Sea to table: Salmon from the Norwegian coast is making its way to the Czech plate

How a nation of meat-and-dumplings lovers is getting hooked on fresh salmon, eaten raw.

Elizabeth Zahradnicek-Haas

Written by Elizabeth Zahradnicek-Haas
Published on 08.12.2020 17:02 (updated on 09.12.2020)

In 2011, Pavel Bednář, a young entrepreneur was diagnosed with cancer. His journey to recovery led him on a path to better nutrition and gave him a newfound appreciation for the kind of fresh fish that’s not so easy to come by in his landlocked home country.

“I’m from Moravia, an area that I like to say is ‘untouched by good food’,” says Bednář, describing the typical meat-and-dumplings Czech cuisine that though delicious isn’t exactly the kind of clean eating your body needs to recover from a serious illness.

On a trip to Malaysia with his wife in 2018, the pair stumbled upon a unique fish-import startup that inspired the savvy businessman to think about how he could bring the health benefits and pristine flavor of freshly caught salmon to his fellow Czechs.

The Salmon Project brings ultra-fresh FRØYA Salmon to the Czech market
The Salmon Project brings ultra-fresh FRØYA Salmon to the Czech market.

It took several years to put the plan in motion but in early 2020 the husband and wife team launched The Salmon Project which is currently importing vacuum-packed sushi-grade salmon, so well preserved you can eat it raw, from the Norwegian Sea to the Czech table.

“Unless you fly abroad and fish your own you cannot obtain better quality salmon,” says Bednář who believes that nothing on the Czech market quite compares to the unique harvesting and packaging methods used by the project’s partner Frøya Salmon.

The company harvests its salmon from Frøya, an island off the West Coast of Norway known for having some of the world’s best conditions for farming salmon.

Roger Husvik / Wikipedia Commons
Frøya is the westernmost municipality in Trøndelag county, Norway. (Photo: Roger Husvik / Wikipedia Commons)

“The Gulf Stream has created strong ocean currents in this area with a large difference between ebb and flow,” Bednář says. “So this natural phenomenon ensures a supply of nutritious and clean seawater twice a day.” 

The hand-picked Frøya salmon is filleted, sealed, and packed within two hours after harvest, before being rapidly cooled to ensure freshness during transport.

Salmon sashimi
FRØYA salmon is sushi-grade and can be eaten raw.

Bednář says the demand for sushi-grade salmon among Czechs -- who are increasingly interested in making sashimi, tartare, or poke bowls at home -- is on the rise. But he also says that while salmon is one of the bestselling fish in the Czech Republic, quality filets are hard to come by.

“When I buy salmon from the Czech grocery store and read on the package that it’s not recommended to consume raw, that tells me everything I need to know,” he says. Most grocery stores cool salmon on ice for days until the meat becomes mushy on the surface, another indicator it’s going bad, he tells us.

“A good, fresh piece of salmon holds together better and should have a nice firm surface texture and no fishy odor,” Bednář says. 

While Bednář has enjoyed quality salmon in the Czech Republic, he knows from first-hand experience how difficult it can be to obtain. The Salmon Project aims to make sushi-grade salmon more readily accessible to restaurants, grocery store chains, and consumers alike.

It has also become a personal mission for Bednář as a cancer survivor to introduce his Moravian friends and family to the health benefits of fresh salmon which is packed with vitamin B12, vitamin D, potassium, iron, and heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.

So far, the project has been a success with Bednář telling us that everyone who tries a piece of fresh Frøya salmon straight from the package is hooked. And the business numbers reflect that.

“Despite the logistical issues due to COVID we are seeing some permanent growth, adding 5-10 percent to the market every month,” he says. 

Bednář is confident that salmon could even be served as an alternative to the beloved carp that is traditionally at the centerpiece of every Czech Christmas celebration.

“Carp has bones, and our salmon doesn't, so, yes, you can eat it safely at Christmas,” he says, laughing. “It can be grilled or cooked, there are really so many possibilities.”

But most importantly, The Salmon Project’s salmon is better for you.

salmon
Salmon is seeing increasing popularity in the Czech Republic in homemade poke bowls and tartare.

The purity of Norwegian salmon combined with the company’s extreme focus on hygiene makes it safe even for pregnant women to eat raw Frøya, Bednář says.

“I’ve had people with allergies who can’t eat most fish that’s on the Czech market try our salmon with no troubles,” he tells us. “It says something about the origins of the salmon.”

Frøya Salmon will be available in Marko and Globus retail chains in 2021. It is currently stocked on Rohlik.cz, Blue Fjord, and the Caviar club e-shop and can also be purchased directly via the CerstvyLosos.cz website.

This article was written in cooperation with The Salmon Project. Follow them on Facebook @thesalmonproject. To read more about our parnter content policy see here.