Do farmed salmon eat palm oil?

Some Norwegian feed manufacturers add small amounts of palm oil to the salmon feed. All palm oil used is certified by international sustainability standards.

pellets
Different feed manufacturers in the Norwegian salmon industry approach the issue of palm oil differently. Some have stopped using palm oil altogether. Others use it as a binding agent. In these cases, the fish feed contains around 0.5 percent palm oil. All palm oil in Norwegian salmon feed is RSPO certified. Photo: Norwegian Seafood Council

Palm oil is a versatile vegetable oil that is used all over the world, in everything from biscuits to cosmetics. The oil is derived from the African oil palm (Elaeis guineensis). The growing palm oil industry has however led to deforestation, including of tropical rainforests. Rainforests slow down climate change, and deforestation has serious consequences for animals and plants in the rainforest and the people who live around it. For these reasons, certification schemes to limit or stop deforestation have been introduced.

 

Certification of palm oil

The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) was established by international environmental organizations and palm oil producers to promote sustainable production and use of palm oil. It was set up following an acknowledgement that palm oil production is growing. RSPO developed standards for sustainable palm oil and launched a certification scheme in 2008. In order to be certified, the production must not lead to deforestation of virgin forests with a significant biodiversity or a fragile ecosystem. Deforestation is further prohibited in areas that are important for the fundamental or cultural needs of the local population. Plantations are checked by independent inspectors before they are RSPO certified. In 2015, about 20 percent of the world's palm oil was RSPO-certified.

 

Palm oil in salmon feed

Different feed manufacturers in the Norwegian salmon industry approach the issue of palm oil differently. Some have stopped using palm oil altogether. Others use it as a binding agent. In these cases, the fish feed contains around 0.5 percent palm oil. Fish feed manufacturers import around 1,000 tons of palm oil a year. As a comparison, Norwegian agriculture uses around 25,000 tons of palm oil every year. All palm oil in Norwegian salmon feed is RSPO certified.

Palm oil contains significant amounts of saturated fat. However, according to a report made by NIFES and Nofima, increasing the amount of saturated fat in salmon feed does not lead to a corresponding increase of saturated fat in salmon fillet. This is because the fat is broken down in the gut before the fish absorbs the various fatty acids. Salmon can either create the fat themselves or access it from their feed, and it is not possible to trace saturated fat in salmon back to a single source. 0.5 percent palm oil in salmon feed does not affect the salmon meat consumed by humans.

 

Useful links

WWF's report on palm oil (2011)

Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO)

About SRPO certification

Report from NIFES and Nofima about fat and fish health (2013) (pdf)