Wednesday, August 20, 2008

What's in a name?

When I saw the refer, my spirits sank: "Eric Ripert, a four-star seafood chef, takes on a 99-cent frozen salmon fillet." Do we really need a four-star chef showing us how to eat cheap, farmed salmon? Isn't it bad enough that Top Chef continually features Chilean seabass?

But I had to reconsider when I saw the slideshow with the packets of "Wild-caught Pacific keta salmon filets." Keta salmon? Ah, it's chum salmon, reborn with a sexier name. In this case, returning to its scientific name, Oncorhyncus keta. The Alaska chum salmon fishery is MSC certified, but I don't see their logo on the packages. That, combined with the multinational ties of the Simply Seafood brand and the "frozen at sea" label, leads me to suspect these are chums from the coast of Russia or Korea. Not always the most well-managed fisheries, but chum populations have historically been fairly strong and resilient. Chums were smart enough to pick rivers in places too remote to dam up.

In the U.S., "chum" conjures up images of that bloody stuff they used to lure Jaws. Not very appetizing. You might see chum in cans, or in your pet's food. It's nice to see a noble salmon getting a promotion to Eric Ripert's frying pan, even for the ridiculously low price of 99 cents.

photo of chum salmon transforming from ocean bright to river stripes
thanks to the Washington Dept. of Fish & Wildlife

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