Salmon From Costco, Trader Joe’s Beat Out Fancy, Expensive Fish In Taste Test

This sea lion may not be getting the tastiest salmon by choosing wild fish over farmed. ( photo bypwrplantgirl)

This sea lion may not be getting the tastiest salmon by choosing wild fish over farmed. ( photo bypwrplantgirl)

The Washington Post recently provided a top chef with a variety of wild and farmed salmon, ranging in price from $6/lb. to $20/lb., and had him prepare dishes for a table of food-snob judges. In the end, farmed salmon handily defeat the wild stuff and the Post concluded that you don’t always get what you pay for.

The Post panel were fed a wide variety of salmon — six from farmed sources and four wild salmon — from waters in Norway, Scotland, Chile, Alaska, Washington, and elsewhere.

There were two Costco products on the list, a wild coho from Alaska at $10.99/lb. and a frozen farmed fish from Norway. This second fish, the only frozen product on the list and sold for only $6/lb., was put into the test at the last-minute with the thought that the testers would most certainly notice the difference.

And apparently they did, but not in the way that the test-runners had expected.

Judging each salmon on a scale of 1-10, this cheapo Costco fish scored the highest at 7.6. Costco also had the lowest-scoring fish on the test, as the wild coho brought up the rear with a mere 3.9 out of 10.

With a score of 6.4, the second-highest rating went to a Trader Joe’s farmed salmon from Norway ($10.99/lb.). In fact, all of the top five finishers were farmed, averaging between twelve to thirteen dollars per pound. Meanwhile the bottom three on the list were all wild salmon, with an average price between fourteen and seventeen dollars per pound.

In explaining why tasters might have been so taken with the Costco frozen product, the Post theorizes that it was the fact that the fish is packed in a 4% salt solution, which adds a bit of flavor and may result in a firmer fish.

“The Costco/Kirkland label product was a fine piece of fish, and one any of us would put on the table,” writes the Post. “Yet it wasn’t strictly comparable to the others.”

The tasters say that there some times when they could immediately identify farmed salmon because of its larger flake and higher fat content — or conversely that some were able to identify the finer grain of a wild salmon — “we could not consistently tell which was which.”

We’re always joking about how “I make/cook/bake/sew/build my own [blank] at home,” but this is the kind of test many people could try with friends at home in a setting that wouldn’t require lab coats and may actually be enjoyable… especially if you’re also taste-testing wine and/or beer.