2012-04-16

Co.Exist

Patagonia's Plan To Save The World's Salmon By Turning It Into Jerky

What’s the best way to promote sustainable salmon? Patagonia’s founder thinks it’s to create a market for it. If people want delicious salmon jerky made from the best salmon, we’ll be forced to preserve them.

Patagonia—yes, the company that makes clothing—is getting into the jerky business. It isn’t making the kind of meat-filled jerky you might find at your local gas station, though. The company is instead selling wild salmon jerky. The reason, according to founder Yvon Chouinard, is that sustainably harvested salmon can help ensure a plentiful supply of salmon in the future.

Chouinard explains the problem in a recent essay: "If you catch a salmon in the ocean, you really don’t know where that fish came from. If it’s a sockeye, it may have come from the Fraser River in British Columbia where there was a run of 25 million fish last year (just 12 percent of what the run used to be). But that fish may have also come from a tributary of the Fraser where there are only 20-50 fish left. Or it could be a coho or Atlantic salmon that escaped from a fish farm, and is now loaded with dioxins, antibiotics, fungicides and other chemicals used to "clean" net pens. It could be a Chinook salmon from a hatchery, with all its attendant dumbed-down-gene-pool problems. How does the fisherman know—or the consumer?"

To that end, Patagonia’s new Provisions Salmon Project aims to create a business model showing that selectively harvesting salmon is both good for the bottom line and the planet. Patagonia is working with SkeenaWild, a Canadian fish conservation organization, to find fisheries that only use sustainable techniques. These techniques generate higher-quality salmon and ensure that other species don’t accidentally get harmed in the process.

The venture isn’t entirely random. Jerky is, after all, perfect camping food for those times when you’re decked out in Patagonia gear on the trail. Patagonia likens its current campaign to change the salmon industry to its past efforts to overhaul the cotton supply chain. And the company is known for making surprising business decisions. Earlier this year, Patagonia launched a campaign asking customers to resell or repair Patagonia clothes before buying new items.

We haven’t yet tried the jerky, but you can judge it for yourself here.

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4 Comments

  • Sustainable = animal free

    Why don't they just try to get people to eat less salmon?  That seems like the most sustainable option for the species.

  • Rob MacDonald

     Because if the salmon have no economic value, our economic system will not value them.  The Skeena watershed, which is the spawning ground of the salmon used for this product, is currently beset by developers intent on building mines, hydro power projects, coal bed methane wells, pipelines and oil ports.  If the fish have no value, they will disappear.  Canadian laws have already been gutted to make this development easier, by making it possible to ignore conservation and cultural values that would preserve them.  The traditional fisheries are highly automated and industrialized, and more and more are shipping the raw fish overseas for processing, reducing the value-added component that should bolster the economy in this area.  This product is sustainably caught, processed locally, and makes the most possible amount of money from the smallest quantity of fish.  A strong, viable industry based around it makes it impossible for the government to ignore it, and give free rein to the heavy industries that would much prefer to meet only the bare minimum environmental standards.

    Rob MacDonald
    Terrace, B.C.

  • PupLife Dog Treats

    Good for Patagonia! Salmon Jerky is actually a very popular treat for pets. At PupLife Dog Supplies we sell a few different varieties of dog treats made of salmon. Dogs love them (I'm sure part of it is the slightly funk smell) and they are really good for your pet. Hope this works out well for our pals at Patagonia. 

  • Andrew Siegel

    The same idea has been applied to bison and heritage turkeys.  Its funny because if you tell someone that you love the taste of buffalo burgers you used to shock people - they would say "that's horrible, they're endangered".  But the fact is, by creating a market you make saving the animals from extinctions an economically viable option.