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Common Myths around Salmon Colouring and Astaxanthin


By: Information supplied by Huon Salmon

Salmon farming can be quite a controversial topic but Huon Salmon does not shy away from such conversations. As leading salmon farmers in Australia, their stance on sustainability and constant evolution with technology makes them the perfect candidate to de-bunk myths around salmon colouring and Astaxanthin.

MYTH: Farmers DYE their fish to make them look fresh

The pink colour that characterises Salmon is given by a chemical compound called Astaxanthin. The compound belongs to a group of substances called Carotenoids. There are more than 600 naturally occurring carotenoids. One of the best known, Beta-carotene, takes its name from carrots and is responsible for their characteristic orange colour. The group of carotenoids found in fish are known as xanthophylls and includes Astaxanthin and canthaxanthin. The pigment is a vital antioxidant that helps in improving robustness, maturation rate of eggs by protecting them from damage by light and helping the male find the egg. It has also been shown to increase the growth rate and survival of juvenile fish and the synthesis of Vitamin A in fish. Both wild and farmed salmon must therefore take them in as part of their diets. The amount of pigment in the feed varies according to defined quality criteria and nutrition.

Salmon are unable to produce this compound themselves and must obtain it through dietary means. Astaxanthin is produced in natural waterways by algae, yeast and bacteria. The pigment is then passed on to crustaceans, such as shrimp or krill, when they eat these primary producers. Salmon then eat the crustaceans and retain the Astaxanthin that they receive through their diet in the flesh and skin. This process is called food chain amplification.

This pigment can now by synthesised without the need to harvest wild crustaceans or any other organisms that produce it. It is identical to that found in the wild food chain and provides the same benefits to fish. The ability to make an identical version of this nutrient increases the ability of the industry to sustainably grow without impacting other industries or depleting naturally occurring, but limited, resources.

Astaxanthin IS NOT harmful to humans

It should also be noted that Astaxanthin is not harmful to humans. In fact, there is a growing body of medical research that highlights Astaxanthin as a valuable antioxidant for human health, and it is now included directly in nutraceutical products available at a range of health stores and chemists.

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