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Seeing a lot of Copper River Sockeye here in Cali. Gimmick?

Is this the real thing or at least a good deal at $9.99/lb? I thought Copper River salmon was always king/Chinook, and when I used to get it up in WA state, it was much closer to $20/lb.

Now Costco & Safeway have this CR wild *sockeye* salmon for 10 bucks. and these particular stores are ones that previously only rarely offered wild Alaskan/Pacific salmon, much less the heralded CR variety. FWIW, the filets they had at Safeway look very deep in color, much like the 'true' CR Chinook I had seen in the past.

So, is Copper River, AK, enjoying an enormous bumper crop this year, or is the moniker now just being thrown about liberally?

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  1. One of the commercial fishing magazines I subscribe to has run articles on Copper River Salmon several times including the current issue.

    The article mentioned Pike's selling whole CR Kings for 29.99/lb. this season (May 07). King season is much shorter than Sockeye and the harvest is much lower for King compared to Sockeye.

    In the past, CR Sockeye were not harvested to the extent they are this season. Alaska harvests tons of salmon, but since most of it is net caught, and packed in holds they don't look good. Recently, Alaskan fishermen (esp Copper River area) are handling their salmon much more gently and instead of ending up in a can, the fish are being exported as both whole and filets.

    It is not a bumper crop, but rather a under utilized resource being utilized.

    Is it a gimmick, yes, it is a marketing creation.

    You mentioned Safeway, I used to find it amusing when Safeway would sell "Alaskan Silver Brites". Those were Dog Salmon aka Chum Salmon, named because of their Alaskan usage: dog food.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Alan408

      Few days ago I saw super nice filets of rather large (25-30 lb) CR Kings at our local North Cal Costco for $13.99....must buy some and make some primo Gravlax....

    2. My husband bought about a 2lb filet of Copper River salmon at Costco this week and it was delicious. Can't speak to whether or not the name is being used more liberally, but it definitely had the "wild" color - before and after cooking.

      9 Replies
      1. re: MMRuth

        But can't the color be injected? I usually gauge by the taste - definitely more "salmony" than farm raised. I just got my annual order from Seabear and will be sitting down to the first filet in moments. Looks and smells wonderful!

        1. re: LindaWhit

          I believe that if color is added, it must be stated. Copper River is not known for having color added. If you haven't had it, you should try it.

          1. re: justagthing

            As I said above, I just had the first filet from my Seabear Copper River wild sockeye salmon order. Third year in a row I've ordered it - LOVE it!

            1. re: LindaWhit

              sorry, was focusing on the question about the color being injected

              1. re: justagthing

                For the record, I don't think that color is ever injected, but their feed is boosted with caretonoid pigments that would occur in their natural diet. That's not to say it changes the flavor in any way, but that it's less dubious than "painting" the salmon.

                1. re: kindofabigdeal

                  Yes, I know, I was responding to LindaWhit. So I was using her word. Thanks for the more detailed explanation, that may help the other poster.

          2. re: LindaWhit

            California law states that if color is added, it must be on the label. It is on all the farmed (less expensive) salmon.

            1. re: Cathy

              Ahhh, thanks. Not sure if that goes for all states, as I don't recall seeing it on MA-labeled fish at the supermarkets.

              1. re: LindaWhit

                At the Nashua Costco they don't label farmed salmon as having color added, nor have I seen it in some MA stores so I don't think it is a NE law. Whole Foods is the only local store I know of that labels it as color added or not.

        2. Copper River sockeye salmon is delicious! It has been marketed for many years, but it seems it was appreciated only by a small portion of the population. Copper River king salmon is also delicious, but they are much bigger than the sockeye. You can't go wrong with either one.

          1. I went down to Pike Place Market this week and saw CR Sockeye for $12.99 a pound and if I remember right, the price went down last August to $9.99 at Costco. It seems as though after the first week of the "CR" madhouse, prices just keep going down!

            1. I don't believe the name Copper River can be used unless it comes from the Copper River. So, unless you're dealing with something like "Salmon from Copper River Fish" where "Copper River Fish" is the name of the outfit selling it and not where the fish came from, then you're getting actual Copper River salmon.

              Copper River Sockeye is my favorite Salmon and has been for years since I lived in Seattle.

              1. Copper River Kings are a larger fish, so they have a larger fat reserve for their journey up stream. Copper River Sockeyes are a smaller fish, a still great fish, but the Kings are the better of the 2. Demand has been huge for the Kings, everyone knows what Copper River salmon is these days. 10 years ago only really high end restaurants knew how to properly cook the King, now every one seems to have it on their menus.
                Copper River Kings are now selling in restaurants in the $35-40 range for entrees. Many people don't know there is a difference, and the sockeye is cheaper to sell, not the same sticker shock. 10 bucks is a good price for the sockeye, if it is fresh, without the fishy odor, but Chinook/King is hard to find in retail outlets due to price.

                1. I used to live in Alaska and If people only knew how easy those buggers are to get youd think 2$s a pound would be a rip.10$ hah too bad to hear how many stores put any old salmon off as sockeye.Most any large local river will have native americans selling fish out of there nets cheap get there number and you got an endless supply.

                  8 Replies
                  1. re: widehomehi

                    Folks not living in Alaska, such as myself, expect to pay more because we can't get that stuff where we live. Then again, many areas have their own uniquely cheap but desirable products. For example, we have so many Meyer lemons in our area, it's considered a nuisance, but people in other areas are willing to pay gobs of money for them.

                    1. re: widehomehi

                      First salmon I ever cooked was given to me by a cheerfully drunk fisherman in an Anchorage bar. My wife and I had been chatting with him when he said, "Hey, you guys like fish?" We said we did, and he bent down and pulled a soggy cardboard box out from under a table. It was full of these gigantic salmon, mostly hanging over the sides. He picked one up with both hands and said, "Here!" Took it home and grilled it that night...wonderful!

                      I lived in Anchorage for seven or eight years - never hunted, never fished, but had lots of fish and game just for being in the right place and time. And Yes, I will now happily pay the price for good fish...and I have a driveway full of Meyer lemons, too! Luckily they go well together...

                      1. re: Will Owen

                        They even give them away at the food banks there lol

                        1. re: widehomehi

                          Which in turn reminds me of how there were laws in Paris limiting how many times a week servants could be fed salmon. It was so abundant, it was considered trash food, poverty food. Long gone now, of course. But, it's where you are, when you are.

                          1. re: optimal forager

                            Still 10$-20$ bucks is very expensive i'll admit Sockeye is my favorite and fresh,just about nothing beats it.If its unavailable in the area it's worth a good price mabye 5-6 bucks a lb.But they have really done a marketing number on Copper river. Sockeye throughout Alaska is pretty much the same unless you get it really far inland than its spawned out,it's a gimmick to charge so much,I just don't see the value even if your buying it on the other side of the USA.I'll buy Pink Salmon in the can in the dollar store before i'd pay $10s a pound for salmon.

                            1. re: widehomehi

                              When all you HAVE is farmed salmon, getting wild sockeye salmon once a year it's worth it spending the money - at least for me it is. Someone in the middle of the country might be willing to spend the extra money to have fresh, live Maine lobsters flown in for a clambake in Kansas, because it can be done now. I'm willing to spend what could be seen as an obscene amount of money (to you) to have 3 lbs. of wild Alaskan sockeye salmon FedX'd to me once a year so I can enjoy "real" salmon. It's a matter of supply and demand, I guess. :-)

                              1. re: LindaWhit

                                Just saying that Sockeye from Alaska is generally the same if it's not caught to far upstream picking one river and marketing it to the hilt is making it cost that much,sure they handle it and distribute it quickly after its caught but all i'm saying is Sockeye could be affordable for even poor people it there want this craze for one type.Someones laughing all the way to the bank.I understand you enjoy "real" salmon not knocking that ENJOY! I'm not getting in the way of a womens salmon!!!

                                1. re: widehomehi

                                  OK, completely agree on marketing it as from one river in Alaska. But marketing is marketing - we're not going to stop it from happening. :-)

                    2. Savor55 hit the nail on the head: the sockeye is a smaller fish with a different flavor than the king. They are both excellent eating. Kings are the marketing favorite, but it's interesting to note that in Canada the sockeye is the choice of many First Nations tribes and fishermen. I've had the current crop and can vouch for its deliciousness:) A great deal, wild salmon for the cost of farmed stuff—which I find to be entirely inedible, incidently, "color added" or not.

                      1. Isn't the sockeye lower in fat than king? I actually prefer that, if it's cooked medium rare, with a soft center, but I know not everyone likes their salmon cooked this way.

                        1. Thank you for asking this question. I saw this salmon at Costco here in IL, tried it with trepidation, loved it, but still wondered what the catch (sorry) was. Now, I'm going to get some more tomorrow.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: optimal forager

                            NP. we went ahead and got some today, and will be cookin' it all up tomorrow! these filets look real purty :)

                            1. re: pushslice

                              Just my 2 cents regarding some of the opinions mentioned above:
                              1. None of the CR salmons have color added to them....they are wild fish...
                              2. If color (an additive) is not added in the feed then it does not have to be stated on the label declaration of farmed salmon...and yes, you can have feed that has a natural source of color...
                              3. Fat content of Kings and Sockeyes is quite similar...I don't have the exact numbers in front of me but it is in the 14-18% range for ocean going fish...it has to do with genetic differences between the two and not how far up the river they have to go before spawning....it can be quite a distance...
                              4. The most important aspect of fish quality is how "old" they are...my estimatre is that the fresh CR Kings/Sockeyes available in noth CA (Bay Area) are 5-7 days post mortem....not too bad considering the distance....
                              Just bought 3+ lb of center cut CR King at Costco and plan to make some Gravlax...will post pictures...in ~72 hrs...

                          2. Copper River Salmon is as much about processing as anything. It's supposed to be processed quickly and gotten to market sooner. I believe part of it is a cooperative effort to help the fisherman have a place to sell there fish to and get it processed and sold.

                            I prefer sockeye to chinook - the fat content is about the same (spring chinook is the exception - it's higher). Sockeye flesh has a finer texture and I think a less assertive, but finer flavor. Most salmon are carnivorous, eating shrimp and other small creatures. Sockeye are plankton eaters.

                            I once had chinook, silver and sockeye cooked up side by side by side. All the fish were of similar size caught that morning by a commercial fisherman near Astoria OR. The chef/friend at the restaurant where the fish were delivered sauteed them with just a bit of salt and pepper for seasoning. The chef, the fisherman and I all prefered the sockeye. The chinook was second and the silver came in 3rd - Anybody would have been lucky to have eaten any of the three.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Calamityville

                              Sockeys are not exclusively plancton eaters....non of the salmons are....when small (juveniles) all salmon will eat plancton, krill, insects, etc....ocean going salmon feed on small fish (i.e. herring), squid, shrimps, etc....

                            2. I am SO glad you started this thread...I don't belong to Costco but a co-worker does and she went there at lunchtime yesterday, asked if anyone needed anything (I'm in SW Florida)...I asked her to look for the CR salmon...she found it for $9.99/lb and I asked her to bring me 2 pounds. I planked it last night (my first time trying planked salmon) and it was heavenly! Beautiful flavor and color! Thanks again for the tip!

                              1. The current edition of Macleans Magazine has a story that addresses the issue of the mislabelling of salmon, written by Sasha Chapman. Anything labelled as Copper River at prices in the $9.99/lb range is not the real thing, according to restaurateurs quoted in the piece.


                                14 Replies
                                1. re: edibleTO

                                  Please read the article again...it does not say that "anything labeled CR...is not the real thing"....all it said that in NT 6 out of 8 salmon labeled as "wild" were farm...but that's NY...

                                  1. re: Pollo

                                    Consumer Reports did an article on wild vs. farmed salmon last year. They tested for the presence of the pigments fed to farmed salmon and if present, concluded that the salmon was farmed. If absent, the salmon was categorized as wild. The article said that during the summer, virtually all salmon sold as wild was truly wild (no pigment). But from September to May almost NONE of the salmon sold as wild was wild, it was just about all farmed. To the eye it looked exactly the same as wild salmon. This was true of fish bought at fishmongers, upscale supermarkets (Whole Foods) as well as standard supermarkets across the country. The conclusion was that to be sure your salmon was wild, buy only in season. I guess this applies to fish that hasn't been frozen.

                                    1. re: Pollo

                                      Pollo, perhaps you should read the article again, as well. I was not referring to the NYT piece, but to what chefs in Toronto are saying about the issue of salmon marketing, particularly that of Copper River and other wild salmon. When the wholesale price to restaurants of Copper River salmon is as high as $30/lb and the chefs are often not able to get enough of the fish to satisfy their needs, one is right to question the origins of the "Copper River salmon" being sold in massive quantities for $9.99/lb at the retail level.

                                      1. re: edibleTO

                                        Not to be argumentative edibleTO but please read both the article and my comment above....as far as what the chefs in TO are saying it is a lot of BS...they are paying $30/lb because of demand in their area...COSTCO can ofer the very same fish for $9.99/lb because of volumes they can purchase...regarding the populartity of CR salmon it has all to do with marketing...you could market at least 10+ river systems that have large Sockeye runs in the same maner and the fish would be as good...bottom line with any fresh fish is the time from catch to table...

                                    2. re: edibleTO

                                      Wow. So they can call it anything they want and sell it? Unbelievable.

                                      1. re: BobtheBigPig

                                        wild is more healthy they eat a wider variety of food and have to exercise to get the food wild tastes better and is better for you selling farm raised lazy anemic salmon is like jepordizing peoples health for the sake of there fat wallets.At least be man enough to tell people what your selling.

                                        1. re: widehomehi

                                          I am now a Seattlite- and have twice gotten salmon from the market. They filleted the fish as I watched. It was 17.99 a pound and worth every penny. Buttery texture, rich flavor. Fresh fish should not taste "fishy", that usually means it isn't so fresh.
                                          As a side note, I was a Floridian most of my life and know a lot about "fake fish marketing". There was a big investigation about a year ago regarding Grouper. Basically about 75% or more of the "grouper" you ate in a restaruant (and we are talking about 25+ restaruants, from beach side bar to 5 star) was actually white fish. Maybe cod, maybe tilapia, even "unidentifiable" white fish. Yum. The testing was done in labs. So don't belive everything on the label.

                                          1. re: jme1beachbum

                                            This Seattle-lite will NEVER pay $17.99/lb for salmon even if it had gold flakes and was served by a harem of women.I'm a fisherman and know the true value of fish.People need a fair deal and to be told the truth if we all succumb to the markets whims soon we will all be getting marketed to and ripped off to death.-Thanks

                                            1. re: widehomehi

                                              Food is generally speaking, too cheap. We expect food to be cheaper than is reasonable for the people who produce it (catch it, process it to the extent it needs to be, etc) to be able to make any kind of a living themselves.

                                              In a capitalist system, the true value of fish is what people will pay for fish. Paying more for a product you can trust is a worthwhile expenditure in my mind. And, Copper River Sockeye is worth quite a bit to me and I'm happy to support the fishermen and the processors of the fish.

                                              1. re: widehomehi

                                                Snippy, snippy. Ah- the benefits of being a fisherman- not paying market price for fresh fish. Must be nice. Altho I wish the world was bright and cheery and marketers & politicians were honest- but its not and they aren't. Until that day I will continue to pay 17.99 for a piece of fabulous salmon, or I suppose until I quit my job and get a fishing boat. Alas. If you can find a piece of previously frozen salmon that tastes good to you for 9.99 at costco (or get one off your boat for considerably less) by all means- ENJOY :)

                                                1. re: jme1beachbum

                                                  beachbum, don't be bitter—I'm a fisherman too and can absolutely assure you that the economics of recreational fishing do not make it a cost-effective way of obtaining seafood:)

                                                  1. re: BobtheBigPig

                                                    the key is to be a friend of a fisherman

                                                    1. re: BobtheBigPig

                                                      That depends on where you fish and if your getting fish.I get fish.Then I buy what I don't catch from native americans that net fish.It's cheaper getting it from them than fishing you get almost any kind of salmon you want 2-4$'s a lb starting with silvers for 2$ and sockeyes for 4$ but not everyone lives in western Washington either.

                                                      1. re: widehomehi

                                                        So...is the point that if you don't live in W. Washington that you shouldn't buy fish because it will cost more than $4 a pound? There are products all over the country that are cheap in some places and costly in others. $10 a pound or $17 a pound for sockeye in parts of California is a good to decent price.