You’re at the fish counter to select some salmon filets for a weekend barbeque. You’re faced with some choices, wild caught Alaskan Salmon or the farmed raised Atlantic salmon (with small print on the label that says farmed raised, color added). As wild fish stocks have become depleted, there has been a huge increase in farmed raised salmon. The Atlantic salmon is about a third cheaper than the Alaskan salmon.
What’s the big deal? Salmon is salmon – right? Well, not really. There huge differences between the two, some that have negative environmental consequences.
- Chinook, Chum, Coho, Pink, and Sockeye Salmon are the 5 species that naturally occur in the Pacific Ocean.
- They are an integrated part of the ecosystem and eat a natural diet of small fish, crustaceans, and krill that are high in nutrients.
- They are fished commercially and by sport fishing in highly regulated seasons. Because of dams and increases in water temperatures due to climate change their numbers are declining. They add to the environment by transferring their nutrients up the food chain.
- Generally more expensive, harder to find.
Farm Raised (also known as Atlantic Salmon)
- These are often raised in enclosed pens in the ocean, lakes, ponds, and sometimes above ground in mostly Chile, Norway, and Canada. The fish are crowded together and cannot swim freely.
- They are fed a high fat of grain, fish oil, and fish meal (ironically derived from wild-caught fish) to promote quick growth similar to factory bred beef, pork, and chicken. This results in fattier tissue.
- Because of overcrowding there is more opportunity for disease, sea lice infestations and use of antibiotics.
- Pharmaceuticals, pesticides, and industrial chemicals concentrate in their tissue due to their artificial diet.
- Farmed fish can escape to cause harm to wild populations of salmon.
- Their flesh is gray naturally so their feed must contain colorant to give it an orange color.
- Fish waste and excess feed can pollute the surrounding water.
Nutrition per serving
Wild salmon– 281 calories/13 grams of fat (and 1.9 grams of saturated fat), higher in trace minerals, Low in omega 6 an inflammatory compound and lower omega 3 due to less fat.
Farm raised– 412 calories/27 grams (and 6 grams of saturated fat). High in inflammation causing Omega 6, higher in Omega 3.
While shopping and eating out- beware that farm raised salmon can be mislabeled as WILD. Observe the color and ask questions.
My advice is to eat Alaskan caught wild salmon which is the most sustainable and the healthiest option. Avoid foreign farmed salmon with the exception perhaps Norway. Whatever option you choose, make salmon more of an occasional treat and eat more of a plant based diet if you really want to help the environment.
Also blogging at byalannapass.com