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April 23rd 2024

New rules have been agreed that will enable Scottish farmers to sell more prestigious ‘Label Rouge’ salmon in France and other European markets.

The French quality mark, which comes with a stringent set of standards, has been updated to allow farmers to implement modern solutions to improve salmon health and welfare while maintaining the taste and quality the fish is known for.

Changes includes the ability to export larger fish of between six-to-eight kilograms, paving the way for increased sales of premium salmon – particularly in the sushi sector.

Today’s announcement has been welcomed by Rural Affairs Secretary Mairi Gougeon, who hailed the efforts to boost export opportunities.
France is the top international destination for Scottish salmon, with sales of £272 million in 2023 – nearly half (47 per cent) of all exports.

Around one-third of the salmon exports to France come under the Label Rouge quality mark, which is the official recognition by the French authorities of the superior quality of a food or farmed product.

Scottish salmon was the first non-French product to be awarded the accolade just over 30 years ago.

There is a goal to increase Label Rouge from around 12 per cent to 15 per cent of global export volumes by 2026, with the quality mark now also recognised by chefs and consumers in Germany, Spain and Italy.

The process of agreeing changes to the ‘Cahier des Charge’ specifications set by French authorities has taken five years, and the update will increase survival rates of Scottish salmon by enabling larger, stronger fish to go to sea and potentially spend less time in the marine environment before reaching harvest weight.

The new standard also allows for alternative ingredients including insects and algal oils to be used in addition to marine ingredients to develop protein-rich feed that provide a nutritionally complete diet, supporting the circular economy.

Label Rouge Scottish salmon receive a diet rich in marine ingredients. A new requirement is for at least 10 per cent of the flesh of the salmon to contain Omega-3 oils (EPA and DHA), which carry nutritional benefits including reducing the risk of a heart attack or stroke, as well as supporting brain development and cognitive function.

The changes were announced by Scottish Quality Salmon and Salmon Scotland at the world’s largest seafood trade event in Barcelona, Seafood Expo Global, where representatives from more than 160 countries are in attendance.

Mairi Gougeon, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Land Reform and Islands, said:
“I am delighted by this news – it will enable us to export more of our internationally renowned Label Rouge salmon, which has established itself as a world-leading example of premium quality Scottish produce over the last 30 years.

“We are committed to encouraging investment in research, development and innovation in Scotland’s aquaculture sector and we will continue to work closely with the Scottish salmon industry to further improve export opportunities and see even more consumers enjoying Label Rouge salmon as a result.”

Tavish Scott, chief executive of Salmon Scotland, said:
“Label Rouge Scottish salmon is a key foundation of the success of our sector – championing the quality and taste of the very best, tastiest salmon.

“Operating as sustainably as possible is a top priority for all salmon farmers and these changes help us to provide the same great texture and tasting salmon, with a low carbon footprint.

“The premium on Label Rouge means higher revenues which support the Scottish economy, fund public services, help rural communities thrive, and sustain jobs across the Highlands and islands of Scotland.”

Su Cox, chair of Scottish Quality Salmon, which sets the quality and promotes Label Rouge Scottish Salmon, said:
“Recognised for its exceptional quality, taste, and texture, Label Rouge Scottish salmon is considered to be one of the finest salmon available globally.

“Our fish are grown under strict quality control standards and certified by an exacting quality assurance scheme that is recognised worldwide and guaranteed provenance.

“These practical updates to the Cahier des Charge will safeguard our internationally recognised quality brand.

“Interest and appreciation for the quality associated with our salmon has grown significantly across European markets such as Germany, Spain, and Italy, as well as across Asia and North America.

“We will continue to work closely with leading chefs, and with top ‘poissonerie’ (fish shops), recipes and chef guides, to make sure more people can enjoy Label Rouge Scottish salmon.”