• 04.16.12

Patagonia’s Plan To Save The World’s Salmon By Turning It Into Jerky

What’s the best way to promote sustainable salmon? Patagonia’s founder thinks it’s to create a market for it. If people want delicious salmon jerky made from the best salmon, we’ll be forced to preserve them.

Patagonia–yes, the company that makes clothing–is getting into the jerky business. It isn’t making the kind of meat-filled jerky you might find at your local gas station, though. The company is instead selling wild salmon jerky. The reason, according to founder Yvon Chouinard, is that sustainably harvested salmon can help ensure a plentiful supply of salmon in the future.


Chouinard explains the problem in a recent essay: “If you catch a salmon in the ocean, you really don’t know where that fish came from. If it’s a sockeye, it may have come from the Fraser River in British Columbia where there was a run of 25 million fish last year (just 12 percent of what the run used to be). But that fish may have also come from a tributary of the Fraser where there are only 20-50 fish left. Or it could be a coho or Atlantic salmon that escaped from a fish farm, and is now loaded with dioxins, antibiotics, fungicides and other chemicals used to “clean” net pens. It could be a Chinook salmon from a hatchery, with all its attendant dumbed-down-gene-pool problems. How does the fisherman know–or the consumer?”

To that end, Patagonia’s new Provisions Salmon Project aims to create a business model showing that selectively harvesting salmon is both good for the bottom line and the planet. Patagonia is working with SkeenaWild, a Canadian fish conservation organization, to find fisheries that only use sustainable techniques. These techniques generate higher-quality salmon and ensure that other species don’t accidentally get harmed in the process.

The venture isn’t entirely random. Jerky is, after all, perfect camping food for those times when you’re decked out in Patagonia gear on the trail. Patagonia likens its current campaign to change the salmon industry to its past efforts to overhaul the cotton supply chain. And the company is known for making surprising business decisions. Earlier this year, Patagonia launched a campaign asking customers to resell or repair Patagonia clothes before buying new items.

We haven’t yet tried the jerky, but you can judge it for yourself here.

About the author

Ariel Schwartz is a Senior Editor at Co.Exist. She has contributed to SF Weekly, Popular Science, Inhabitat, Greenbiz, NBC Bay Area, GOOD Magazine and more.