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No more farmed salmon at Target

Store's move reminds us of difficulty of balancing quality and budget. How do you save?

By Teresa Mears Jan 28, 2010 2:56PM

Target’s decision this week to quit selling farmed salmon brings up a perennial issue of frugal grocery shopping: How do you balance the desire for quality with the need to save money?


Farmed salmon is usually cheaper than wild salmon. But, many question the effect of salmon farming on the environment, and questions also have been raised about higher levels of cancer-causing chemicals in at least some farmed salmon.


While fish is considered part of a healthy diet, finding quality seafood at an affordable price can be a challenge.


Kimi Harris at The Nourishing Gourmet has six tips for eating quality seafood on a budget, including serving smaller portions, creating dishes that mix seafood with pasta or rice or looking for store sales. She doesn’t have much use for farmed salmon.


“Yes, it is a lot cheaper, but they are fed wild fish, overcrowded and diseased, dyed to hide its unnatural gray flesh, and antibiotics routinely were used to treat them. They aren’t as nutritious, they aren’t good for the environment and probably are not going to taste as good either,” she wrote.

The Monterey Bay Aquarium is considered the authority on sustainable fish, and it has a useful chart on salmon labels and which are best to eat, at least for the environment. It finds at least some farmed salmon OK. The aquarium also has information on other fish species.


Kris at Cheap Healthy Good came up with a long list of seafood recipes that are healthy, low in calories, good for the environment and easy on your budget. She didn’t include salmon at all, because of the cost of wild Alaska salmon, the only kind she would consider.

Carrie Kirby at Wise Bread used to eat farmed salmon but gave it up because she thought the PCB level made it bad for her health. She buys canned wild salmon and figures the savings gives her the right to occasionally splurge on fresh wild salmon.


She also notes there are other ways to get the heart-healthy Omega 3 fatty acids that salmon and some other fish provide. Those include flaxseed, flax meal and flaxseed oil.


Myscha Theriault at Wise Bread has lots of ideas for eating seafood on the cheap, including using frozen and canned and buying the smoked salmon trim. She also likes surimi, the imitation crabmeat (really a pulverized white fish) used in most California rolls.


Wild salmon is in season in the summer, and if you find a good deal in those months, it probably really is wild salmon. In other months, a fish labeled wild salmon may or may not really be wild. Consumer Reports did an investigation in 2005 and found that more than half of the so-called “wild salmon” it bought was really farm-raised -- at wild salmon prices, about double the cost of farmed. Restaurants also have been caught substituting cheaper fish for what customers ordered.


We’ve dealt with this issue by not eating salmon at all (can’t stand the stuff) and we refuse to be in the same room with canned seafood. We’d rather cook a nice vegetarian meal and take fish oil supplements. We also gave up tilapia and farmed shrimp after concluding that they were basically tasteless at any price. We’d rather buy higher quality seafood half as often.


What are your tricks for eating seafood on a budget? Are there other items where you’re finding it difficult to balance quality and price?


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