Tuesday Tips: Farm Raised vs Wild Salmon

Let's face it, our bodies need a variety of sources of high quality lean protein, with out all the saturated fat traditional protein sources offer us. Throw salmon into the equation and in addition to a high quality lean protein, we find a source rich in Omega 3 Fatty Acids, which are essential to our bodies brain functioning and cardiovascular system (in addition to numerous other health benefits). Often times people suffering from lifestyle induced heart diseases are lacking in Omega 3 Fatty Acids. Salmon should be a part of your diet.

But are all sources of Salmon safe and equal? Unfortunately, they are not.

Farm Raised Salmon, Hidden Dangers:

High levels of PCB's, dioxin, and toxins are found in farm raised salmon, mainly derivative of their fish meal diet.

Pesticides are also found in the flesh of farm raised salmon. They are used to control parasites such as sea lice, but are regulated to not be administered 28 days before harvest, to help avoid a build up in high levels. So why are they still found?

Unfortunately one day a scientist discovered that farm raised salmon's natural grey flesh turns the "normally associated" pink tone when fed a chemical called canthaxanthin. The chemical has been linked to retinal damage and banned in Scotland and Europe. Farmers carry charts as seen below, so they can decide how pink they want their farm raised fish to be. Nice touch, huh?

The fat content of Farm Raised Salmon is 11%-20%, with some of that fat being higher levels of saturated fats, and ironically enough lower content of Omega 3 Fatty Acids.

Wild Salmon, Obvious Choice:

Unlike it's faux counterpart, Wild Salmon contains 7% fat on average, with much higher levels of Omega 3's, with out elevated levels of saturated fats. Wild Salmon also contains some of the lowest levels of Methyl Mercury which is also a concern with fish these days.

Oddly enough the Wild Salmon season is Mid-May to October, even though you will find Wild Salmon other times through out the year. Please be weary of those sources of salmon, as farm raised can be brushed off as Wild. Trust your fish monger.

Our natural fish sources are being depleted. The majority of Alaskan salmon (safest source of salmon) is highly regulated to maintain sustainability. Once quotas have been met, harvests are closed. Biologists are working with fishermen to help keep the sources safe from depletion.

Higher Cost, a Couple of Solutions:

As you can imagine, Wild Salmon is going to be more expensive than farm raised salmon. Two things I suggest, buy only the amount of salmon your family would consume in one meal. We typically don't eat left over salmon, which in turn is a waste of money and natural resources. If at all possible underestimate the amount you will need and make due!

Secondly, try frozen Wild Salmon filets. The cost is going to be cheaper when you buy it pre-packaged in the frozen section. Try to stay clear of previously marinated filets, they are typically high in sodium, and you are better off seasoning the fish to your family's taste anyway. I know Costco sells Wild Salmon FROZEN for about $7.99 lb.

Like More Information?

Marine Stewardship Council's Where to Buy Guide, list ranges from Whole Foods to Walmart. The website in general is a great fish resource, it's a non-profit organized to find a solution to overfishing.

Fish Farms Become Feedlots of The Sea, L.A. Times Article, December 2002, by K. Weiss

In closing, please remember to not confuse wording. Fresh does not mean wild, it just means not previously frozen. Many restaurants use Farm Raised Salmon, so pass on it. If they aren't advertising it's WILD, simply ask. Keep an eye out for the Marine Stewardship Council Seal, you'll find it on menus and in grocery stores.


  1. I totally agree with what you are saying!! We only buy the wild salmon when we're going to use it. It's good to be aware of what's in your food these days.

  2. I found you on June Cleaver.

    Totally agree--I won't even eat farm raised salmon and most waiters never seem to know the difference.

    I have also noticed that the frozen wild salmon starts to get yucky around Christmas so we have ventured out for the months of Jan - early May.

    Love your blog :)

  3. I appreciate you doing the research for me. I always learn something new when I stop by your blog.

  4. I'm becoming quite fond of your Tuesday Tips, I always learn something new and important. Incidentally, I am also now craving grilled (wild) salmon.

  5. This is really helpful--I didn't know how bad farm-raised salmon is for you.

  6. Awww mannnn....I can barely justify having salmon twice a month, now I have to get the wild fish. Sigh...is nothing healthy anymore?

  7. We get our salmon at Costco so I was relieved when I read you post! This was so well put and informative. Thank you!

  8. Wow - that post was extremely informational! I love salmon, but I never pay any attention to where it's raised. Believe me, I'll be watching from now on.

    I'm new to your site, but I like what I see. I'll be checking back!

  9. Thanks for this post. I didn't know the facts on this and now I will make the right choices.

    I don't buy much fish at all because I have trouble finding really fresh fish in Northern Utah.

    I will check out the frozen salmon!

  10. Great post! Also, I've found that you can really taste a difference between farm raised and wild!

  11. This is an awesome post. I had no idea the difference.Thank you!

  12. Very good post - thank you for getting this information out there. The only correction I have, in terms of the Alaska management of salmon is that the runs are managed to meet the "quotas" of the rivers, and then the fishermen are allowed to harvest. In other words, they are managed for sustainability, with strict escapement goals. This ensures the long-term viability of the resource. However, our region og Bristol Bay is currently under threat of large-scale sulfide mine development with the proposed Pebble Mine. For more information, visit Trout Unlimited's Why Wild campaign site - www.whywild.org. Another aspect of the sustainability of the resource is how it has sustained 9,000 years of people co-existing with the salmon. My ancestors have fished these waters, and my family continues to harvest salmon both commercially and for subsistence. Our communities would simply cease to exist were it not for this valuable natural resource.

    Again, thank you for sharing information on the important distinction between wild and farmed salmon!


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