Ivory King Salmon: The Salmon You Never Knew Existed

Ivory King Salmon is a delicacy that few outside of Alaska and the Pacific Northwest are familiar with. That’s because it is very rare and not sold in most grocery stores or restaurants. So what is an Ivory King Salmon anyway?

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Ivory King is a white fleshed salmon that is actually the same species as regular King Salmon with the orange colored flesh that everyone is accustomed to seeing.

The five species of Pacific salmon generally have flesh that ranges from pink to orange to red depending on the species and point in the fish’s life cycle. The color comes from what they eat. Salmon eat a lot of shrimp, krill, and crab which have carotenoids which are processed into the flesh of the fish giving them the distinct color we are all familiar with.

Ivory Kings have a recessive gene that prevents the carotenoids from being processed into the flesh, leaving the flesh an ivory white color. Since these fish are the same exact species as orange fleshed King Salmon, both fish look the same on the outside. Fishermen don’t know they have landed an Ivory King until they cut it open and see the flesh. That’s when they discover they’ve landed some white gold!

Only around 5% of King Salmon have the recessive gene that gives them their ivory color. Even within that small subset of the population there is some interesting variation. Some Ivory Kings process a little bit of color giving them a marbled ivory look. These are truly rare fish indeed.

Getting Ivory Kings out of Alaska can be difficult because they are so highly prized by local restaurants eager to serve them to summer tourists. Local restaurants will often buy up as much of the Ivory King supply as possible before it ever gets a chance to be shipped out of state.

Our friends at Yakobi Fisheries were kind enough to squirrel away a case of Ivory King Salmon for us and as of publication time we still have a few pounds remaining - including a couple of the extraordinarily rare marbled ivory variety. If you would like to snap up one of these last remaining portions, email us to reserve yours while supplies last. We likely won’t get more in until the summer of 2019 when fishing season is under way again.

Nathanael Ferguson