For years now it has become evident that the supply of wild-caught salmon is diminishing at alarming levels both locally, where B & E Meats and Seafood is located in the Puget Sound area, and around the world. Along came farmed salmon as a viable solution to meet the demand of a dwindling supply, but with that solution came numerous problems related to the rearing of salmon in confined pens.
Although several companies around the world have overcome significant challenges to raise a high quality farmed salmon product, a negative stigma of “farmed” salmon persists, confounding the public about whether or not to buy farmed salmon at all. It is now being recognized that aquaculture is one of the most sustainable ways possible to produce animal protein.
To meet the demand for fresh salmon, co-owners Jeff Green and Steve Dunaychuk of B & E Meats and Seafood, along with their expert Fish Mongers and Butchers, Phil Bishop, Gordy Maggs, Cabe Basilius, Kyle Layos, Steviss Webb and Shaun Olver, scoured the globe to find what they believe is the best farmed King Salmon source in the world – Ōra King.
“Why?” you might ask. Green says, “We want to have the freshest salmon available year-round and what that means for us is fresh, wild salmon when in season, and a pristine fresh, farmed salmon in the off season.” Once customers gain a better understanding of Green’s philosophy they acknowledge that they would rather have fresh over frozen salmon, and B & E Meats and Seafood’s solution meets their needs.
Dunhaychuk adds, “It’s an education process because some of our customers will straight out reject farmed fish due, in part, to the bad wrap some salmon farms have given the industry. Once customers understand that Ōra King salmon, farm raised in New Zealand, are cared for in a far superior and humane way than their counterparts, there is no doubt left about serving them. The quality control is exceptional, and because of the superior marbling, it is very tasty too.” The highly prized King salmon is a special and very rare species of salmon, making up less than one half percent of the world’s salmon population. Ōra King is a unique breed of this rare species, the result of a breeding program dating back to 1994.
Green adds, “We are fortunate to be in Seattle where salmon naturally live in our waters, but we are also close to Alaska where salmon is delivered fresh, along with a majority of other fish species, and then re-distributed to the rest of the United States. What that means for us is that B & E has access to fresh fish a day or two after it’s been wild caught and sometimes even within a few hours.
As the only retailer in the Puget Sound area to be carrying Ōra King, B & E Meats and Seafood expresses a sense of pride to be able to offer both wild-caught Washington and Alaskan salmon (and Halibut), that is flown in daily when in season as well as a pristine farmed salmon (Ōra King), that they can brag about from the Marlborough Sounds of New Zealand.
King Salmon eggs destined to produce Ōra King are nurtured in the crystal waters flowing from Te Waikoropupu Springs at the hatchery in Takaka. The juvenile salmon are raised in the Springs for seven months before being transported to the Marlborough Sounds. The Sounds provide a strong current for the fish to swim against for another 16-20 months —thus emulating the lifecycle of the wild King salmon. The waters of this region have been verified as some of the clearest in the world, an ideal beginning to the life cycle for Ōra King salmon.
“Why Ōra King?” Dunaychuk says, “Ōra King stood out to us because of the ratio of fish to water (2% fish to 98% water), the balanced diet that the salmon are fed, and the proper handling of the fish from a tiny egg, right down to their humane husbandry practices.”
Environmental stewardship and sustainable practices are at the core of the operations. Ōra King farms are isolated in the beautiful Marlborough Sounds of New Zealand, where traditional husbandry techniques are used to raise the highest quality salmon in a healthy and wholesome way. The flavor profile of Ōra King salmon is balanced and elegant. The high oil content naturally present in the Ōra King salmon makes it hard to overcook. The Ōra King salmon breed is known for it’s striking marbled fat lines within the bright orange flesh, instantly drawing comparison to Wagyu beef (which B & E Meats and Seafood carries in their meat case).
Ōra King has received a “Green, Best Choice” rating from Seafood Watch. New Zealand King salmon is the only marine farmed salmon to have achieved this rating. An honor that is virtually unheard of for a farmed salmon. The green rating connects human and ocean health and refers to the ability of the company to manage a sustainable practice that is not harmful to other species.