Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Target’s Elimination of Farmed Salmon is a Smart PR Decision

Target announced last week it has eliminated all farmed salmon from its fresh, frozen, and smoked seafood offerings in Target stores nationwide. This announcement includes Target owned brands – Archer Farms
and Market Pantry – and national brands. All salmon sold under Target owned brands will now be wild-caught Alaskan salmon.  Target is taking this important step to ensure that its salmon offerings are sourced in a sustainable way that helps to preserve abundance, species health and doesn’t harm local habitats.

Why is this important?

I became aware of the realities of salmon farming while reading Charles Fishman’s book The Wal-Mart Effect: How the World's Most Powerful Company Really Works--and How It's Transforming the American Economy. Fishman writes Wal-Mart, whose company sells more salmon than any other store in the country, buys all its salmon from Chile:

“Atlantic salmon are not native to Chile (its coastline runs along the Pacific). It's an exotic species that is literally farmed and processed by thousands of Chileans. The labor conditions are certainly a concern (long hours, low pay, processing of salmon with razor-sharp filleting instruments).

Another concern is the environment. Salmon farming is already transforming the ecology of southern Chile "with tens of millions of salmon living in vast ocean corrals, their excess food and feces settling to the ocean floor beneath the pens, and dozens of salmon processing plants dumping untreated salmon entrails directly into the ocean."

He then asks:

"Does it matter that salmon for $4.84 a pound leaves a layer of toxic sludge on the ocean bottoms of the Pacific fjords of southern Chile? After all, these salmon are raised in pens (with as many as one million per farm). They are fed antibiotics to prevent disease. As a result, you have quite a mess. One million salmon produce about the same amount of waste as 65,000 people. And add to that additional waste from unconsumed food and antibiotic residue. In essence, the current method of salmon farming creates a toxic seabed.

So how do we change this? His answer is simple: by changing consumer behavior. If shoppers won't buy salmon until Wal-Mart insists on higher standards, Wal-Mart will insist on them. The same company that created this huge market for salmon can also change it. But this will only happen if consumers voice their concerns and back it up with their behavior."

I have never been a fan of Wal-Mart always preferring to shop at the more sophisticated higher priced Target.* Family members who are fans of Wal-Mart loved to bait me with statements such as “Target’s business practices are no better than Wal-Mart's.” “What’s wrong with you; don’t you like to save money?” This latest move clearly places Target ahead of Wal-Mart and many other retailers in the environmentally conscious arena.

* In actuality, I’m really not much of a Target shopper either, but after reading "The Wal-Mart Effect" I will defend almost any store against Wal-Mart.

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