ATLANTA -- Wild-caught versus farm-raised fish.
The nation's second largest discount chain has cast its vote.
The Target Corporation will now sell only wild-caught and not farm-raised salmon.
One of the healthiest foods on earth -- salmon. We get it two ways: farm-raised and wild-caught.
"I think there's no comparison, taste-wise," said executive director of Georgia Organics, Alice Rolls. "I think the taste of wild caught fish is far superior."
But there's more to the debate than taste. Many high intensity fish farms put large concentrations of fish in sea pens, and treat them with hormones, chemicals and antibiotics.
"Currently the worldwide salmon farming community is under pressure," said Robert Pidgeon of the Inland Seafood Company, "By the consumer groups -- not just in the United States but the world over -- to do a better job, environmental husbandry if you will."
It hasn't been doing a good enough job for Target. The huge discount chain will now only sell wild caught Alaskan salmon, because of the environmental impact of salmon farming.
"I see it as a positive sign," said Georgia Organics' Alice Rolls. "I'd like to see more companies take a harder look at the cost environmentally -- also to our health -- that the foods that we're producing in this country are creating."
Over harvesting wild fish populations has depleted some species to frightening levels. For the most part, Alaskan salmon are doing well.
Target consulted with the Monterey Bay Aquarium in California, as it made its decision to sell only wild caught Alaskan salmon.
That decision, said the aquarium, will influence others to practice sustainable fishing, and to improve fish farming techniques.
The wild-caught salmon that we buy is, or has been, frozen except for fish caught during a relatively small window during the year -- which means the advantage to buying farm-raised salmon has been that you could get it fresh throughout the year.
But modern freezing techniques can maintain the quality of salmon flesh.
"In the past," said Inland Seafood's Robert Pidgeon, "Frozen salmon has had a soft, mushy texture. Well nowadays we sell a lot of previously frozen wild salmon and it survives the freezing process very well."
Fish farming techniques have improved, and can no longer be condemned industry wide as being harmful to the environment and damaging to the natural salmon population. But the quality that nature produces is pretty much on target.