“Ever heard of a farm that doesn’t feed its’ animals?”

An interesting video I just came across on the TED network that offers an alternative to the “farm raised” fish that are under such intense scrutiny.  Chef Dan Barber talks about a fish farm in Spain that seems to be doing things in a backward manner, and in the process he also raises some larger questions about the state of our food industry as a whole.  While I’d like to do more research about this farm before labeling it as a potential solution, at surface level it definitely appears to be an intriguing option.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this…


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4 responses to ““Ever heard of a farm that doesn’t feed its’ animals?””

  1. Barbra & Jack Donachy says :

    We already HAVE the ecological model of fish production Dan Barber describes in this video: It’s the Alaska model for sustainable harvest of wild and wild-caught salmon. Like the vast Spanish wetlands of Veta la Palma, in Alaska we have environs such as the Bristol Bay Watershed and the Tongass National Forest – pristine, self-renewing environs where salmon are a key species and are relied upon by orcas, seals, porpoises, eagles, bears and a host of other animals. Like the Veta la Palma model, a certain percentage of these salmon are harvested for human consumption; but 10’s of millions of salmon are allowed to go free so that they can sustain the environment.
    We like what we saw in this video about Veta la Palma. But we LOVE what is already happening in Alaska and what has been going on for countless generations. We hope Dan Barber and everyone who cares about quality food, healthy ecosystems and sustainability will join us in absolutely refusing to have anything to do with farmed salmon. Farmed salmon – cheap, unsustainable – take value away from wild-caught salmon, and that in turn devalues the salmon forests, rivers and oceans wild salmon need.
    That being said, Dan makes two errors in this talk. First, he lumps salmon in with tuna and other fish that are being overharvested. While it is true that tuna and Most large fish species are being irresponsibly harvested, it is simply NOT true of wild-caught Alaska salmon. The notion that salmon are being overharvested and that we therefore “need” farmed salmon is a lie being propagated by the salmon farming industry.
    His second error is to attribute world hunger to inefficient food distribution or other causes. There is one root cause of world hunger: overpopulation. “How can we feed the world?” Dan asks. The answer is, “With 7 billion people on this planet and more coming every day, we can’t. We Must begin to seriously engage in educating people about overpopulation.”

    • tarheelac says :

      Thanks for your comment! A couple of points:
      -I fully agree with you about what wild salmon populations are, or can be if we swallow our pride enough to realize that nature can take care of itself just fine without human “intervention” — whether that be through salmon farms or salmon hatcheries. Both of these things are pointed to as “solutions” to diminishing populations, and both have been proven to be part of the reason why the populations are diminishing in the first place.

      As someone who has never been to Alaska, I’ll defer to your thoughts on the state of the salmon runs in AK. But as a fly fishing guide in Washington state, the reality of a diminishing salmon return is all too real, and therefore I don’t have as big of a problem with Dan putting salmon into the category of an “overharvested fish,” or at the very least a “threatened fish”. It really becomes a Catch 22 of sorts though: for those without much knowledge of the state of wild salmon in the Pacific Northwest, to hear that salmon are thriving in Alaskan waters might paint a picture in their mind that salmon are therefore doing well everywhere. This, we know, just simply isn’t true. But I also know that making wide-sweeping accusations that all salmon are irresponsibly harvested puts those places that are doing well in a negative light, which can make a financial impact on them. The knife, unfortunately, cuts both ways.

      -Watching this video for a second time, and having a conversation about it with my wife (who is getting a Masters Degree in Agronomy), I do think there are some oversimplifications of not only the problems but also the solutions offered. The fact of the matter is that the causes of world hunger are many. Overpopulation, as you stated, is certainly a major aspect of it, but so are where those populations are located, access to resources and training, our move as a culture to urban centers (and therefore away from agricultural lifestyles and the ability to “feed ourselves” as Dan puts it), basic supply and demand economics, and the financial choices that we as consumers make. All of these things, plus a multitude of others I’m sure, make up the issues that the agricultural community are trying hard to address. Some of those attempts to address the issues lead to things like salmon farming or genetic modifications, and some of those attempts lead to suggestions like Dan puts forward. Either way, they are steps toward trying to find an answer to the question: “how do we continue to feed ourselves?”

      Anyways, it’s an interesting conversation to have, and one that we all need to educate ourselves on as much as possible!

      • Barbra & Jack Donachy says :

        Hi back. We lived in both Oregon and Northern California before moving up here and are intimately familiar with the plight of salmon on the west coast. Salmon farms ARE NOT part of the solution. By flooding the market with cheap salmon, these farms devalue wild fish. Devalue the wild fish, and the wild environs they require become devalued, and if we follow that trend to its conclusion, we’ll be in the same boat in Alaska that Washington, Oregon and California are in – states that allowed their salmon forests to be logged out and their rivers to be dammed before the impact those actions would have on salmon was fully understood.
        Meanwhile, as more people – people with money and votes – become stakeholders in wild salmon, there are glimmers of hope in the Pacific Northwest. Dams are coming down, logging practices have changed (not enough, but some), harvest practices have changed, and so forth. Moreover, although we can’t completely undo the damage to genetic strains that was done when fish from different stocks were mixed together in hatcheries, those uninformed practices have largely ceased.
        These actions have been taken because the number of stakeholders in wild salmon – not farmed salmon, wild salmon – have increased.
        Up here in Alaska, with many mistakes as part of the history, salmon are finally being managed with some intelligence. Right now, we face two Huge threats: logging in the Tongass National Forest, and a proposed foreign owned mega mine in the Bristol Bay watershed. THE ONLY thing standing between old growth logging in the Tongass and the Pebble Mine in Bristol Bay are the millions of people who are now stakeholders in wild salmon. Had California had similar stakeholders 70, 60 and 50 years ago, we would not have movies such as “Rivers of a Lost Coast” telling the sad story of ruined rivers and gone fish.
        We urge you, Do Not lump farmed salmon in with equations leading to solutions. As for world hunger, again, the various factors you mention are all rooted in the fact that there are more people on this planet than resources can support without significant loss of biodiversity. Jack and Barbra

  2. tarheelac says :

    Agreed on almost all your points. My statement about farm-raised salmon wasn’t that I view it as a solution to the problem, but rather that in our attempt to feed a growing population we go down a multitude of paths. Some of those paths end with the creation of salmon farms, some of them end with Monsanto and their genetic modifications, and some of them end with the rethinking of organic and local agricultural practices. All of them are attempts at answers to the bigger question. Some of them turn out to be good answers, and some of them, like salmon farms, turn out to be a travesty. Unfortunately, a lot of consumers don’t know the negative impact of farm-raised salmon. You and I know the impact they have on wild fish, but for the majority of shoppers they only see a cheaper form of “salmon” available to them. This is where educating ourselves as consumers comes in–so we don’t view all sources of food as “good” sources of food.

    One of my wife’s comments after viewing this video was that she felt like the speaker was placing too much of the blame on the agricultural community for not doing enough. Instead, she said that the agricultural community is desperately trying to keep up and propose solutions. It’s just that some of the solutions proposed lead to places almost as negative as the original problem.

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