Wow there is a huge difference between farmed and wild salmon. Nutritionally it is a completely different product. Farmed salmon is higher in calories, fat and saturated fat. People eat salmon due to it being a good source of Omega-3 (one to increase), but farmed salmon is also high in Omega-6 (one to decrease). Farmed salmon are fed on oil and smaller fish, ground-up feathers, GM yeast, soybeans and chicken fat. The white lines you see on a salmon fillet are fat lines. Wild salmon get their colour from eating krill and shrimp. The flesh of farmed salmon is grey, and is coloured by astaxanthin, a manufactured copy of the pigment that wild salmon eat in nature.
Concern about antibiotics – Antibiotics are often routinely used in fish farming, which presents the same concerns as all intensive farming and the risk of causing antibiotics resistance in humans.
Sustainability – Many farmed fish are fed largely on wild fish. To produce farmed fish such as salmon, it takes about three times the weight of wild-caught fish. This is not only unsustainable, but adds to the serious welfare concerns about how wild fish are caught and slaughtered. Wild salmon volumes are also greatly depleted so eating less fish is essential.
Origin – Wild alaskan salmon is the most readily available source of wild salmon. Salmon farming is prohibited in Alaska to protect wild stocks and fisheries. Wild salmon used to be readily available in UK and Ireland coastal waters, but they have been greatly affected by farmed fishing. Be aware that some frozen wild alaskan salmon is packed in China due to cheap labour! So look for Alaskan salmon, packed in the UK.
Organic salmon – is definitely preferable to the conventional fish-farmed equivalent, but that’s not saying much. Salmon is a wild animal so farming it is still farming even if it is organic. The stocking density are less and use of chemicals are less but the product is still inferior to the wild variety.
Risky pollutants – Persistent organic pollutants (POPs for short) sound dangerous. They are. POPs have been linked to several diseases, including type 2 diabetes and obesity. Evidence suggests obesity might be even more of a risk factor for diabetes when POPs are present in your body. And specific types of POPs increase the risk of stroke in women. Why does this matter? Because PCB (one type of POP) levels are five to 10 times higher in farmed fish than in wild fish. Wild salmon wins here, hands down.
Cancer-causing chemicals – In the wild vs. farmed debate, this is a tricky issue. Although both offer omega-3 fatty acids, eating large amounts of either type of fish to get their full benefits could expose you to cancer-causing chemicals. These chemicals come from the potentially polluted water fish swim in. That’s why your omega-3 sources need to be broad, with fish as only one piece of the puzzle. However, one study does conclude: “The benefit-risk ratio for carcinogens and noncarcinogens is significantly greater for wild salmon than for farmed salmon” Both wild and farmed salmon come with risk if eaten in large quantities. But eaten in moderation, wild salmon is safer.
Unsafe contaminants – In recent studies contaminants in farmed salmon were generally higher than in wild salmon. Likewise, other research has suggested that children, women of child-bearing age and pregnant women should choose wild salmon — or other sources of omega-3 fatty acid. Both wild and farmed salmon contain contaminants, but wild salmon has lower levels and is considered safer overall.
Smoked salmon – The same applies to smoked salmon products. This once luxury item has become relatively cheap and readily available, look for wild Alaskan smoked salmon. Tesco offers reasonably priced option in the major supermarkets.
Cost consideration – Wild salmon costs more than farmed fish, but the difference is well worth it. To offset the higher cost, as always it is a case of ‘eat less but eat better’. Salmon should be eaten as a treat, we eat too much fish and is isn’t sustainable so going for a better product and reducing the amount you eat ticks a lot of boxes 🙂
Alternatives – In search of health-giving oily fish that are cheaper and reasonably plentiful, then we must turn our attention to other species like mackerel and herring. When being any wild fish look for the MSC logo.