Canned Alaska Salmon and Colorado Cattle Ranching

Portrait of Winifred Raber
Winifred Raber, Western Colorado Woman of the West, and Canned Salmon Eater

Canned wild Alaska salmon, humble though it may seem, is one very phenomenal, incredibly nutritious food, with a rich history and a great story. Canned wild Alaska salmon isn’t just some food scientist’s creation, it is a defining food of our nation’s history.

Salmon canneries were a part of the earliest industrialization of the western United States, providing nutrition for our western pioneers. Salmon canneries were big business in the old days, with salmon canneries sprinkled up and down the Pacific Coast.

I remember my dear Aunt Winifred talking about loving and eating canned salmon in their remote cow camps in the high mesas of western Colorado.
Even though they were cattle ranchers, with hundreds of cattle, the lack of good refrigeration made canned Alaska salmon an accessible source of protein, that was the basis of many memorable meals up at the summer cow camp of the Grand Mesa of western Colorado.

Fortunately, Alaska salmon are still in great abundance. Alaska’s small population, lack of industrialization, it’s geographic isolation, and excellent, state of art, biological management happily conspire to make Alaska salmon runs as healthy as they were 100’s years ago.

Pink Salmon Fishing in Southeast Alaska
Pink Salmon Fishing in Southeast Alaska

Additionally, the quality of canned Alaska salmon has improved immeasurably in the past 25 years because most boats now feature chilled circulating seawater fish holds, thus the fish are kept in prime condition from the time they leave the pure Alaska waters, to when they arrive at the processing plant, hours later. So for those who last ate canned salmon 30 years ago, you have got a great surprise in store-canned Alaska salmon is delicious and fresh tasting-promise.

I also take comfort, as an ambivalent meat eater, that Alaska salmon live out nearly their entire lives as nature intended. They are captured just before they begin their final journey up a stream. By carefully monitoring the fishermen’s catch, relative to the fish escapement up the 1000’s of streams, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game optimizes stream and fish health. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game is considered to be perhaps the most skilled fish managers in the world. The harmonious relationship between the commercial fishing industry and the fisheries biologists of Alaska is something to behold, and one wishes that we could all get along as well as the fishing industry of Alaska and the regulators.

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