Our Pick: Ora King Salmon from New Zealand
Ora King may be a familiar name to you – but you’ve probably seen it gracing fine-dining menus – not shop windows. Ora King are a premium producer and only approach a handful of retailers who are guaranteed to do their salmon justice. In October 2018 they approached us about being our primary supplier of salmon.
Premium, sought-after product is enticing to us, but there are considerations we need to take into account.
Fish to the future
By many estimates seafood is one of those modern luxuries that we may only be able to indulge in for a few more decades. Overfishing and destructive production of seafood for human consumption is, by-and-large, not future-proofed.
It’s for these reasons, farms like Ora King in New Zealand give us hope. Using state-of-the-art fish farming practices and technology – Ora King are decades ahead of the rest of the industry when it comes to things like sustainability and minimising environmental impact. With an emphasis on finessing feed-to-fish ratios and traceability – product integrity is vertically integrated throughout their entire operation.
Best of Breed
Ora King specialises in pedigree King, or “Chinook” salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) – the bloodlines of which have been ushered to perfection through attentive husbandry since 1994. By selectively breeding and encouraging the more desirable traits and weeding out imperfections, Ora King have become renowned world-over with chefs as a consistently high-performing product that delights even the most discerning diners – including in Japan where the quality of seafood needs to be high to even make it to market.
Hailing from the Northern Pacific where it is established as a food source in the Pacific North-West of America – the King salmon was successfully introduced into New Zealand’s waters for farming because the conditions share many qualities with their antipodean waters.
Born of Beauty
Situated in The Marlborough Sounds on the Northern tip of New Zealand’s South Island – Ora King’s facilities take full advantage of the dramatically jagged coastline of the fjordland that is fed by funnelling Antarctic ocean currents that keep the water clean, cool and well oxygenated.
Ora King have worked in concert with Local Councils, the NZ government and consulting environmental bodies to conduct their operations with as little impact as possible on the surrounding wilderness.
Ora King run a state-of-the-art operation with meticulous control over the whole life-cycle of their fish. Salmon – being anadromous (salt and fresh-water), go through a number of drastic transformations from egg to maturity – each stage requiring different care and different conditions. In doing this, they are able to grow the salmon to the absolute height of their genetic potential. Feed and disease prevention are also paramount considerations – the feed is GMO and antibiotic free and designed to provide the fish with an optimum balance of nutrients.
This bespoke salmon feed includes astaxanthin – the oft-misunderstood macro-nutrient that wild salmon require to survive. Naturally occurring in crustacea, corals and algae – astaxanthin is amino acid and antioxidant – an essential component of wild salmon’s diet. Astaxanthin is characterised by its orange pigment – which is stored in the Salmon’s cells – giving it its vibrant colour. Ora King Salmon are actually colour-graded as part of quality control – to ensure they’ve absorbed enough nutrients. Because they are fed for optimal constitution and are raised in pens where stocking density never exceeds 2% fish (to 98% water) – disease is rare – hence why no antibiotics are used in the feed – as sometimes occurs in other fish farms (albeit in minute dosages). Traceability is also key to Ora King’s supply chain, with every individual fish be tagged with a unique gill tag identifier to trace them back to pens and egg batches.
The Wagyu of Salmon
King is referred to as the Wagyu of salmon because it has a number of similar characteristics – namely the distinct marbling which is expressed through equidistant inter-mulscular fat lines – this becomes ever apparent after certain cooking methods when the fish ‘flakes’ apart in beautiful slivers. The King salmon has a rounder, barreled mid-section compared to other subspecies of salmon resulting in much thicker fillets.
Fat content is another key characteristic of the King – which, among salmon is the most bountiful in omega 3 carrying oils. This means the fish retains a beautiful moistness – even with longer cooking methods and eats with a decadent, buttery texture – rich in sweet and umami flavours.
Ora King Salmon is available at our Kew, Hawthorn, Malvern and South Yarra location & online.
Images courtesy of Ora King.