Following the launch of the Verlasso salmon line in mid-September, our seafood category experts, Jeff Ludwin (Category Manager) and Marc Sirois (Operations Director), had the opportunity to travel to southern Chile to meet with the fisherman growing this one of kind harmoniously-raised salmon. As the exclusive supplier for Verlasso, our team wanted to ensure we were providing the very best salmon for our customers. By visiting their farms, facilities and operations, Jeff is also able to share the Verlasso story with you.
We traveled from JFK to Puerto Veras (a small port city and commune in southern Chile) to visit with the Verlasso farms. We first visited the salmon hatchery in Puerto Montt. There we witnessed the grow-out in land-based recirculating tanks before being transferred to open sea pens. Here the salmon are raised in fresh water from egg to smolt. After about a year the smolt are then transferred to the ocean for a period of 12 to 18 months where they grow to adult salmon.
After a quick lunch (salmon trout sashimi) with the owners of Verlasso, we boarded a small motor boat to visit the open ocean farms. As we traveled out to sea (approximately 10 miles offshore), I was awed by the beautiful scenery: the skies were clear, the mountains towered above, and the water was a deep, dark blue. Floating in the middle of the ocean were eight sea cages with a small crew of people feeding, monitoring, and taking care of thousands of salmon. The crystal clear waters of southern Patagonia seemed like the perfect place to raise salmon.
At the site, we got to observe the fish being fed, where they eat just below the surface of the water. Holding pellets in hand, we discussed how the traditional salmon feed had been replaced with a diet of omega-3s derived from yeast. Where typically it takes four or more pounds of feeder fish to raise one pound of salmon, the Verlasso feed had reduced that ratio to one to one. The reduction in feeder fish is largely what differentiates Verlasso from traditionally farmed salmon and helps to protect the wild feeder fish populations. I even got to hold a live salmon straight from the ocean!
The next day was spent touring the processing plant where we saw Verlasso salmon being chilled, gutted and packed in boxes for shipment to JFK. It was fascinating to see first-hand the entire process and how, within a matter of a couple days, the fish are harvested, processed, and shipped from the cold waters of Patagonia directly to our facility in Long Island City. This process allows us to serve customers with the very freshest farmed salmon possible.
Our trip was quick (too quick), fun, and incredibly educational. Today, we are able to merchandise the many distinct attributes of Verlasso including the fish to feed ratio, low pen densities, and the natural environment where the fish are raised.
Marc and I are both fans and believers in the Verlasso product. It’s our first choice when it comes to eating farmed salmon, and we look forward to sourcing other types of sustainable seafood offerings that don’t deplete the oceans resources.