Finding high quality salmon can be difficult and confusing. Is it wild or farmed? Where was it caught? When? Local seafood retailers often don’t have the answers. In contrast, Vital Choice management in USA has over 50 years of experience harvesting Alaskan salmon. You are guaranteed to receive the highest quality, most nutritious product available. Less than one percent of all Alaskan salmon produced meet Vital Choice quality standards, so you can be sure that your Vital Choice salmon represents the very pinnacle of purity, flavor and freshness. The other 99% just won’t do. We trust that you will find here the answers to many questions you may have about the superior quality of Vital ChoiceSeafood but feel free to contact us if you have any others and we will do our best to answer them for you. You can also find further information on the many benefits of Vital Choice Wild Sockeye Salmon from the many other pages on the website that you can explore at your leisure. Enjoy learning about this wonderful 100% natural, health enhancing food!
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What is the difference between Vital Choice canned Wild Red Sockeye Salmon and other brands of canned red salmon I can buy at the supermarket?
Randy explains: The quality of canned salmon is extremely variable. Consequently, many people who have experienced poor quality canned salmon wrongly believe that its all bad. This couldn't be further from the truth, as our many testimonials reveal. The flavor of canned salmon is directly related to the quality of the fish that goes into the can. Because canning hides poor quality, many processors use their worst quality fish for it. Having been in the industry for many years, we understand this and are extremely selective when purchasing canned salmon on your behalf. We personally sample every lot we buy.
Here's an example of the kind of 'Smoke and Mirrors' you avoid when you purchase the Vital Choice brand:
We once contacted a processor about purchasing some canned red salmon from them. We told them we wanted only fresh-packed fish, and specifically wanted to avoid any that had been packed from previously frozen salmon. (While pre-freezing is quite common, it sometimes causes the fats to congeal and rise to the surface during the canning process.) The company rep told me, "don't worry, we turn our cans upside-down during the cooking process so that they (the congealed fats) won't be visable to your customer."
We said "no thanks" and have never been back. Few if any supermarkets are this discriminating when purchasing their canned salmon, nor would they be willing to pay the higher price necessary to obtain the very best quality. This distinction is the primary difference between Vital Choice canned salmon products and other brands. We know fish and buy the best. Price is always a secondary factor.
Vital Choice management has over 50 years experience in the Alaska fishing industry. During this time we have developed many close relationships with harvesters and processors. As a result, we are highly qualified to navigate through a lot of marginal product and select the very best for you. In short, we know when, where and how to obtain the very best of the catch and are committed to providing it for you. Only premium quality sustainably harvested wild salmon get the Vital Choice label and we guarantee every product we sell.
Here at Vital ChoiceAustralia we back this guarantee 100%.
For those of you who have wondered why you ought not consider other brands of seafood that are also labelled as wild, the following article written by the founder of VitalChoice in USA further explains the superiority of Vital ChoiceSeafood in every respect that determines the quality of the fish that will nourish you and your family.
How We Land the Best Fish The what, where, when, and how of “Why Vital Choice?” by Randy Hartnell
One topic I’ve not yet addressed in our newsletter is an important one: Why should someone seeking superior wild salmon choose Vital Choice? After all, the health and environmental advantages of choosing wild versus farmed salmon—better nutrition and culinary quality, protection of ocean ecosystems and salmon species—would seem to apply to all wild salmon.
But, as any experienced Alaskan fisherman can tell you, the quality of wild salmon varies widely and depends on several factors. I use the knowledge gained through commercial salmon fishing to select the best possible fish for you, our customer.
Here’s a quick summary of four variables that affect the quality of wild salmon; 1)Species,2)Regional Origin, 3)Harvest Timing, and4)Handling.
Superior species There are five distinct species of Pacific salmon, each with its own appearance, flavor, texture and nutritional profile. When it comes to salmon, oil content is a key determinant of flavor and nutritional value.
We select Sockeye, King and Silver salmon because they generally offer the best oil content. And, like all wild salmon, these species’ oil contains EPA and DHA: the omega-3 fatty acids proven to promote healthy hearts, brains, and joints. (You may be interested to know that, in addition to the well known omega-3s mentioned above, recent laboratory analysis revealed that Alaskan sockeye contain 34 other beneficial fatty acids!)
The other two Pacific salmon species, Pink and Chum, also have their niche in the marketplace. Most pinks are canned, while many chums (also marketed as "Arctic Keta" or "Silver Brite") are smoked. Compared with wild Pacific Sockeye, King, or Silver salmon, neither can compete consistently for culinary quality.
We also favor Sockeye, King and Silver for their rich red color, which they get from high levels of healthful carotenoids—primarily astaxanthin, which is one of the most potent and beneficial antioxidants known—up to 500 times or more powerful than vitamin E!
Finally, among commercial species, all wild Pacific salmon tend to be very low in mercury. World and U.S. health agencies alike consider Pacific wild salmon very safe to eat, even on a daily basis. (Our sashimi grade tuna is also unusually low in mercury, for reasons I’ll explain in a future issue.)
Location, location, location Alaskan salmon are like wine—harvested in diverse areas, each possessing unique regional characteristics that influence flavor, texture, and nutrient content.
Because I spent 20 years fishing Alaskan waters—and stay in close contact with my commercial-fishing colleagues—I know just where and when the finest specimens of each species of salmon can be caught.
For example, fish migrating to large rivers usually offer higher oil content—with its attendant flavor and health benefits—than salmon destined for smaller rivers. Salmon have evolved over thousands of years to be optimally suited to their particular migration pattern. Since they cease eating when they enter fresh water, they require sufficient energy reserves—fat to fuel their journey. Generally speaking, the longer the fresh-water segment of their odyssey, the more of these healthful fats they’ll store.
Harvest Timing Timing is another key quality factor. As salmon return to coastal waters seeking fresh water spawning grounds and stop eating, they begin to live off of their fat reserves. This results in loss of oil content and a fading of skin and flesh color. Salmon harvested in this relatively deteriorated state will ultimately be sold to less discriminating buyers, or to those focusing more upon price than quality. These fish can be identified by their dull or dark skin, which ideally should be a bright, shiny silver color.
Last winter I was visiting a Bread & Circus (Whole Foods Market) store in Massachusetts and, as always, took a stroll through the seafood section. In the freezer case I saw wild Alaskan salmon steaks exhibiting the dark skin indicative of late-run salmon. I wondered how many well meaning B&C customers would look beyond the ‘Alaska wild’ brand to notice the dark skin, and how many among those who purchased the substandard fish would be disappointed with their experience and go back to eating farmed salmon.
We are careful to select only those salmon that are caught at their peak condition, exhibiting bright scales, abundant healthful fats and carotenoid-rich, deep-red flesh.
Handle with care: slower-paced processing The rapid rise of salmon farming has driven many fishermen out of business, with corresponding negative impact on the salmon processing industry. (For example, North Pacific Seafoods in Cordova, Alaska shut down recently when Costco and Sam’s Clubs cancelled their contract with the processor and replaced their canned Pink Alaskan salmon line with farmed Chilean products.)
Accordingly, when the wild harvest is at its peak, the few remaining Alaskan processors must handle huge volumes of fish very quickly. (Some 34 million salmon are projected to be caught in Bristol Bay alone this year!) This temporary overabundance relative to processing capacity will likely pose a big challenge to those fishers and processors who've survived the farmed salmon fall-out, as they will strain to accommodate nature’s bounty in a manner that preserves its quality.
To ensure that we get the highest quality product, we target salmon processed on the "shoulders" of the season, when harvest rates are slow and facilities aren’t overburdened. We also seek out fish harvested by people and methods known for producing consistently superior products.
Wild salmon are extremely delicate and must be handled with care every step of the way if they are to retain their inherent quality. Some fishermen appreciate this and treat their fish accordingly, but unfortunately many do not or, in the case of the more fast-paced prolific fisheries, simply don’t have the time to. Many of these fish will end up being canned. None, however, will ever carry a Vital Choice label.
These factors, as well as many others, create a minefield for the uninformed wild salmon consumer. When you choose Vital Choice salmon you are putting my experience, knowledge, and commitment to work for you. I view myself as your salmon advocate and hope you will too!
Our fish are not certified organic and we don't ever make that claim. All "organic" really means is that the animal or plant raised under organic standards has been in a (reasonably) controlled environment its entire life, free of pesticides, growth hormones, GMOs, etc. While there are some who think wild salmon should qualify as organic, by definition they could never meet the controlled environment standard--just as nothing raised on a farm by humans can be called truly natural or wild.
For an excellent read on what organic really means we highly recommend NY Times writer, Michael Pollan's article, "Behind the Organic Industrial Complex," which is available here (copy and paste to your browser window):
Vital Choice salmon contains NO added chemicals, including those that may be administered prior to harvest. No artificial coloring. No Preservatives. No pesticides. No growth hormones. No antibiotics. No GMOs.
Why is it important to avoid mercury and other toxins?
To quote H.L. "Sam" Queen, health care educator and certified clinical nutritionist of the Institute for Health Realities in Colorado Springs, USA:
"The human body was designed to anticipate and successfully cope with most toxic exposures, including mercury. However, illnesses develop from toxic exposure for a variety of reasons. Repeated exposures that overwhelm the body's ability to respond, impeded exit capabilities, altered genetics, and alterations in the quantity and quality of the binding proteins are among the most common. When one or a combination of these roadblocks is active, the six sub-clinical defects seen in all diseases and toxicities lead to compromised health. Typical outcomes include fatigue, so-called "brain fog", poor concentration, weight change, muscle wasting, the feeling of being "toxic", and susceptiblity to disease and infection. Mercury is the most persistent and pervasive of all of the environmental toxins, as well as the most toxic"
Mercury is highly toxic and bioaccumulative. Mercury is frequently found in lakes and streams as a result of industrial pollution. This causes great health hazards in theaffected fish and those who eat those fish.
Mercury is easily absorbed through the skin, respiratory and gastrointestinal tissues. Mercury attacks the central nervous system and endocrine system and adversely affects the mouth, gums, and teeth. High exposure over long periods of time will result in brain damage and ultimately death. (The term "Mad as a hatter" is thought to relate to occupational insanity caused by exposure to mercury componds in the manufacture felt hats in the 19th century) It can pose a major health risk to the unborn fetus. Humans or animals poisoned with mercury or its compounds often manifest excessive salivation, a condition called mercurial ptyalism.
The Australasian Society of Oral Medecine and Toxicology states that - " Mercury is cytotoxic. ie. It kills cells. Mercury is implicated in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer's Disease. Mercury will severely reduce reproductive function. Mercury crosses the blood-brain barrier and into breast milk. Mercury rapidly depletes the immune system. Mercury will induce a number of Auto Immune Diseases. Mercury will cause an increase in number and severity of allergies. Mercury is transported along the axons of nerve fibres and casues neurological symptoms. Mercury binds to haemoglobin in the red blood cell thus reducing oxygen carrying capacity. Mercury damages blood vessels reducing blood supply to the tissues. Mercury will cause single strand breaks in DNA. Mercury is Poisonous!"
Other toxins such as Polyclorinated Byphenyls (PCB's), pesticides, growth hormones, antibiotics etc. which are often found in farmed salmon also have numerous adverse effects that are well documented in many research studies. A recent feature in the Daily Mail outlines a ''chemical cocktail'' of substances found in trace amounts in farmed fish, including canthaxanthin, a dietary additive that gives farmed salmon its appealing color; various pesticides such as cypermethrin, dichlorvos and azamethiphos, associated with cancer and reproductive problems in humans; copper and zinc-based paints; and malachite green, a fungicide. The latter was banned in June by the Scottish government, and a European government-sanctioned science commission has recently called for a two-thirds reduction in canthaxanthin, which has long been banned by the European Union for direct human consumption, due to its potential for vision damage.
The contaminants' source is linked to the farming process. PCBs and other toxins are concentrated in the oil-rich, pelletized fish meal, which farmed salmon are fed. The fish are treated with pesticides to control parasites, fed canthaxanthin and subjected to pen disinfectants. Antibiotics are administered to treat disease in crowded pens.
Thousands of medical PCB studies have shown that PCBs cause a wide variety of health effects, often at very low exposure levels. Studies of PCBs in humans have found increased rates of melanomas, liver cancer, gall bladder cancer, biliary tract cancer, gastrointestinal tract cancer, and brain cancer, and may be linked to breast cancer and they can also cause non-cancer health effects, such as reduced ability to fight infections, low birth weights, and learning problems. Not all of the 209 kinds of PCB have the same effects. Some have properties like dioxin (one of the world's most toxic man-made compounds), some PCBs act like hormones, and other PCBs are nerve poisons. PCBs alter major systems in the body (immune, hormone, nervous, and enzyme systems); therefore, PCBs affect a wide variety of body organs and functions.
The most common route of exposure to PCBs is from eating contaminated fish.
Most pesticides are created to act as poisons to target organisms, although acute or less observable chronic poisoning can also occur to non-target organisms, including humans. Artificial growth hormones disrupt normal endocrine function and antibiotics disrupt the populations of beneficial bacteria and promote the development of resistant super-bugs. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists farmed salmon have more antibiotics administered by weight than any other form of livestock. Pollutants in general are thought to play a part in a variety of maladies, including cancer, lupus, immune diseases, allergies, and asthma.
The word toxin comes from the Greek toxikon meaning poison. Officially toxins are those damaging substances produced by biological organisms while heavy metals would be considered poisons but they are often used interchangeably. Both are defined as substances that cause a reduction of viability or functionality in living tissue, or basically - harm to the body. Technically, they are irritating substances capable of causing disease or inducing neutralising antibodies or antitoxins when introduced into the body tissues and can cause injury or death typically by interacting with biological enzymes and receptors thus obstructing or inhibiting normal reactions at molecular level. In simple terms this means that normal body processes will not work as they should - a good reason to minimise your exposure. This is even more important for pregnant women as the toxins will most often affect the highly sensitive developing fetus before it affects the mother.
Now that we have seen why we should minimise our exposure to toxins we should keep it in perspective and not throw out the baby with the bathwater and end up avoiding fish altogether for we would then be missing out on the important positive health benefits gained especially from the healthy high omega-3 fish. By choosing Wild and Pure VitalChoice Seafood you both gain the positive benefits and avoid the detrimental toxic elements.
To keep a balanced view, be encouraged to still enjoy seafood. We just advise that you be careful of the quality of its source to minimise the risks. As stated earlier, our bodies are designed to handle a certain amount of detoxification. What we recommend is that you avoid overwhelming these mechanisms by choosing the cleanest foods available. Our modern environment is increasingly polluted so it makes sense to take as much care as possible to avoid inferior contaminated food. As it turns out the superior food choices are also more friendly to the environment so there is a win-win all around that you can feel good about when you purchase sustainably harvested, naturally wild seafood. You and your children are healthier and happier as are the fish, the rest of the ecosystem as well as the fishing communities.
Vital Choice is deeply committed to making decisions that support your well being. When you choose our products you can be confident that you are buying the purest salmon, and tuna available. Unlike salmon sold in grocery stores, ours is lab tested and consistently proven to be free of harmful levels of mercury and other contaminants. Our fish grow as nature intended, free of antibiotics, pesticides, synthetic coloring agents, growth hormones and GMOs. In longer-lived fish such as tuna, we select only the smallest of the catch to insure optimum purity.
Yes, Vital Choice regularly submits random representative samples of our fish to independent state-of-the-art laboratories for contaminant analysis. These include Axys Analytical Services in Sydney BC, Columbia Food Labororatory in Portland, Oregon and Columbia Analytical Services in Kelso, Washington.
Click Here for a summary of the relative mercury levels of various seafood species, including ours.
Click Here for a summary of the relative PCB levels of various foods, including wild and farmed salmon.
Vital Choice Salmon: Natural, Sustainable, Pure
Alaskan salmon are among the purest of all ocean species. In addition to residing in the most remote and pristine waters left on earth, Alaskan salmon are relatively small, short-lived fish that feed at the lower end of the food chain. Consequently they grow free of hazardous levels of contaminants found in larger, longer-lived carniverous species.
A word about the unique Alaskan Sockeye Salmon: After hatching in their natal streams, sockeye will reside in remote, pristine fresh water lakes where they feed and grow for 1-3 years before migrating out to the Bering Sea. During this latter stage of their lives they feed primarily on phytoplankton and krill brimming with antioxidants and omega-3 nutrients that give the sockeye its striking red flesh. Unlike farmed salmon, Wild Alaskan Sockeye and all other wild Alaskan salmon species grow free of antibiotics, pesticides, synthetic coloring agents, growth hormones and GMOs.
Lipid-adjusted contaminant levels have been found to be significantly higher in farmed Atlantic salmon than those in wild Pacific salmon (F = 7.27, P = 0.0089 for toxaphene; F = 15.39, P = 0.0002 for dioxin; F > or = 21.31, P < 0.0001 for dieldrin and PCBs, with df = (1.64) for all). Levels of total lipid were in the range of 30-40% in the fish oil/meal that is fed to farmed salmon. Farmed salmon, though still a good source of healthy omega 3 fatty acids, also contain high concentrations of organochlorine compounds such as PCBs, dioxins and chlorinated pesticides. The presences of these contaminants may reduce the net health benefits derived from the consumption of farmed salmon, despite the presence of the high level of Omega 3 fatty acids in these fish.
For these reasons the Environmental Protection Austhority (EPA), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Alaska Division of Public Health and other organizations have found Wild Alaskan salmon to be among the purest of seafood options, even recommending them to pregnant and nursing woman as a safe fatty fish source of vitally important nutrients.
The FDA is conservative in protecting the health of American consumers. As such, it has set consumption advice for mercury at the 1 ppm (parts per million) level, which is the limit allowed by the FDA for fish intended for human consumption. The level is purposely set 10 times lower than the lowest level associated with health problems (specifically mercury poisoning). This conservative level allows for the greater protection of everyone – adults, children and even unborn babies. In six random samples, Vital Choice sockeye salmon tested at .02 ppm for mercury and no detect for PCBs (detection threshold .02 ppm).
In Australia and New Zealand, the Food Standards Code of Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ) has deemed that the level of mercury permitted in seafood should not exceed 0.5mg per kg of fish which in the above terms would equate to 0.5 ppm.
Vital Choice Salmon levels are therefore 25 to 50 times below the acceptable "safe" level and because the fish is regularly tested you have this assurance of purity in contrast to this lack of security with other brands. As we have seen there is still different grades of quality even amongst wild fish depending on where it is caught and how it is harvested, handled and processed. For this reason Dr. Joseph Mercola warns everyone to avoid eating any kind of seafood unless you know where it comes from and that it tests clear of contaminants. His choice is also Vital Choice after conducting his own independent lab tests and finding barely detectable levels of any hazardous toxins.
The canned salmon sold by Vital Choice is harvested in July and August of each year. Chances are good that the fish you receive will have been packed during the previous harvest season. Occasionally a small amount of product may carry over from a prior year, but we try hard to avoid this. In comparison, canned salmon from a grocery store might be two or more years old.
Canned salmon is fully cooked and will keep for several years. In fact, some connoisseurs claim that, like wine, the flavor of canned salmon actually improves with age, even going so far as to cellar the best "vintages."
Once opened, partial tins may be kept in the refrigerator for a day or two, similar to canned tuna. Much longer and the fats will begin to oxidize and become rancid. We recommend that you transfer the fish to a glass container with a lid for storage in the fridge once opened.
Neither water nor oil are added to Vital Choice canned salmon. Only 100% wild Pacific sockeye (red) salmon goes into the can, along with a pinch of salt before it is sealed and cooked. The liquids present in the can are natural juices that come from the healthy fats present in the fish when it is cooked. Approximately 2/3 of the fish's omega-3s are found in the gray fatty tissue and the brine that comes from it. Even so, in canned sockeye salmon, the remaining 1/3 will amount to about 1.25 g per 3.5 ozs. This exceeds both the Canadian and European RDA for omega-3s. (In the US the FDA has yet to issue an RDA for these important nutrients.)
What is the lining of the can made of?
Salmon cans used to be lined with an epoxy resin coating that could leach trace amounts of an estrogen-like chemical compound known as "bisphenol A" (BPA) into the contents. In tests the amount of BPA found in canned red salmon averaged only about .011 mg/kg (or about one part per one hundred million-- well below the 3 mg/kg considered safe). Researchers in Europe, Japan and the USA have all concluded that such low levels pose no risk to humans. Nevertheless due to the concerns of many that BPA may be detrimental to health, the canned salmon industry proceeded to convert to a BPA-free lining. While the BPA was never proven to present a health hazard at such low levels, a substitute called polyethylene terphitate (PET) has since been adopted. PET is an extremely common plastic packaging material used in the food industry. PET is used in everything from soft drink and water bottles to peanut butter jars and surgical implants.
It has been studied extensively and deemed safe by many regulatory agencies. Like any indirect food additive, the scientific testing of PET is based on two key principles: establishing that there is a minimal amount of transfer of substances between the plastic packaging and the food, and establishing that any substances that may transfer from the plastic to the food do not pose a risk to human health.
As a result of advances in analytical chemistry, even the most miniscule level of migration from the plastic to foods can now be measured. Tests to determine the levels of compounds that have the potential to transfer from the plastic into food are conducted using conditions that simulate the actual use of the material. These tests have found that the migration of any components of PET plastics under laboratory conditions is well below applicable safety levels. Therefore, FDA has determined that PET is acceptable to use in the applications for which it has been tested.
The toxicological properties of PET and compounds that migrate under test conditions have also been well studied. The International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI) –a nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing the scientific understanding of issues related to nutrition, food safety, toxicology, risk assessment and the environment – has comprehensively reviewed the scientific and technological aspects of PET. In a report on PET for food packaging applications issued in July of 2000, ILSI summarizes the large body of test data that demonstrates the safety of PET resins and compounds for food and beverage containers:
"PET itself is biologically inert if ingested, is dermally safe during handling and is not a hazard if inhaled. No evidence of toxicity has been detected in feeding studies using animals. Negative results from Ames tests and studies into unscheduled DNA synthesis indicate that PET is not genotoxic. Similar studies conducted with monomers and typical PET intermediates also indicate that these materials are essentially nontoxic and pose no threats to human health. . . . It is important to stress that the chemistry of compounds that are used to manufacture PET shows no evidence of oestrogenic activity. There is a significant body of evidence that demonstrates that the use of PET is not a concern and is perfectly safe in this respect.”
There is mounting evidence farmed salmon contain fewer of the beneficial omega-3 fatty acids for which wild salmon are so highly touted. A number of respected sources, including U.S. nutritionist Andrew Weil and The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, state that farmed salmon have two to three times fewer omega-3's than their wild counterparts. Meanwhile, the fat content of farmed fish ranges between 11% and 20% vs. 7% for wild.
Omega-3 fatty acids are carbon-based molecules essential for the optimal function of every cell in our bodies, yet we cannot manufacture them internally. Instead, along with vitamins, these essential nutrients can be obtained only in the diet. Over the past century, people in developed countries, particularly in the United States, have largely eliminated omega-3 fatty acids from their diet. There is a great deal of evidence that this has had a very negative impact on the inner workings of many bodily systems, most notably the heart and the brain. We are learning that restoring the body’s natural balance of omega-3s may improve a multitude of medical disorders, including coronary artery disease, major depression, and bipolar disorder (also called manic-depressive illness).
According to Dr. Mary Enig, a world famous expert on fats, as much as two-thirds of the omega-3s in fish reside in the gray fatty layer beneath the skin. However it is interesting to note that tests conducted by the USDA Nutrient Data Laboratory indicate that the flesh of sockeye salmon (for example) contain more than 1.2 grams of EPA and DHA per 98 g serving. This exceeds the 650 to 1000 mg recommended daily intake of omega-3s by more than 20%. So whether the gray fat is consumed or not, one is assured of getting a significant 'dosage' of EPA, DHA (and many other vitally important nutrients) with each serving. One reason our 'Traditional Style' canned salmon is so much more popular than the skinless-boneless versions is that it is packed with the skin, so retains all of the healthy fats, as well as the full flavor and nutrients they impart.
While it's true that fat soluble impurities ingested by fish tend to concentrate in this fatty layer, Alaskan salmon consistently test free of hazardous levels of these contaminants. Knowledgable health experts agree that the benefits of consuming wild salmon greatly exceeds any associated health risks. Omega-3s and antioxidants are readily available in fruits, vegetables, and fish. Supplemental forms are also available, but studies show that food-source omega-3s are preferable to pills. Naturally occurring fish oils provide one of the most concentrated and accessible forms of omega-3 fatty acids.
Fatty acids are the basic building blocks for all lipids. Fatty acids are the nutritional components found in dietary fats and oils, and are chemical "chains" consisting of carbon and hydrogen and ending with an acid group. Fatty acids vary in length and degree of saturation, and are generally up to 26 carbons long. The specific chemistry of the fatty acid, including the number of carbons and double bonds, will affect how it functions in the body, including its health benefits. For more detailed information on fatty acids we recommend "Know Your Fats,"by Mary Enig.
Unsaturated fatty acids result when not all carbons in the chemical chain are saturated with hydrogen. This means that the fat molecule contains one or more double bond. The double bonds create "kinks" in the molecule, producing a fat that is fluid at room temperature. Unsaturated fats are known to help cellular function and promote heart health. There are two types of unsaturated fatty acids: 1. Monounsaturates - fatty acids that contain one double bond. These fats are fluid at room temperature. For example, oleic acid, which is found in olive and sesame oils. 2. Polyunsaturates - fatty acids that contain more than one double bond. These are the most fluid fats of all and include fats such as corn, soybean, and sunflower oils. Essential Fatty Acid oils also fall into this category.
Saturated fatty acids result when all carbons in the chemical chain are "saturated" with hydrogen. This means that the fat molecule does not contain any double bonds. Saturated fats are dense, solid fats that do not melt at room temperature - for example the white fat in beef and lamb. They also include healthy fats found in coconuts, eggs and butter all of which are making a welcome comeback in the health stakes which will have to wait for another time as that is a whole new story. Needless to say many are of the opinion that we can enjoy these to our hearts content if they are in their unadultered state.
Both Saturated and Unsaturated fats are usually consumed in the form of Trigycerides, which consist of three fatty acids bound to a glycerol backbone. The attached fatty acids can be either the same or different. The presence of saturated fatty acids will result in a saturated fat; similarly, the presence of one or more unsaturated fatty acids will result in an unsaturated fat.
In the human diet, Triglycerides are by far the most abundant form of dietary lipids, constituting approximately 95% of total fat consumed. The remaining 5% is in the form of phospholipids, free fatty acids (fatty acids not bound to a glycerol backbone), cholesterol, and plant sterols. In addition, triglycerides are the predominant storage form of fat in the body.
DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), an omega-3 fatty acid, is found in tissue throughout the body. It is the most abundant fatty acid in the gray matter of the brain and the retina of the eye, and is a key component of heart tissue. DHA is important for proper brain and eye development in infants and has been shown to support cardiovascular health in adults.
ARA (arachidonic acid), an omega-6 fatty acid, is the principal omega-6 in the brain and is abundant in other cells throughout the body. ARA is equally important for proper brain development in infants and is a precursor to a group of hormone-like substances called eicosanoids (e.g. prostanoids, leukotrienes and thromboxanes). Eicosanoids are important in immunity, blood clotting and other vital functions in the body. Humans obtain ARA by eating common foods such as meat, eggs and milk, whereas DHA is found in a limited selection of foods such as fatty fish and organ meat. Both fatty acids occur naturally in breast milk and have proven health benefits that extend from prenatal development through adult life.
Not all omega-3s are created equal. There are "long-chain" and "short-chain" omega-3 molecules. The distinction refers to the number of carbon atoms that comprise them. The shorter chains contain 18 carbon atoms (Alpha linolenic acid-ALA), while the long contain 20 (Eicosapentanoic-EPA) or 22 (Docosahexanoic-DHA). Short chain omega-3s are contained in vegetable and plant sources such as walnuts, flaxseed oil and leafy green vegetables. When your body absorbs fats containing LNA, enzymes convert some of it into longer, more highly polyunsaturated omega-3s called EPA and DHA. These desirable omega-3s are more beneficial to your health, but your body needs about ten LNAs to make one EPA. Since the human body requires the long-chain forms, vegetable source omega 3s are of relatively limited nutritional value. While some may be converted to the longer form, the process is inefficient, with only about 5% or so ultimately being converted. The conversion efficiency is dependent upon diet and the availability of enzymes required to complete it.Fish, on the other hand, contains little LNA, but is rich in EPA and DHA. Eating fish simply means that your body doesn’t have to work so hard converting fatty acids. Fish is your most accessible and concentrated source of EicosaPentaeonic Acid and DocosaHexaeonic Acid.
For this reason it is important to eat food sources of the long-chain omega-3s like cold water fish. EPA has anti-inflammatory properties, and is more relevant to regulating mood than DHA. DHA, however, is also key for healthy cells and is found in high concentrations in the brain, retina and sperm, and is especially crucial for pregnant and nursing women and infants.Omega-3s and antioxidants are readily available in fruits, vegetables, and fish. Supplemental forms are also available, but studies show that food-source omega-3s are preferable to pills. Naturally occurring fish oils provide one of the most concentrated and accessible forms of omega-3 fatty acids.
The health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids were first discovered in the late 1970’s. Medical researchers began studying the marine-based diet of the Inuit to learn how these hunter-gatherer groups avoided such old-age infirmities as heart disease, stroke, and arthritis. According to Dr. Andrew Stoll’s book The Omega-3 Connection, “the Inuit advantage was attributed to the very long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA, found in their food staples of fatty fish and fish-eating marine mammals like whales and seals.” All sea creatures need EPA and DHA to keep their body tissues warm and elastic in icy waters. These anti-inflammatory properties can be measured in the human body as well. Documented reports show that omega-3s play a beneficial role in reducing coronary artery disease, calming rheumatoid arthritis, and lessening depression.
Fish is called "brain food"
The human brain is more than 60% fat! The majority of fat in the brain is the type that cannot be made by the body, but must be supplied by the diet. The fats essential for optimal brain activity are the omega-3 fatty acids: eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and, to a lesser extent, alpha linolenic acid (ALA). The omega-3 fatty acids have beneficial properties that have been studied in the treatment of a number of mental conditions ranging from depression and bipolar disorder to schizophrenia, Alzheimers, chronic fatigue syndrome and stress.
Today's society is relatively deficient in these powerful brain building omega-3 fatty acids. Gone are the days of eating simple diets full of fish, seeds and nuts; our diets are now full of processed foods that are lacking in the good, essential fats. To ensure you are receiving sufficient quantities of omega-3 fatty acids, fatty, cold water fish, such as salmon, mackeral, tuna, sardines and anchovies should fill your plate, as well as other valuable omega-3 sources derived from oil-bearing nuts and seeds, such as walnuts, flaxseed and flax oil.
The brain requires more omega-3 fatty acids than any other system in the body. With sufficient quantities of EPA and DHA in the diet, the membranes of the brain perform at their peak level, which is essential for regulating mood, emotions, and staving off depression. In the absence of EPA and DHA the brain will choose an alternate source of lipids such as an omega 6 or monounsaturated fat which has very different properties from omega-3s and could therefore negatively affect your mental health.
To build a healthy brain, eat fish!
Antioxidants are dietary nutrients that help prevent the cell and tissue damage caused by free radicals in the body. Free radicals are highly reactive, unstable molecules that cause oxidative stress, and can lead to degenerative diseases such as cancer and arthritis. Antioxidants fight oxidative stress by neutralizing free radicals. Naturally occurring fish oils contain good concentrations of Vitamin E, which is a powerful antioxidant. In wild salmon, the pigment that gives the fish its rich red color is also a very powerful antioxidant. Studies suggest that astaxanthin (as-tuh-zan’-thin) may be 100 times more powerful than Vitamin E at quenching free radicals. This antioxidant is also thought to be 10 times more effective than other carotenoids, like beta-carotene.
Protein, Vitamins and Minerals
An excellent source of protein, Alaska canned salmon is high in omega-3 fatty acids. It contains all the essential amino acids, as well as B-complex vitamins like niacin and riboflavin. According to the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, “Alaska canned salmon is rich in selenium, vitamin E, zinc and low-fat protein, all noted for strengthening immune systems.” They also note “the delicate, edible bones present in Alaska canned salmon are good to eat and high in bone-building vitamin D, calcium, magnesium and phosphorus.”
Sockeye salmon is an Excellent source of B-12. According to the USDA Nutrient Data Labs, it contains about 5.8 mcg per 100 gram serving. This is nearly 300% of the Recommended Daily Intake (RDI) for adults of 2 mcg/day. At this rate, a single 170g serving of our sockeye salmon would supply about 10 mcg or 500% of the RDI.
The sodium content of our Traditional Style canned red salmon is approximately 270 mg per 1/4 cup serving. Our No Salt Added canned sockeye contains approximately 50 mg per 1/4 cup serving. (The recommended daily intake is 2400 mg).
Energy and Weight Control
According to the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, a 100g serving size of Alaska canned salmon contains 137-142 calories or in Australian terms 704 Kilojoules. Calories from fat: 54-60, or 281 Kilojoules which represents about 10% of the recommended daily allowance (RDA). Total fat: 6-7 grams, saturated fat: 1.5-1.9 grams.
Omega-3s can be destroyed by air, light and heat, which is why the less exposure and processing that fish undergo between being caught and ending up on your plate, the better. Freezing fish and other seafood as well as cooking it by baking, broiling or steaming will cause minimal loss of the health-protective omega-3 fatty acids they contain. On the other hand, deep-frying, with its very high temperatures, could destroy some omega-3s, as well as increase the total fat of your meal. Blackening salmon by high-temperature sautéing could also lower the omega-3 content. Adapted from DrWeil.com
Scientists at the Australian Commonwealth Scientific Research Organization (CSIRO) have tested the effect of frying, grilling, steaming, micro-waving, baking and curing on the oils in the nation's fish and shellfish.
These new Australian research findings, released in a book aimed at nutritionists, the seafood industry and consumer groups, show there are no adverse changes to the oils – either in amount or chemical structure.
However project leader Dr Peter Nichols from CSIRO Marine Research warns that people need to keep in mind that oils used for frying become incorporated into the fish itself and so for these purposes they should try to use monounsaturated oils such as olive oil.
Canned salmon is fully cooked, so the brine, skin, and soft tiny bones are all completely edible. This greatly enhances the flavor and the nutritional value of the fish. While skinless-boneless red salmon is available in limited quantities, it is more costly and contains fewer long-chain omega-3 fatty acids. In fact, when boneless red salmon products were first marketed, canned salmon connoisseurs in Japan demanded that the separated bones be canned for purchase. True story!
As for the canning process itself, Seafood Services Australia, in the book "What's So Healthy About Seafood" states that " Finfish do not lose their positive health benefits from being canned. Finfish canned in fish oil have a particular advantage but are now less available in the market place"
According to omega-3 expert Dr. Artemis Simopoulos, approximately 2/3 of the omega-3s in salmon reside in the gray fatty tissue lying just beneath the skin, some of which becomes the brine during the canning and cooking process. About 1/3 are present in the salmon tissue. While some omega-3s will be lost by draining the brine and removing any remaining fat, a significant amount remains: the USDA Nutrient Data Base lists the following omega-3 contents for a 100gram portion of drained canned sockeye salmon:
EPA .561 g DPA .149 g DHA .884 g Total 1.59 g
To put this in context, the recommended daily consumption level of omega-3s in Europe and Canada is 1 gram, which you would easily get in one of our small cans of Wild Red. The larger 212g can would contain approximately three times that, or over three grams--again, this is drained. These numbers are averages and probably conservative with respect to Vital Choice red salmon, which is a superior grade. This is evident by the high oil content often visible when you open the can, which you are not as likely to find in commonly available brands. If you consume the entire contents of the can, you can be sure you're getting all the healthy omega-3s that went into it!
It is important to be sure that you're comparing "apples to apples." In April,2005, NY Times writer Marian Burros reported that 80% of the so called "wild salmon" she purchased in area stores actually tested out as mislabled FARMED salmon. To read this story click Here! Is the salmon at your local supermarket truly wild? Has the vendor selected only the purest sustainably-harvested fish? Most of the salmon sold in supermarkets is farmed salmon that is mass-produced in foreign waterborn feed lots subsidized by environmental degradation, a lack of regulatory oversight and low-cost labor. Wild salmon is different from farmed in many important ways.
Quality Costs More
The old adage that "You get what you pay for" is especially true when it comes to salmon. To get a wild fish from the remote corners of Alaska to your plate in prime condition requires a lot of special care. Along the way there are many obstacles to quality that can interfere to diminish it. Consequently, there are only so many prime fish available and the law of supply and demand dictates that they will cost more. Unlike most supermarkets that are increasingly competing with one another to find any available wild salmon, Vital Choice standards are much higher. Our long history and close ties to the Alaskan commercial fishing industry give us a unique advantage in sourcing the best fish on your behalf, but they will never be the cheapest.
Worry Free Seafood
To our knowledge we are the only seafood company that specifically targets the purest available fish and confirms their purity with routine testing by an independent lab. This is an expensive process which further contributes to our costs, but provides you with valuable purity assurances unavailable from other seafood vendors.
Your Health is Priceless
"Fish is health insurance and most of us lack enough coverage."Jean Carper, Author: Food, Your Miracle Medicine
It would be hard to think of another food that has as many proven health benefits as wild salmon. When considering the cost of VitalChoice products keep in mind the true value of what you're buying. Given the sky-rocketing cost of health care and pharmaceutical drugs, what is the value of optimum health? How much would you pay for improved heart, brain, eye and immune system health?
"O health, health! The blessing of the rich! the riches of the poor! who can buy thee at too dear a rate, since there is no enjoying this world without thee? Be not then so sparing of your purses . . . as to abridge the natural course of life"Ben Jonson: Volpone, II-1,1605 Your Time is Valuable
Our ultra convenient skinless-boneless products cost more to produce but save you time and trouble. (These are not available yet but keep watch in newsletter and on the website) With our ready-to-eat canned salmon and tuna, a delicious healthy meal is always close at hand. (Tuna also not available yet but the Sockeye Salmon is now available in our Salmon Shop) Although packaging and posting adds additional costs, consider how much time you save by having Vital Choice "foods with integrity" delivered to your door.
Don't Be Fooled
We have visited stores all over the country and seldom seen frozen wild Alaskan salmon comparable to our products. We were recently in a large natural foods store in New England that was selling dark-skinned frozen Alaskan coho steaks. Dark skin is synonymous with lower grade salmon. Supermarkets are able to get away with this because most of the time their customers aren't knowledgeable enough to distinguish between good and not-so-good fish. Too many mistakenly believe that "salmon is salmon" or "wild salmon is wild salmon." More so than with any other animal protein, salmon come in a vast range of quality grades, all of which are eventually sold to someone. It is most unfortunate when consumers experience inferior quality salmon because many will consider the poor flavor indicative of salmon in general and cease eating one of the healthiest and potentially most delicious foods available.
Hire Your Own Fishermen
Company owners and managers Randy Hartnell and Dave Hamburg have spent much of their lives as Alaskan salmon fishermen. They take seriously their commitment to representing your best interests, viewing themselves as your link to the world of wild salmon. Randy and Dave are devoted to seeing that you always receive good value and top quality fish, which can't always happen at the supermarket.
The Hidden Costs of Cheap Food
Vital Choice is committed to the goal of restoring economic viability to the wild salmon fishing business. Presently most other protein producers (cattle, hog and poultry farmers) are on the verge of bankruptcy. Many have already been driven there by the mega-corporations who forsake food quality to drive every possible penny out of production. Salmon farming is now exerting this same socio-economic pressure upon those who risk their lives to supply us with the healthiest protein on earth. It is vitally important that one not forget the hidden social, nutritional and environmental costs of cheap food.
"Your salmon is outstanding! I'm on a limited budget so am always on a quest to get the most for my purchasing dollars. Recently I purchased salmon at a natural foods market and that, too, was from Alaskan waters and was significantly less expensive. Though it was wild harvested, I did not like the flavor or the odor. Who would have thought!...I've just placed another order with your company. Your salmon is unsurpassed in my opinion. I'll save elsewhere...but not on my salmon!" Rosalie Birge, Litchfield, CT
"We love your fish and will gladly pay a higher price for fish that is pure and not contaminated. As man continues to pollute and destroy the habitat for the fish and the animals, it is a pleasure to find a company like yours that cares and provides us with great fish. Thank you...we will buy lots more." Jim and Jean Myers
"We're on a tight budget, but it's worth every penny!" Lynn G. & David F., Bethlehem, PA
For teeming testimonials from happy consumers of Vital Choice see our A Sea Of Praise page
Our best values are achieved by selecting our larger package offerings. If you are unable to accommodate these larger quantities, we suggest you consider joining with a friend to share an order. In this manner you will both achieve the lowest cost per kg and minimize packaging and transportation resources.
As for specific products, our 24 Can Packs offer the best value per can and if you choose to order two 24 Can Packs (48 Cans) or three 24 Can Packs (72 Cans) you will save even more on the postage costs.
Vital Choicesources salmon from a variety of areas in Alaska and British Columbia. Our priorities are to purchase the best quality sustainably harvested fish we can find, regardless of specific region. For this reason we are not beholding to any particular supplier, but rather to those that do the very best job acquiring and processing high quality fish. In 2002 Vital Choice purchased fish harvested by such diverse groups as the Coastal Villages Alliance in Quinhagak, Alaska, The Chignik Fishermen's Co-op from Chignik Lagoon, Alaska, and Seafood Producer's Co-op representing Southeastern, Alaska fishers. Our ultimate goal is to create win-win partnerships with our customers and suppliers. We want to provide our customers with the best salmon and halibut in the world, and our fishers and suppliers with stable markets for their fish and a fair wage for the labor of producing them.
The Canadian sockeye salmon we offer is virtually identical to the Alaskan. They are essentially the same fish harvested by Alaskan and Canadian fisherman as they pass through their respective waters; Southeastern Alaska and Northwestern Canada share a common border. Some of the very best sockeye are actually destined for two large Canadian rivers just south of this border. (This is "insider knowledge" known to few outside the fishing industry--and Vital Choice customers!) These rivers--the Skeena and Nass--are carefully managed and presently undergoing the MSC certification process (www.msc.org).
Vital Choice salmon are harvested in a variety of ways, including by hook and line ("troller"), gill net and purse seine. In all cases our salmon spend their lives as nature intended and are only caught under strict fisheries management guidelines as they approach the end of their natural life cycle. Pacific salmon are typically caught as they migrate back from the ocean toward their freshwater spawning grounds. Those that do escape to spawn will die shortly thereafter.
The manner in which harvested fish die depends upon the gear used to harvest them. A troller will typically stun and bleed the fish immediately after removing it from the water. Gill net and purse seine caught fish will succumb quickly from lack of oxygen after leaving the water. As Dr. Tina Wellman wrote in a recent article for Total Health Magazine,
"If ever there was a humane way of harvesting animal protein for human consumption it would be Alaska's commercial salmon fisheries..."
The fisheries are managed by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADFG). The Alaska state constitution requires that the salmon habitat is conserved and protected. Today, this constitutional requirement as well as effective management has brought the salmon fishery to health. In 1959, statewide salmon harvests were about 25 million salmon a year. In 1999 (forty years later) Alaska's commercial salmon catch was 214 million fish, the second largest in the state's history. The legislation includes establishing open and closed seasons; setting quotas, bag limits, harvest limits, sex and size limitations, establishing the methods and means employed in the pursuit, capture and transport of fish, watershed and habitat improvement, management, conservation, protection, use, disposal, propagation and stocking of fish, regulating commercial, sport, guided sport, subsistence, and personal use fishing as needed for the conservation, development and utilisation of fisheries.
Adopted from the Marine Stewardship Council website at www.msc.org
What is the MSC?
Seafood is important for millions of people. The trouble is, our oceans are being seriously overfished. Unless action is taken some of our favorite fish may disappear from the seafood counter altogether. And it's not just our supper that's at stake: overfishing is damaging fishing industries and marine environments around the world.
The MSC is an independent, global, non-profit organization which was set up to find a solution to the problem of overfishing. The MSC was first established by Unilever, the world's largest buyer of seafood, and WWF, the international conservation organization, in 1997. In 1999 they became fully independent from both organizations and today are funded by a wide range of organizations including charitable foundations and corporate organizations around the world.
The MSC spent two years developing their environmental standard for sustainable and well-managed fisheries. This standard was put together following worldwide consultation with scientists, fisheries experts, environmental organizations and other people with a strong interest in preserving fish stocks for the future.
The MSC rewards environmentally responsible fisheries management and practices with their distinctive blue (or sometimes black) product label:
If you are concerned about overfishing and its environmental and social consequences you will increasingly be able to choose seafood products which have been independently assessed against the MSC environmental standard and labeled to prove it. This label will assure you that the product comes from a well managed fishery and has not contributed to the environmental problem of overfishing.
For the criteria that measures a fishery's worthiness for MSC certification click Here!
The short answer is no. According to The Audubon Seafood Wallet Card, “not all seafoods are created equal: some carry less environmental impact than others because of differences in their abundance, how they’re caught, and how well fishing is managed. The key is to know which species are in good shape and which are not.” This innovative reference card ranks fisheries by several criteria, one of which is minimized “by-catch.” Wild Alaska Salmon tops the list of 29 seafoods, while farmed salmon ranks near the bottom. At Vital ChoiceSeafood, we only carry sustainably harvested salmon.
A Few Words About Sustainability
Vital Choice is Your Best Choice for the Environment
Alaska's wild salmon runs are among the healthiest on earth. Each year, tens of millions of Alaska salmon return to spawn in their natal rivers. Pristine habitat and well-managed commercial fisheries contribute to the preservation of Alaska’s most precious sustainable natural resource. Alaska salmon have the distinction of becoming the first U.S fishery to be certified sustainable to the Marine Stewardship Council environmental Standard. Vital Choice sells only sustainably harvested seafood products.
Here's what leading environmental organizations say about Alaska salmon:
“The world's seas have sustained and nurtured humanity for millennia, ever since early man emerged from the savannahs of East Africa some two million years ago. But today we are plundering the blue planet in a manner one observer has likened to the last buffalo hunt. 70% of the world's major fisheries are over fished or on the brink. The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) was founded in 1997 by Unilever and WWF to promote responsible fishing practices worldwide. Alaska’s salmon fishery was the first in the U.S. to meet the MSC’s environmental standard.”
“Alaska salmon are abundant, management is good, and their habitat is fairly healthy. In contrast, most Pacific Northwest salmon have problems with serious depletion and degraded habitat from dams and logging.”
“Unlike their southerly cousins in the Pacific Northwest, most Alaska-origin salmon populations are thriving. A variety of circumstances, including favorable ocean conditions, healthy river habitats and improved management, have contributed to robust populations.”
"You might be surprised to learn that it's more ecologically sound to eat certain stocks of wild salmon than it is to eat the ubiquitous farmed variety. Salmon farming is doing more to threaten our native salmon populations than well-regulated harvests from the wild."
"Salmon caught in Alaska (chinook/king, chum, coho, pink, sockeye) are among the better-managed fish stocks in the United States. Alaskan salmon populations are mostly healthy, and fish are caught with gear that does little damage to the environment."
The word kosher is a variation of the Hebrew word meaning "fit" or "proper." Simply put, kosher foods meet the dietary requirements and are prepared in accordance to the Jewish Law. The determination of kosher and non-kosher foods depends on two variables: the source of the ingredients and the status of the production equipment. Kosher certification, which is the guarantee that the food meets kosher requirements, revolves around both of the above criteria. Kosher fish must have both scales and fins. Shellfish such as shrimp and lobster are prohibited, as well as some fresh fish such as swordfish, sturgeon, catfish and eel.
Which organization certifies your product?
Our canned salmonis certified kosher by Orthodox Union (‘OU’) www.ou.org
Foods can be identified as kosher by the presence of ahechsher (plural hechsherim), a graphical symbol that indicates that the food has been certified as kosher by a rabbinical authority. (This might be an individual rabbi, but is more often a rabbinic organization.) The most common symbol is the U inside a circle, standing for theUnion of Orthodox Congregations.The (U) insignia of the Orthodox Union is a symbol of expertise and integrity. As a non-profit service organization, the Orthodox Union has been the leader in the field of reliable kashrut for nearly three-quarters of a century. It has made reliable kashrut available in a range of products spanning the gamut of human needs. It has made these products accessible around the world.
For the results of Vitamin D testing on our main seafood products click Here.
While we have yet to test all of our canned products, their Vitamin D content should be very similar to the fresh-frozen portions we submitted for testing.
The amazing benefits of Vitamin D are only just beginning to be made more public with the latest research findings touting its protective effects against many diseases such as cancer. The principle source of Vitamin D is firstly sunshine falling on our skin that activates cholesterol from the blood and fatty layer under the skin converting it to Vitamin D. The other major source is certain fish where it is especially concentrated in the liver. The infamous Cod Liver Oil that has been widely known as a favorite cure-all for generations was more than a simple folk remedy. Far tastier as most would agree are fatty fish such as Sockeye Salmon and it is not only in their livers that you will find healthy Vitamin D.
Why Does Sockeye Offer a Surfeit of Vitamin D? by Randy Hartnell and Craig Weatherby
We received this perceptive inquiry from a reader perplexed by an aspect of last week’s article on vitamin D and bone health:
"So, do we know how salmon become vitamin D rich? I was surprised to hear the skinless fish was so rich in vitamin D, since it is stored in fat. They probably don’t process sunshine. Is their liver making vitamin D?"
Sockeye and vitamin D: case solved
Peggy’s question was a good one, and we weren't certain of the answer, so we sought a scientific explanation for the unexpectedly high vitamin D levels in our skinless sockeye fillets. Vitamin D is fat-soluble, so it concentrates in the fat under the skin of fish, and in their fat-rich livers.
Yet, as the chart in our last issue shows, lab tests show that our sockeye salmon contains more vitamin D than fattier Vital Choice fish such as sardines, sablefish, and king salmon. (See Vitamin D Graph in question no. 5. above)
Why would our skinless sockeye fillets test higher in vitamin D than fillets of fish with fattier flesh?
I had a hunch that answer might lie in the zooplankton that constitute so much of their diet. Zooplankton is a term that covers a variety of tiny marine animals, including larval-stage crustaceans.
Indeed, a quick search of the scientific literature confirmed that phytoplankton (single-cell marine organisms) and zooplankton are the key sources of vitamin D in the marine food chain. Both types of minuscule sea life create large amounts of vitamin D from sunlight, and zooplankton feed on phytoplankton, thus driving their vitamin D content to even higher levels.
Unlike most other fish and salmon species (except chum), sockeye feed largely on zooplankton through all stages of life, so it makes sense they would accumulate unusually high levels of vitamin D in the fat deposited throughout their flesh. Note: There are some seasonal and geographic variations in sockeye diets, so vitamin D levels will vary.
It seems that my hunch was right, and that the mystery of sockeye and vitamin D is solved.Thanks, Peggy … your question prompted us to dig a little deeper!
What should I consider if I choose to buy canned or fresh "Australian" salmon?
The salmon that is known as "Australian Salmon" and which is native to Australia is in fact a different species that is not related to true salmon. There are two variations - Eastern Salmon(Arripis Trutta) and Western Salmon(Arripis Truttaceus) - both commonly known as Black Back Salmon, Cocky Salmon, Sambo, Kanawai, Salmon Trout or Bay Trout. They are actually members of the perch family with colours ranging from olive green to steel blue. They tend to be stringy in texture with a strong fishy taste and are of such poor eating quaility that they are most commonly used as rock lobster bait and pet food, though you will also find them canned for humans in the supermarkets.
The fresh salmon you find everywhere here is actually Atlantic salmon and is most likely farmed in Tasmania where they are fed an artificial diet of pellets, antibiotics and colourings and spend their whole life in holding tanks, cages or pens of various sizes. To read a report by the Commonwealth Scientific Research Organization (CSIRO) concerning the problems of disease outbreaks and the worrisome recommmendation that those affected fish are still considered safe for human consumption, click Here! Although they may not make you acutely ill, this does not promote confidence or spell purity in any language.
The Marine Stewardship council has certified only a handful of fisheries around the world and the only salmon fishery awarded their approval is the Alaska Salmon fishery.
Vital Choice allows you to buy with confidence. When you buy Vital Choice you can be assured that you are buying the purest available. Make the wise choice. Choose natural, wholesome and supremely delicious seafood from VitalChoice.