It was the height of Alaska salmon season when I visited Kodiak a couple summers ago, and there was a lot to be had: to be grilled, smoked, pickled and, most importantly, eaten. But the addiction to this fish goes beyond the fresh stuff coming off the boats. During dinner at Kodiak resident Jeff Stephan's home he demonstrated his easy DIY salmon burgers. Open up a can, shape the stuff inside into a patty, put it on a plate and microwave it.
I left questioning why I didn't buy canned pinks more often. Salmon wasn't something I thought of when I was trying to save money at the grocery store. Hopefully more people will be thinking of it in that way thanks to the recent passage of a revised product development bill and a promotional campaign focusing on pinks.
Salmon has already gone through a transformation. Over the last ten years, the 72 percent of Alaska's pink salmon that went into cans dropped to 49 percent in 2012. Part of the reason for that change was a bill that gave tax credits to processors that invested in equipment for creating new product forms.
Canned salmon products were excluded from that credit until now. In April the Alaska Legislature passed a new version of the bill (called The Salmon & Herring Product Development Tax Credit) that expanded the credit to new herring products and new sizes of canned salmon. For salmon that will likely mean smaller can sizes that will help processors hit lower price points, according to Tyson Fick, communications director for the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute in Juneau.
While the number of cans has gone down, average ex-vessel prices have gone up — from 9 cents per pound in 2003 to 48 cents in 2012. But this past year people in the industry have worried that record high landings of pinks would cause a glut and lower prices. To address this, ASMI has kicked off a marketing campaign targeting "über" athletes and will be advertising in running and cycling magazines and promoting at rock 'n' roll marathons.
Too much of a good thing is not a bad thing — when it comes to Alaska salmon. I hope the word gets out to more working families out there too. It's an easy sell, a cheap, healthy meal in a can, caught by American fishermen. The advertising slogans practically write themselves.