IKEA's best kept secret? Its affordable, sustainable salmon.

Salty, silky and rich, salmon is truly a versatile protein. Smoked salmon shines when placed upon a bagel with schmear or stirred into an omelet. Grilling, poaching or broiling salmon results in a delectable entree. Ah, this fish.

But eating sustainable salmon can burn a hole in your wallet. Responsibly farmed salmon or wild caught salmon often come with a hefty price tag — salmon at Whole Foods, for example, can cost up to $25 a pound.

The good news: One national chain is a low-key secret, affordable salmon purveyor. IKEA, that Swedish furniture factory and veritable maze of a store, sells salmon that's sustainable both for the planet and your bank account. Three different smoked salmon packs are priced at $8 for a pack of 7 ounces, meaning they're all under $16 a pound.

How IKEA became a leading seller of sustainable seafood

Beyond its Malm dressers, you may know IKEA for its Swedish meatballs, but the furniture store made headlines in 2015 for becoming one of the largest sellers of sustainable seafood. IKEA, which sells fish in 47 countries, only sources seafood that is certified by the Marine Stewardship Council and the Aquaculture Stewardship Council.

"The ASC and MSC certifications confirm the responsible handling in the whole value chain for seafood served and sold at IKEA," Peter Ho, IKEA's head of food products, said in an email.

All of the salmon IKEA sells comes from fish farms certified by the ASC. According to the ASC's standards, these farms must preserve water resources, prevent farmed fish from escaping the farms (as escaped fish can pose a threat to wild fish) and prioritize animal health by avoiding unnecessary chemicals.

So, how does IKEA keep prices so low? "Affordability is part of [IKEA's] identity," Ho said, explaining that IKEA decided to sell ASC-certified salmon even though it has a higher purchase cost compared to non-certified salmon. "We are convinced that acting as a responsible company also contributes to a profitable business." he said.

"The volume of product IKEA carries contributes to how we are able to keep products affordable for our customers." - Peter Ho, IKEA

The sheer amount of salmon IKEA sells helps them score better deals they can pass on to consumers, too. "Buying more can lead to better cost, and IKEA's model of affordable prices leads to selling more product," Ho said. "We can't speculate on our competitors, but the volume of product IKEA carries contributes to how we are able to keep products affordable for our customers." In the U.S., IKEA sells 120,000 pounds of salmon a year in the Swedish Food Market.

RELATED: The 12 most popular IKEA items of all time

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12 most popular IKEA products of all time
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12 most popular IKEA products of all time
12. Ribba frames make your photos and art pop.

Price: $1.99 — $19.99. 
Find it here.

Simplicity is a top design principle at IKEA, and the Ribba frame series proves it.

Ribba frames come in a variety of sizes and in black, white, and steely gray.

11. The Färgrik mug is the quintessential coffee cup.

Price: $0.99
Find it here. 

The white stoneware Färgrik mug goes with any kitchen color scheme — plain and simple.

Plus, you won't break the bank replacing it if one crashes on the floor.

10. The Klippan loveseat fits small budgets and smaller apartments.

Price: $399
Find it here.

Stretching just over 70 inches, the Klippan sofa squeezes into most shoebox apartments. It's available in white, gray, and caramel.

If you make a tough stain, you can buy a replacement cover for as little as $29.

9. The Docksta table completes a minimalist kitchen.

Price: $179
Find it here.

The Docksta table blends in with its soft edges and a simple silhouette. The white finish allows an eclectic assortment of chairs or decorations to stand out.

8. The Ektorp sofa is built to last.

Price: $499
Find it here.

Small details such as the strong seams, changeable covers, and reversible seat cushions toughen up the Ektorp sofa to withstand years of use.

Plus, the foam and polyester fiber-packed seat cushions give great support.

7. The Lack table series hardly lacks style.

Price: $7.99 – $49.99
Find it here.

"Basic" isn't a bad thing when it comes to IKEA's preeminent table series. 

Tables, ranging in size and proportions, come in a wide variety of colors and finishes. They're lightweight so you can move them easily and feng shui your living room over and over again.

6. The Stockholm rugs add a burst of color to any room.

Price: $99 – $349
Find them here.

Stockholm rugs are made by hand in textile centers in India that provide good working conditions and fair wages, according to IKEA.

They're also adorable and available in checkered and picnic-blanket-like patterns.

5. The Rens sheepskin rug brings warmth into your home.

Price: $29.99

Find it here.

IKEA's white sheepskin rug begs to be thrown in front of a fireplace and curled upon. It's irresistibly soft.

The wool is soil-repellent and durable, though not machine-washable.

4. The Kallax shelving series became an instant classic.

Price: $15 – $249
Find it here.

The internet freaked out when IKEA discontinued everyone's favorite shelf, the Expedit. But it's back with a new name (Kallax) and a sleek new design.

Kallax shelves, which come in multiple sizes, are durable thanks to a scratch-resistant surface and rounded corners that make them less painful to bump into.

3. The Malm bed frame series streamlines the bedroom.

Price: $149 – $559
Find it here.

A millennial's first apartment isn't complete without a Malm bed frame. The Malm come in two flavors: one that raises the mattress high off the floor and another that includes storage.

2. The Poäng chair sells 1.5 million units a year.

Price: $109 – $229
Find it here.

Created by famed Japanese designer Noboru Nakamura, the Poäng chair is one of the most iconic IKEA products of all time. It recently celebrated its 40th birthday with a limited-edition frame and six new covers.

Style, quality, and an affordable price point helped the Poäng chair stand the test of time.

1. The Billy bookcase is the most ubiquitous piece of IKEA furniture.

Price: $69.99 – $544.97
Find it here.

A Billy bookcase sells every 10 seconds, according to the New York Times. Why? It speaks directly to the IKEA ethos of simplicity that makes the company a global success.

The Billy bookcase can also grow with its owner over time. New shelves can be added when your library expands, and it's available in a variety of heights, widths, and finishes.

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What exactly is a fish farm?

Aquaculture is the official term for fish farming, a practice where fish are raised in tanks or other enclosures instead of caught wild from streams and oceans. People have been using aquaculture to raise fish since 2500 B.C., when the Chinese grew carp in rice paddies.

Compared to other proteins like beef and pork, fish produced with aquaculture makes for a much more eco-friendly protein choice. A quarter-pound of beef uses 6.7 pounds of feed, not to mention almost 53 gallons of water. Meanwhile, aquaculture produces twice as much fish protein as it uses, NOAA Fisheries noted.

Aquaculture tanks located on land and aquaculture net pens in the ocean have pros and cons. Amy Novogratz, managing partner of Aqua Spark, an investment fund dedicated to improving global food security through aquaculture, said in a phone interview that tanks might require lots of energy to remain at a controlled temperature, while net pens in the ocean risk farmed fish escaping and breeding with wild fish, which can negatively impact local ecosystems.

In particular, Novogratz noted, salmon farming can be resource-intensive because salmon are carnivorous and need to be fed other fish. "It affects the greater ecosystem in a big way," she said.

The fishmeal and fish oil given to salmon and other farmed fish are made from "anchovies, herring, menhaden, capelin, anchovy, pilchard, sardines and mackerel," the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries website noted.

Salmon farming practices have been getting better in Norway, where salmon farming originated. But lots of U.S. salmon comes from Chile, and according to Novogratz, "the Chilean seafarers aren't as responsible."

"The certifiers of aquaculture, they've done a great job in getting people to pay attention but they haven't figured out the feed piece," Novogratz said, explaining that the crux of sustainability for agriculture and aquaculture lies in the sustainability of animal feed.

Still, Novogratz considers IKEA's foray into responsibly raised fish a boon because it brings more attention to responsible aquaculture.

"IKEA is a huge place. ... The fact that IKEA is bringing attention to fish and that there is such a thing as certification, where fish is produced and where it comes from, is a good thing," she said. "At this point, people need to start paying attention that fish is produced in different ways."

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