10 largest supermarkets are taking steps to reduce meat supply. They continue to encourage meat consumption through low-price promotions, labelling and product placement. In 2022, Feedback will launch a scorecard together with partners from other EU countries to assess supermarkets on their commitments, policies and trade practices to tackle climate change and the transition to less and better meat.

The recent Food Policy Coalition report, to which Feedback contributed, emphasises the importance of a healthy and sustainable food environment. Supermarkets must use their marketing resources to enable their customers to make healthy and sustainable choices, which means eating far less meat and dairy and where they do choose to eat meat buying ‘better’. Instead of the current fixation on price, supermarkets should place other values ​​such as human and animal health, environment, climate, fair income for farmers and workers much more centrally in their communication to their customers.

The Food Transition Coalition (TCV), in which Feedback EU participates, advocates an ambitious ‘protein transition’ from 60/40 to 40/60 in animal/vegetable proteins to be achieved by 2030. During the ‘Plant the Future’ dinner last month, more than 100 organisations and companies came together to discuss how plant-based can become the new normal. Politicians must make the protein transition a spearhead in policy aimed at food, climate and health. Businesses must be directed to adjust the supply and promotion of animal products. The True Animal Protein Price Coalition (TAPPC), active this week at the CoP in Glasgow, promotes an environmental tax on meat. According to the PBL, this leads to a reduction of 2 Mton CO2 eq. per year, a small coal-fired power station. A large majority of the population in the Netherlands supports an environmental tax on meat in the coalition agreement, which D66 and Christen Unie also support.

A third of AholdDelhaize’s total emissions are produced by meat and dairy. This corresponds to the annual emissions from heating 6 million homes, three quarters of all homes in the Netherlands. Supermarkets must increase their climate ambitions and sell less meat and more vegetables, fruit, legumes, nuts and grains. It is especially important during this COP26 Climate Summit in Glasgow that companies set a good example.

What can you do next?

Follow us on Instagram to see our work in action.

Follow us

Supermarket scorecard reveals UK retailers are fuelling demand for meat and dairy at expense of the climate

17th Jun 21 by Jessica Sinclair Taylor

UK supermarkets are fuelling demand for meat and dairy products which is harming public health and the climate.

UK supermarkets are fuelling demand for meat and dairy products which is harming public health and the climate, reveals a new supermarket scorecard published by environmental charity, Feedback, today.

The scorecard ranks the UK’s top 10 supermarkets on their efforts to reduce the environmental cost of the meat and dairy products they sell. The Co-op, Tesco, and Waitrose top the rankings but even the Co-op, the best performing retailer, scored just 45%.  Asda, Iceland and Lidl ranked bottom with the worst performer, Lidl, scoring just 17%.

Carina Millstone, Executive Director of Feedback, said: “UK supermarkets are continuing to drive demand for meat and dairy products that are already responsible for 15% of greenhouse gas emissions – and fuelling deforestation in the Amazon and elsewhere. It’s time for supermarkets to step up to the plate, slash their meat and dairy products and offer customers more sustainable and healthier options”.

The scorecard revealed that many supermarkets have improved their environmental policies since the last assessment in 2019 but that they were failing to translate this into action:

  • All 10 supermarkets actively encourage meat consumption through promotions, and not just to avoid waste when products near their expiry dates. This means retailers are fuelling – and not simply responding to – demand for meat.
  • Only one supermarket, the Co-op, is accurately measuring and publicly reporting on the climate impact of the goods it sells – but only for its own label products.
  • Half the supermarkets including Tesco, M&S and ALDI continue to use misleading or ‘fake farm’ labels and names such as ‘Trusted Farms’ which give the impression that their meat is produced to higher standards than is the reality.
  • Options such as organic or free range make up less than 20% of the products offered by all the supermarkets, while Iceland offers no free range or organic options. Only 3 retailers – Asda, Morrisons and Tesco – ensure that more than a quarter of the ready to cook meals they offer are vegetarian or vegan.
  • None of the supermarkets reveal how much meat and dairy they sell as a proportion of their protein sales, making it difficult to track their progress.

More promising signs include the steps taken by all retailers to promote healthy fruit and vegetable consumption, commitments from the Co-op and Sainsbury’s to link board or senior leadership remuneration to achieving environmental outcomes, and supermarkets’ work to put pressure on Brazilian suppliers to prevent products linked to deforestation from entering their supply chains. All the retailers, with the exception of Iceland and ASDA, have made a public commitment to drop meat linked to deforestation; however they have yet to remove these products, including chicken and pork fed on soya grown in deforested areas, from their shelves.

Meat and dairy production contributes to climate change through direct emissions from animals and their waste and through the destruction of important ecosystems such as the Amazon rainforest to raise cattle or grow soy for animal feed. The UK imports the majority of its soya from South America, at least 90% of which is fed to animals, particularly chicken and pork.

The 10 supermarkets control 94% of the UK grocery market and have a huge influence on what we eat through the products they sell, and the way in which they market, package and promote them.

Many customers want to reduce the health and environmental impacts of their food with 43% of people surveyed by YouGov say they often make the choice to reduce their meat consumption when shopping.

The government’s Committee on Climate Change has said the UK need to cut meat and dairy consumption by 20% by 2030 to meet its climate commitments while the University of Oxford estimates consumption of meats such as beef should be cut by as much as 89% to meet the NHS Eatwell guidelines.

Carina Millstone said: “With 3 out of 4 shoppers visiting supermarkets several times a week, it is clear that retailers have a special responsibility to help their customers enjoy food that is both good for them and for the planet. Supermarkets must also take responsibility for the emissions of their sales, and commit to reducing these by selling much less meat and dairy and much more fresh fruit and veg.”

Simon Billing, Executive Director of Eating Better added: “Feedback’s scorecard shows retailers are still focused on boosting meat sales, despite setting net zero targets and pledging to help us eat healthier and more sustainably. Making it easier for shoppers to buy more meat and dairy than they need, or probably want is not the way forward for our health, or that of the planet.”

Mathieu Flamini, former professional footballer and environmental entrepreneur, said: “Reducing my consumption of animal protein and dairy improved my health and my performance on and off the pitch: I was able to recover quicker and cope with the daily workload better. I was not only doing myself good by eating less meat, but as a nature lover I was also able to reduce my impact on the planet. Together let’s all do our bit, including also the businesses like retailers who supply us so much of the food we eat.”

What can you do next?

Follow us on Instagram to see our work in action.

Follow us