Wild salmon is green: Why you should NOT eat farmed salmon.

My husband is a 4th generation commercial fisherman.  My 8 year old son is half-way to being a 5th generation commercial fisherman.  They fish wild salmon off the coast of BC Canada.  We have been through the ups and downs of good and bad seasons.  We have been through the best ever Fraser River salmon run (2010) in recent history.  We are currently in the middle of an average fishing year, and my husband spends much of the summer on a boat catching this wild super-food. 

Did you know that when you buy or order wild salmon you are making an environmentally-wise choice?

According the National Audubon Society, 50% of the world’s salmon is farmed. 

Farmed salmon are predominantly kept in open ocean cages, where the number of fish per square inch is infinitely higher than the wild fish who share the same water.  Just as cattle that are contained in overcrowded facilities are at great risk of disease and infection, so too are the farmed fish.  The inhumane conditions that cattle suffer are, at least, contained to the cows in the pens.  Farm fish are essentially in nets sharing the same water as the wild salmon, which spreads disease and pests. This also allows for contaminates such as pesticides and antibiotics to spread along the ocean bottom.  Sea lice, a disease common in farmed salmon because of the close quarters, is killing countless wild salmon that pass through the same waters.  Escaped Atlantic salmon have actually been found to be spawning over top of wild salmon eggs, potentially causing a huge wild salmon decline.

Doug Mecum, the director of Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s Commercial Fisheries Division, says the fact that some farmed salmon have been found breeding successfully in creeks in Washington and British Columbia is cause for concern. (from Escaped Farmed Salmon Find Home In Alaska)

Farmed salmon contain 16 times more PCBs and pesticides than wild salmon, making farmed salmon the highest food source of PCBs in the USA.  This is likely from the food they eat but just as eating anything that contains high levels of pesticides can cause cancer, so too can the PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) and pesticides on farmed salmon.  Farmed fish are fed a diet of crushed up small fish and fish oil.  PCBs are stored in the fat of fish, and when farmed fish are fed fish oil, they are also being fed the stored contaminants. 
Farmed salmon have less Omega 3 fatty acids than wild salmon.  Omega 3 fatty acids are essential to human existence and help prevent heart disease and strokes.

Farmed Atlantic Salmon has color added to make it redder.

Salmon are red because the they eat small crustaceans and other fish that eat crustaceans.  Crustaceans produce an antioxidant called astaxanthin.  This is what causes shellfish to turn red when they are cooked.  Farmed salmon cannot get it by feeding naturally on crustaceans so astaxanthin is added to their diet in order to provide customers with the red color that is associated with wild salmon.  It is easier and cheaper to produce astaxantin synthetically so farmed fish are often fed a synthetic form rather than a natural form.  Wild salmon produce significantly more astaxanthin, and they do so naturally. 
Does wild salmon taste better?  In my opinion it does.  Wild salmon feed on a variety of flora and fauna compared to the packaged diet of farmed salmon.  They swim thousands of miles in their life time and are a much healthier fish.  I find them more flavorful.
How to tell the difference at the market place between farmed and wild salmon
  • If it isn’t labelled as wild, it probably isn’t.
  • Wild salmon has a redder color to the flesh than farmed salmon because it contains more astaxanthin.
  • Wild salmon is generally more expensive than farmed salmon.
  • Atlantic salmon is farmed salmon.
Always ask when you order salmon at a restaurant, if it is farmed or wild.  Chances are, if it isn’t called “wild” then it is farmed.  If it is farmed, don’t order it and tell the manager that you aren’t ordering it because it is farmed. 
Buy wild salmon, not farmed salmon!  For your health, for the environment, and for better flavor!

This blog post has been shared on Whole New Mom: Traditional Tuesdays link up and Frugal Days Sustainable Ways #8

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  1. I Thought I Knew Mama says:

    Thank you for sharing! Excellent info!

    Thanks for linking up again at Green & Natural Mamas Thursday!

  2. Homegrown and Healthy says:

    Found your post on Frugal Days so we just wanted to stop by and share the love. That information is super scary, good to know to ask in the future for health reasons! Since your husband is a commercial fisherman, does that mean that you know a good place to order it? Is it still fresh if you get it shipped to you? I'd love to share some of this information on my site with your permission (I don't know if it updates me when you respond to comments, but you can email me at aubrey[at]cookingmycsa.com)

  3. Free Range Mama says:

    Hi Homegrown and Healthy! Thanks for your comments. We sell all our fish to a store call Bruce's Country Market. (www.bruces.ca). As of right now though, they don't ship any seafood. It is a great food market specializing in seafood, organic produce and products, a deli and a cafe.

    You are welcome to quote me on your site. Please just make sure you cite me in it:). Thanks.

  4. I guess the issue with wild salmon is that you are cutting down the number of wild salmon for the wild animals who are already struggling to find food, with agricultural landmasses taken up, deforestation taking place and sport hunting. Growing one’s own fish would probably reduce the eco-burden many animals have when humans hunt when they already had food prepared for them at the supermarket

    • Farmed fish are not sustainable since they are destroying the wild stock by spreading disease and spawning in the native runs. The potential for farmed salmon to wipe out the native runs, making zero food for the wildlife is a greater possibility at the moment.

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