The author discusses extending consumer knowledge along the fish value chain.
Scientists and institutions around the world are studying how to manage food systems and farming resources more effectively. Singapore’s “30 by 30” food security goal for example, has similar elements to the EU’s “Food 2030” framework. A shared food systems value found both in Europe and in Asia is to farm and eat locally. But establishing new societal food system values needs an inclusive multistakeholder approach. An important group of actors are the consumers, including young consumers such as school children. Resilient food systems need to deliver co-benefits for people’s health, our climate, planet, and communities. As such, establishing shorter food supply chains and making consumers aware that they can choose to buy local produce as a means to a healthier, more sustainable living are some immediate societal goals in achieving a resilient future food system.
Aquaculture and increasing seafood consumption is seen as a means towards more resilient food systems for Europe. 1, 2 Over the past decades, studies have also shown that regular seafood consumption can have overall health benefits from improved neurological and cardiovascular function, and helping to manage hypertension. 3, 4 But what do Nordic consumers understand by the phrase “eating fish is healthy”?
Salmon and cod are the most popular fish species consumed in weekday meals. 5 Salmon feed consists of about 70 per cent vegetable raw material and 30 per cent marine raw material such as fish oil and fish meal from wild fish. In the past years, technology has enabled alternative sources of proteins from insects, microalgae, yeast, and other food by-products to be used as sustainable alternatives in animal feed. But do consumers care about what their salmon eat? And will they continue to buy salmon as their favourite fish? So I asked Nordic consumers for their opinion on if they were concerned about how salmon, a carnivorous fish, was fed and raised, and what they would buy salmon fed on alternative proteins.
The interview sample consisted of about 20 individuals, with a general age range from mid-20s to mid-60s. A random sampling method was used in order to obtain an unbiased representation of the consumer group. The interviews indicated that the individuals consumed seafood about once or twice a week. They preferred to dine at home with grilled or fried salmon, trout, and cod making for the most popular meals. There is a general consensus that consuming seafood is seen as a sustainable future food strategy. Most individuals knew that the salmon was farmed, and that they had only a slight preference for wild caught over farmed fish due to price concerns.
While there was a general awareness to consume and buy sustainable seafood products, few respondents were aware of how salmon are raised, and what they were fed. They were not particularly aware either, that what their fish ate could impact their own human gut health, and health in general. 6
In terms of which salmon products they would purchase, salmon fed on alternative proteins did not seem to deter future purchases. A number of respondents thought that alternative proteins from insects for example, would have a positive impact on climate change, and contribute to salmon being a future sustainable food product. The respondents however, voiced other considerations that influenced their purchasing behaviour.
One respondent in his mid-20s said that he would not go out of his way to purchase products with eco-friendly labels because packages with eco-friendly labels generally cost slightly more. Another respondent, also in their 20s said, that there was little awareness within their social environment (family and friends) about where the salmon was farmed, let alone what it eats. Another feedback from respondents was on the fact that seafood packages currently lacked information on aquaculture methods, fish feed, and farming standards of practice.
The taste and flavour of salmon is important. One respondent who has tried recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS) landbased farmed salmon said that salmon raised in RAS farms was not as flavourful as those raised in ocean pens, and they could identify a landbased farmed salmon from one that was raised in the ocean.
Most respondents agreed however, that Norwegian salmon was a very good product, and they would choose Norwegian salmon over salmon from other countries, for reasons of shorter food chain between the Nordic countries, and that Norway had very high quality standards in salmon aquaculture.
From the qualitative findings of the interviews, Nordic respondents not only view eating fish as healthy, but that eating more seafood will help foster a more resilient future food system for the region. At present, not many respondents were aware of what salmon were fed, or how salmon is raised. Most respondents placed trust in the food industry and food services industry to provide safe and nutritious food.
As a means to foster a more resilient regional future food system, industry stakeholders might consider marketing strategies that actively involve consumers as co-collaborators and co-creators of products. A possible solution for greater consumer empowerment is for salmon food packages to contain information that increases consumer knowledge on industry standard practices via a QR code that could be scanned for product information and traceability.
2 EEA, Seafood in Europe. A food system approach for sustainability. EEA Report No 25/2016., no. 25. 2016.
3 D F Horrobin, “Seafoods and fish oils in human health and disease,” Int. J Cardiol, vol. 22, no. 3, pp. 409, Mar 1989.
4 28 February, 2020, Eurofish Magazine, A decline in Norwegian consumption of seafood is being fought at several levels. Access via,
5 The Norwegian Seafood Council, “Top Seafood Consumer Trends 2021,” 2021.
6 A R Sapkota, L . Lefferts, . McKenzie, and P Walker, “What do we feed to food-production animals? A review of animal feed ingredients and their potential impacts on human health,” Environ. Health Perspect, vol. 115, no. 5, pp. 663–670, 2007.
Cheryl Marie Cordeiro is a Scientist at the Department of Marketing Research at Nofima, The Norwegian Institute of Food, Fisheries and Aquaculture Research, located in Tromsø in Northern Norway. She has a PhD in applied linguistics from the University of Gothenburg, Sweden. Her current projects include EU-China-Safe, working on food safety and traceability for the EU-China food partnership; TastyKelp studying how novel seaweed products can be brought to market and Market Access, studying non-tariff related barriers to global trade for Norwegian seafood.
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