William Sinclair Manson

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Scottish foods-Drinks / Writings · 23 May 2022

Scottish foods-Drinks. (Salmon.)

Scottish seafood is amongst the best in the world and our salmon is no exception. 

It swims from the North Atlantic into our rivers and is known for its moist, smooth texture and rosy colour. 

Many of Scotland’s restaurants offer Scottish salmon, and it’s at its best served simply with pan-fried green vegetables.

PGI Scottish Farmed Salmon must be typical of the species, Salmo Salar (Atlantic salmon). It has a consistent shape. The fish must have a rounded ventral body surface when viewed laterally and the body wall musculature should show no significant tendency to collapse when carcass is eviscerated. Scottish farmed salmon have an iridescent appearance and are silver in colour. The flesh colour must have a minimum intensity of 26 on the Roche Scale. Scottish farmed salmon are firm with a fibrous to smooth to even texture and have a consistent flavour due to the rapid chilling post harvest.

The geographical area is the western coast of mainland Scotland, Western Isles, Orkney and Shetland Isles. The designated area provides a unique environment which produces the characteristic features of Scottish farmed salmon. In particular these include:

  • High flushing rates of sea lochs and voes which provide strong currents which ensure the fish are continually swimming. This in turn produces the distinctive firm textured flesh and prevents excessive fat deposition.
  • High water exchange ensures good oxygen supply which increases the salmon‘s metabolic rate and leads to a beneficial effect on the size and weight of the fish.
  • The high quality, North Atlantic oceanic water enables the salmon to grow evenly and to a consistent shape.
  • The small fluctuation in water temperature over any given year means that the fish can be cultivated in a stable environment which in turn produces an even and consistent flavour and texture with no rancidity.

Scottish biologists have been attempting to improve wild salmon runs for over 150 years. The first efforts to incubate and hatch salmon eggs took place in 1838. In 1890, there were 18 hatcheries operating in Scotland. From this period until the 1960’s this knowledge and breeding skills were further developed through experience so that the production of Scottish salmon could be initiated, with the first farm fully established at Lochailort in Inverness-shire in 1969.

Towards the late ’70s and early ’80s, as experience grew and increased finance was available, the rate of expansion was increased with a number of businesses getting involved. Tonnage rapidly grew on the back of this. While only 600 tonnes were produced in 1980, this grew to 32,500 tonnes in 1990 and in 1998 a total of 115,000 tonnes were produced. With this rapid expansion in production, there was also growth in the numbers employed in the remote communities in the Scottish Highlands and Islands. Indeed, today 4 000 people are directly employed in the production of Scottish farmed salmon.

Pure coastal waters and sheltered lochs have sustained and nurtured each Scottish farmed salmon while expert husbandry skills have ensured each salmon achieves and maintains prime condition. Much of the industry’s success has been due to its ability to successfully market itself to meet changing trade and consumer requirements. The vital element in this has been its emphasis on high quality. Indeed, quality has become a watchword among all producers of Scottish farmed salmon and it is never compromised as evidenced by the Label Rouge label which Scottish Farmed Salmon is entitled to bear. It is therefore with good reason that Scottish farmed salmon has continued to be held in such high regard by leading chefs, food writers and discerning consumers worldwide. The high reputation in which Scottish farmed salmon is held for quality, consistency and flavour is borne out by the findings of consumer research.

The method of production is as follows:

  1. EGGS: In Autumn, the parents are selected from the cages. The eggs are stripped between November and December. Fertilised eggs are then incubated in fresh water hatcheries under carefully controlled conditions.
  2. ALEVINS: From January to the Spring, the eggs hatch and feed from their yolk sac. Health and performance are continually monitored by husbandrymen to ensure optimum development into fry.
  3. FRY: When they begin feeding for themselves they are placed in fresh water tanks for four months, during which time they grow to the parr stage.
  4. PARR: The parr identified by the characteristic ‘parr marks’ on the flank grow rapidly up to the end of the Winter. In the Spring they lose the characteristic ‘parr marks’ and undergo a major physiological and anatomical transformation and turn into smolts.
  5. SMOLTS: Under farmed conditions, they are transferred from the freshwater environment, in which they have lived and developed since birth to sea cages or tanks where they grow rapidly. They average in the range of 50-90 g in weight. The transfer from fresh sea water is an extremely delicate operation and requires very careful monitoring to ensure that the young salmon are not damaged.
  6. SALMON: Once in salt water, the smolts grow in cages in lochs and inlets around the Scottish coast for a period of 1-2 years. The salmon are fed on compounded rations based on fish meal and fish oil to ensure that they are provided with all of their nutritional requirements.
  7. HARVESTING: Scottish farmed salmon are harvested humanely using methods which ensure that they are rapidly stunned and bled. This ensures high flesh quality and hygiene.
  8. GUTTING: Once bled, they are immediately chilled in iced water to a temperature less than 4 °C. They are then gutted as soon as possible and brought down to a packaging temperatures of 0-2 °C.
  9. PACKING: They are packed into food grade boxes/containers to protect the product during handling, storage and transit and all packing is carried out in line with stringent specification governing temperature controls, hygiene and product grading.
  10. DISTRIBUTION: The product is stored and distributed to the customer in line with strict hygiene standards, including temperature control at between 0-2 °C.

Independent inspectors rigorously enforce the quality of Scottish farmed salmon. Farms and packing stations undergo frequent, random, detailed checks and audits.

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