Salmon meal and oil in pet food Healthy and sustainable

The salmon aquaculture industry is benefitting from fishmeal and fish oil production. Why is that?

Growing sector

Salmon farming has grown continually over the years. With substantial production in Norway and Chile, as well as Scotland, Canada and the Faroe Islands, the industry is now producing some 2.5 million tonnes per annum. 

There is a natural synergy between this aquaculture and the production of fishmeal and fish oil, with these products providing valuable nutrients for salmon growth and physiology. They are rich in ‘essential’ amino and fatty acids (including omega-3 fatty acids); substances animals cannot synthesise themselves, so must be supplied by their diet. Together with a range of micronutrients, such as vitamins (A, D, B12) and minerals (Fe, Zn, P), fishmeal and fish oil are a foundation for salmon nutrition, as well as for other farmed aquatic species. 

From fish to cat and dog 

The nutritional advantages of a salmon product for farmed fish are also carried over to the consumer. They too reap the benefits of high concentrations of omega-3 fatty acid, highly digestible protein and other nutrients. 

Unsurprisingly, what is good for humans is also good for animals, and with a continually growing salmon sector, the pet food industry has access to salmon meal and salmon oil stocks in formulations for, in particular, cats and dogs.

High quality, appetence and palatability 

The trimmings that result from farmed salmon processing are of food grade, and consequently high quality. This, in turn, makes for very high quality meal and oil products that carry forward nutritional excellence into pet food. 

In addition to important nutritional factors and their advantages, fishmeal in general (including salmon meal) possesses several important compounds known to influence appetite in farmed fish species. This is currently being investigated in some IFFO technical projects. It is highly likely that these factors also contribute to appetence and palatability in cat and dog foods. 

Sustainable growth potential

Production of fishmeal and fish oil from farmed fish by-products represents commercial growth potential for the fishmeal industry. Inclusion rates for meal and oil in salmon feeds have been dropping over the last 20-30 years, largely due to supply and availability. But as aquaculture continues to grow, there will also be increased availability of trimmings from processing farmed fish that can be utilised as a valuable resource for the supply of protein. An additional benefit of farmed fish processing is its centralised trimming collection and handling. 

The development and uptake of certification schemes and codes of practice in the aquaculture sector are testament to continual improvements in the industry’s sustainability. A successful salmon farming industry and technology transfer from that sector are key factors in global aquaculture development, ensuring that there will continue to be a plentiful supply of high quality salmon meal and oil for pet food in the future.


Neil Auchterlonie

Technical Director, IFFO
Year of the salmon, special Southern Europe, Zoomark