Farming and Ranching

Photo Essay: The Vegan Trout

Fish raised on farms generally eat their ground-up oceanic cousins. A farm in Susanville is trying to change that.

July 10, 2019

Tucked away at 5,000 feet above sea level in Susanville, California, David McFarland and Cristian Morgan are raising vegan rainbow trout for the carnivorous residents of San Francisco.

Most farmed fish are raised on fishmeal — a mulch of pulverized oceanic prey fish. Not only is it wasteful to feed fish to other fish, depleting these species’ stocks is ecologically disastrous. McFarland’s trout are raised on an algae- and pistachio-based meal that, although a little more expensive, removes one of the greatest obstacles to sustainability in the supply chain.

Once they weigh around three pounds, McFarland and Morgan hand-harvest the rainbows and send them for processing in San Francisco. They aim for 4,000 pounds a week. Alejandro Rodriguez, chef de cuisine at Nopa, says the process makes a huge difference — and you can taste it.

Although sustainability wasn’t what first drew Morgan to the farm six years ago, it kept him there. McFarland, on the other hand, is more philosophical. He’s wary of the term sustainability, instead describing his small operation as a “wiser use of resources … wiser than most.”

About the Author

Max Brimelow is a multimedia journalist, graduate student reporter at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, and video intern at Berkeleyside.

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