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Scottish salmon producers want ‘farmed’ removed from packs

Scottish salmon producers want the word ‘farmed’ removed from packaging labels, in a move that campaigners view as “deeply troubling”.

Like Champagne, Baklava and Sauerkraut, salmon products from Scotland receive protection under the Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) labelling. The product has had this award since 2004, which means only farm-raised Atlantic salmon from Scotland can be called ‘Scottish Farmed Salmon’. 

However, Salmon Scotland, which represents producers in the country, feels the time is right to “consider whether the PGI reflects what consumers understand our product to be”. The group is therefore seeking what is reported as a “non-minor” amendment from Defra to change the PGI label from ‘Scottish Farmed Salmon’ to ‘Scottish Salmon’.

In a blog Salmon Scotland claimed that “in practice, most retailers and customers understand ‘Scottish Farmed Salmon’ is ‘Scottish salmon’. The name change simply reflects this.”

Wild Scottish salmon is not sold in supermarkets, with farm-raised salmon now supplying 100% of the increasing demand for fresh Atlantic salmon. It is the UK’s top food export, worth £600m, and with a domestic market value of £1.2bn a year. A 2021 survey of the UK’s top chefs suggested that farm-raised Scottish salmon is “the best in the world”.

Abigail Penny, executive director at Animal Equality said the move to amend the label is “deeply troubling”, however. In a post on social media, she said it posed a serious risk of misleading consumers, jeopardising their ability to make truly informed choices. “Scottish salmon are farmed; this undeniable fact must not be deliberately hidden from consumers who deserve to know the truth.”

Referring to footage her investigators have obtained of “dead and dying salmon on farms”, Penny added: “The inescapable reality is that tens of millions of Atlantic Salmon suffer at the hands of the Scottish farmed salmon industry every year. As a society, we must prioritise transparency.”

Research by Fidra, an environmental charity based in Scotland, has showed that around 70% of consumers want to have access to information about the salmon products they buy on packaging. However, consumers are unable to easily find clear information about the salmon they are eating and how its production impacts the environment.

A Fidra analysis in 2021 found that Aldi, Asda, Lidl and Morrisons all failed to offer any information on the farms used or their suppliers. Only Iceland, M&S, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose indicated their suppliers and sources on pack.

The charity is calling on retailers to show support for supply chain transparency through development of a comprehensive database, which would offer accessible information on individual farms and their environmental performance. This could be used to produce an online dashboard.

It still remains a requirement of all seafood products on sale in the UK to list production method on packaging and the change of PGI name does not affect this statutory requirement. The back of the packaging will continue to make clear that that salmon is farm-raised in Scotland, said Salmon Scotland.