We continue to hear how healthy fish is, especially salmon because of the omega-3 fatty acids. As more people buy salmon, the more of a strain on the wild caught salmon there could be. Farm-raised salmon has become the normal in the grocery store.
Salmon is expensive and getting more expensive, so it is in the consumers best interests to buy the healthiest salmon money can buy. Is there a health difference between wild caught and farm-raised salmon?
Their Diet is Your Diet
The reason for nutritional differences between wild-caught salmon and farm-raised salmon is much like the nutritional differences between grass-fed beef and feedlot beef. The nutritional value comes from what the animal or fish eat. The salmon’s diet is what gives them their nutritional value, just like any other living thing on the planet.
Salmon in the wild eat a normal diet for salmon which is zooplankton, fish and seaweed.
Farm-raised salmon are fed a diet of fish oil, fish meal and land-based protein. When I read this, my first question was what exactly land-based protein is. Land-based protein comes from wheat gluten, corn gluten meal, canola meal, soybean meal and poultry by-products.
None of that sounds like a normal diet for a salmon. Not to mention canola, soybean and corn based feed is most likely from genetically modified (GMO) corn, soybean and canola (rapeseed). As a healthy consumer, you might be making a conscience choice at the grocery store to avoid GMO foods, and yet, when you buy farm-raised salmon, you could very well be eating GMO foods.
Large salmon farms use about three kilos (6.6 pounds) of wild fish to feed one kilo (2.2 pounds) of farmed salmon. Salmon farms are looking at different types of feed for their farmed salmon to reduce the strain this puts on the wild fish used for feed. Salmon farms thought about using a completely land-based feed, but this would drastically reduce the amount of omega-3 in the farmed salmon even further.
A possibly answer to their feed problem is to splice the genes of marine algae with rapeseed. Rapeseed has already been modified to be higher in omega-3 for the canola oil industry and canola meal is already used a farm-raised salmon feed.
Nutritional Differences between Wild Salmon and Farm Raised Salmon
The nutritional differences between wild salmon and farm-raised salmon also affect our health. Farmed-raised salmon has twice as much omega-6 fatty acid than wild salmon does. Our diets are already too high in omega-6. Wild Coho Salmon have 35% more of the usable healthy omega-3 fatty acids than the farm-raised salmon. Usable omega-3 is the key phrase. In other words, the omega-3 to omega-6 ratio is not as healthy in farm-raised salmon than in wild salmon which changes the usable omega-3 fatty acids.
Farm-raised Coho salmon has twice the amount of saturated fat. There is also a concern that the levels of vitamin A and vitamin D are lower with farm-raised salmon.
Antibiotics, Pesticides and Toxins
Like cattle and poultry that are raised in factory farms, the conditions that farmed salmon are raised in have similar problems. The salmon are raised in close proximity to each other in pens. This causes the salmon to be more prone to getting disease, so antibiotics are given to these salmon. Another major problem with farm-raised salmon is sea lice. To combat this problem, pesticides are used.
According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), not each salmon farm is the same; some are more sanitary than others. And as a consumer you cannot tell just by looking at a package. A 2003 EWG report stated that farm raised salmon in the United States has high levels of PCBs, as much as 16 times as much PCBs than wild salmon. The University of New York found dioxide levels in farm-raised salmon at 11 times higher than wild salmon.
Wild salmon naturally have a pink color to their flesh which comes from canthaxanthin and astaxanthin in the foods they eat in the wild. Farm-raised salmon do not have this normal pink flesh since they don’t eat a natural diet, they are gray colored. To give farm-raised salmon their pink color, they are given a man-made version of canthaxanthin in their feed. It is believed that this man-made canthaxanthin causes damage to the retina of our eyes.
What is the Healthiest Salmon to Buy?
Look for Alaskan salmon since it is always wild-caught. It is more expensive, but you will be supporting the fisherman who still go out and catch these salmon and it is the healthiest salmon. Canned salmon is usually wild salmon, since farm-raised salmon doesn’t can well. The most common canned salmon is pink salmon.
When you read ads for salmon, the ads usually say wild caught or farm-raised. If the package or ad only says Atlantic salmon, it is almost always farm-raised. Ask the store exactly what type of salmon they are selling. For more about buying salmon, The Wild Pacific Salmon is a good web site.
At this time, the FDA is still deciding if they are going to allow a new genetically modified salmon. You can read more about this in The Facts About Genetically Modified Salmon.
I did not write this article to bash farm-raised fish factories or companies. I wrote this from a healthy consumer’s point of view. We buy salmon for nutritional and health reasons so we should know exactly what we are buying and eating. Factory farms and their organizations are also working to make farmed fish healthier.
Copyright © Sam Montana 2012