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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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September 12 2008

Salmon: Factory Farm vs. Wild

By Mark Sisson
123 Comments

Wild SalmonLast week I noted in my podcast with Jimmy Moore how expensive genuine wild salmon can cost. Since then, I?ve received a healthy number of emails asking for more info, tips, and the real benefits behind buying ?wild.?

What exactly are salmon ?farms?? How does the farm setting change the nutritional content of salmon? Is there really that much of a difference? Is farmed salmon even worth buying?

First off, salmon farms of some kind make up about 80% of salmon on the market today. (In the United States, the number is higher ? 90% by some estimates.) Thirty percent come from traditional hatcheries, and the remaining 50% are raised in aquaculture or ?open pen nets? just off shore. Farms can ?raise? up to a million salmon at a time. I?ll throw in a visual.

Salmon Farm

Yup, gets more than a little crowded in there.

Because the farmed salmon are largely confined and fed a steady diet of formulated protein pellets, they?re inevitably fattier. ?But isn?t that a good thing?? you might ask. ?More omega-3s per serving, right?? The answers are ?no? and ?not really? to the above. I?ll explain.

Many assessments have found fewer omega-3s per ounce in farmed salmon compared with wild salmon, but we know the farmed stuff also comes with a hefty (not healthy) wallop of other fats including omega-6s. We then deal with the problem that the omega-6s and omega-3s compete for the same receptors in our bodies. Consequently, the ?net? omega-3 gain will always be less than what you?ll get with a wild serving. Here?s a nifty chart that compares the fat content of some popular wild versus farmed fish varieties (including salmon) from this PDF.

Farmed vs. Wild Salmon

And because the farmed fish are fattier, you?ll get less protein per serving as well.

To truly whet your appetite, I can?t skip the added ingredients you?ll get with a farmed fillet: dioxins, PCBs, fire retardants (those da-n things are everywhere, aren?t they???), pesticides (especially for sea lice), antibiotics, copper sulfate (to take care of algae on the nets), and ? oh yeah ? canthaxanthin (a dye associated with retinal damage used to make gray farmed fish various shades of ?wild? pink).

As for dioxins, PCBs, and fire retardants, they show up in wild varieties as well, but the concentrations are vastly different. Tests have shown that farmed salmon contains 16 times more cancer-linked PCBs than wild salmon. The reason behind this difference? It?s those nasty little protein pellets ? nuggets of mostly mashed fish and fish oil. The intense concentration of toxins from the fish feed builds up in the raised salmon over time ? from fish farm to your fish dinner. Bon Appétit, by the way!

O.K., so you?re no fan of the farm anymore. To cloud the issue further, a ?wild? label may only be telling a half truth. (They?re generally the less expensive ?wild? brands offered in your grocery store.) As I described a few months back in Encore on Omegas, many to most ?wild? salmon actually spend half their lives in hatcheries before being released. While these quasi-wild fish are a better nutritional deal than fully farmed salmon, they still bear the burdens of early exposure to toxins (dioxin, PCBs, etc.) and a less impressive omega 6:3 ratio.

So, what about truly wild salmon? As suggested, the genuine wild article only accounts for about 20% at most of the harvest. Some of the reasons it?s so darn expensive? The flood of farmed fish (and subsequent drop in asking price) has forced many traditional fishermen/women out of business. Add to this scenario the ongoing destruction of wild salmon populations by aquaculture farms, and we all end up paying a premium for the real thing.

Salmon Farm Sign

Because the farm pens are essentially open, the enormous amount of disease- and parasite- (a.k.a. sea lice ? yum!) laden waste is routinely allowed to contaminate the waters around the farm. Add to this environment the megadoses of pesticide-, toxin-, and antibiotic-laced waste, and the farms create a deadly environment for wild stocks that inhabit the areas. For more on the environmental destruction caused by aquaculture farms, check out these resources from the National Geographic, the New York Times, and the L.A. Times.

Your best bet finally is this: buy less salmon in order to afford the real deal. It?s all about bang for your buck after all. A smaller wild fillet will give you equal nutrition with fewer toxins. Additionally, look for Alaskan over Northwestern salmon. And don?t rule out canned salmon for big savings. Apparently, farmed salmon doesn?t can well, which means the majority of canned salmon is wild. (Pink salmon, the most commonly canned variety, doesn?t contain as much good fats as other kinds.) It?s one way to make salmon a more affordable addition to your Primal-style salad!

Finally, if you do choose to eat farmed salmon, the Environmental Working Group (applying EPA health standards) suggests eating no more than one serving of farmed salmon a month.

And, of course, I suggest you ensure a healthy daily dose of omega-3s with a good quality, pure fish oil supplement! (We know: broken record. What can we say?)

Your comments, questions, anecdotes, or additions? I look forward to them!

kuow949, axiepics Flickr Photos (CC)

Further Reading:

On the Problems of Cultivated Fruit

Omega-3 Round Up:

Omega 3 to 6 Ratio

Omega 3 Daily Dose

Omega 3 Food Sources

Cooking Omegas

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123 thoughts on “Salmon: Factory Farm vs. Wild”

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  1. Is no food sacred? Eventually it is going to be us being forcefed “Protien pellets”. 1 processed and synthisized pellet contains all the nutrition and nutrients a body needs! FDA approved and supported by the Corn Growers of America and Big Agra. Thank you for the heads-up mark, we just had some expensive salmon for dinner the other night and I don’t know if it was wild or farmed but I will definitely be looking in the future!

    1. Just check out the 1970’s movie Soylent Green with Charlton Heston. That is where we are all headed my friend.

      Soylent Green is people!!

  2. Hey Mark,
    You mentioned eating less but wild salmon than from farms. It makes sense, may a little side tracked question but I’ll ask it anyways. If for any reason wild salmon is out of question, should we avoid eating salmon at all ? or are farm salmons are good alternatives to no salmon?
    thanks.

    1. Farmed salmon aka Pharm salmon is never a good option, not even if wild is not available. The salmon farming industry is pure evil, they are causing more harm to the oceans than you can possibly imagine. I know first hand how wicked they are, I saw them in court recently and I have researched them for a few yrs now. Smoking would be a better option than farmed salmon. The tobacco industry is on the same morality level but they don’t spread death to the oceans.

      1. Now hold on a second…I am in complete agreement that commercial farms…in just about every sense..are bad for us…but if salmon were raised, let’s say in an aquaponic culture…not so many fish actually…but if they had a run per se…thaat might be just the difference needed.

        1. They were also saying that it’s not just where they are raised, but what they are fed. Even being in a culture with a smaller population density, they would still have to be fed a healthy, natural diet in order to have better omega ratios and fat content.

  3. Protein pellets made from mashed fish, eh? The salmon equivalent of Soylent Green!

  4. I have also read that farmed salmon has to be dyed pink to give it that “healthy” wild glow, since it isn’t eating wild food! What a bargain!

    1. Actually they put the coloring in the fish food and the customer can order the shade of pink, orange or red they prefer.

  5. NoDiet, what we are disovering is that there is a continuum of bad to good foods. Grains are on the bad end and grass-fed beef or wild salmon on the good end. I guess farmed salmon is still better than a plate full of mashed potatoes and corn in that regard. Eating PB style is about knowing the variables and making choices based on that knowledge. Yeah, I’ll admit I do eat farmed salmon every once in a blue moon (say, at a restaurant after two nights of steak in a row) but I’ll also double my Omega 3 supplements that day.

    Son of Grok, hey you could always drink Brawndo…it’s got electrolytes (three points if you know where that’s from).

    1. Brawndo, the ubiquitous sports drink in Idiocracy. The idiots even used it to “water” their crops and couldn’t figure out why they wouldn’t grow. Also, you may have mentioned this before but the Omega 6:3 ratio in farmed salmon is so out of whack that your body most likely won’t be able to use the Omega 3 from that portion. My understanding of the enzymatic function of converting Omega 3 to the anti-inflammatory compounds is co-opted when there is a high level of Omega 6 (same enzymatic function converts Omega 6 into INFLAMMATORY compounds). IMHO, farmed salmon is just not worth the money/pesticide/antibiotic/insubstantial Omega 3 benefit.

  6. Idiocracy? I am a big Mike Judge fan. He grew up here in Albuquerque.

  7. Can you tell from the packaging how “wild” the wild salmon is?

    With so much doubt in salmon, are other types of fish a better choice?

    1. By law fish must be labeled wild or farmed. Try frozen wild Alaska sockeye…
      it is sooooo good… they have mastered freezing and vacuum packing. It is better than so called “fresh”. “Fresh only means it hasn’t been frozen…. it has been on ice or refridgerated for who knows how long.

      Also the chart above lists wild Atlantic Salmon… I don’t think you could find that in any store.

      1. Salmon in the wild eat microalgae called Haematoccous pluvialis which is a highly regarded antioxidant used in Astaxanthin. This is one of the most efficacious antioxidant supplements known. Always better to use Krill oil for high quality omega 3 supplements vs. fish oil (fish eat krill, so go right to the source)

        1. Harvesting krill from our oceans isn’t a good idea for sustainability. We shouldn’t harvest the bottom of the food chain if we catch to much krill suddenly everything in the ocean doesn’t have enough food. If you must have a supplement make it fish oil. Or just eat some salmon, try pink salmon if your on a budget it’s wild, sustainable and affordable!

    2. I am fairly sure that by law salmon must be labeled wild or farmed. I have heard of label cheating in New York. Farmed salmon will have much more fat (white stripes between the meat layers) than wild.
      All salmon from Alaska is wild. Salmon farming is not allowed there.

      1. No, there aren’t any farms, but keep in mind that there are salmon hatcheries in Alaska. Personally, I think the hatcheries are a great thing (keeps the sports fishermen happy without depleting wild stock, and environmental impact is minimal). I’m familiar with DIPAC’s hatchery in Juneau, my home town. I’m guessing the fish they release into the ocean are considered “quasi wild” but they are released as trout-sized fish and grow in the wild for 3-5 years before returning to the hatchery to spawn. Their coloration is natural and they are NEVER fatty. Not 100% wild, but still nutritious and clean.

        Buying Alaskan, if you can confirm it’s Alaskan, is a very safe bet.

        1. Almost all of the hatchery fish in Alaska are Pink Salmon. Pinks return to spawn when they are two years old. They are the most abundant and cheapest salmon.
          The only problem with hatchery fish is that they can put too many fish in the ocean that compete with the wild fish.

  8. Maybe it’s me, but I find it downright discouraging that it’s so hard to find decent food to eat these days. If you would have told man in the ancient days that it would come to this, he never would have believed it. It’s a sad state of affairs when you have to be wealthy to afford food that some team of food scientists hasn’t tampered with.

    🙁

    1. I think that driving to the grocery store and finding any kind of food you could possibly think of is a bit easier than hunting and gathering in the wild with sticks and stones. It’s not so hard… it just takes a little home work.

  9. Mark, this was my first visit and I was blown away with your research and accuracy. I’ll never look at salmon again the same way again. While softgels might be the only way to go, they give me stomach upset and I can’t take them. Will there ever be a better solution? Thanks for being an earth angel and sharing.

    1. Freeze your fish oil capsules. They will not upset your stomach or give you any nasty burb ups of fish oil.

  10. I have heard that farmed fish were no where near as healthy as fish found in the wild, not to mention the cruelty of the idea of not allowing for a normal natural life for these fish. I have read that their are a lot of departures if you will from normal physical development as well. I think the sentiment is in the right place but we can perfect these tactics and give the fish a better life.

  11. Mark,

    What about other canned fish such as Mackeral and Sardines. Are the canned varities of these fish also wild?

    Thanks,

      1. There are several retailers in Alaska that specialize in sending wild Alaskan salmon (and other seafood) around the United States. My favorite is Captain Jack’s Seafood Locker in Seward. http://www.captainjacksalaska.com They take the fish as soon as they are caught and fillet, vacuum pack, and freeze them. They usually have a few varieties in stock such as King and Sockeye. Otherwise, if you are shopping in a supermarket and you see Alaskan Salmon you’ll know it is wild because there are no salmon farms in Alaska.

        1. Is Alaskan salmon contaminated by the fukushima accident, I’m wondering…

  12. I have questions too about the “Chicken of the Sea” Pink Salmon that I’ve been eating. It seems too good to be true! The 6 oz. foil packet states: “Premium Wild-Caught Alaskan”. I like the taste and it is convenient. And it only costs a couple of bucks. The package also states that a 2 ounce serving provides 245 mg of EPA and DHA. (I eat the whole 6 ounces in my salads.)

  13. I love sushi but it’s gotten that I don’t trust what type of fish is offered, so I’ve cut way down on eating it. It’s a shame.

  14. Wow amazing research Mark. Really opened my eye’s to what is going on with Farmed Salmon…..I guess it really is worth paying that bit more for farmed organic fish. Thanks for the research and depth of the post, very good article!

  15. Thanks to MDA I’ve been aware of this for a while, appreciate the in depth article though!

    At my local supermarket they sell MSC Wild Alaskan Salmon fillets which are absolutely delicious. In fact, I’m having one tonight…can’t wait.

    1. Diana,Go to the archives of “Organic Gardening” and look up the recipe for “Sun Jam.” It’s fruit, sugar – and lemon. That’s it, and it turns out fresh, bright – and not too thin. Also working with fruit that has tons of natural pectin gives you an extra thick jam – blackberry jam could be used to make sculpture!

  16. Mark L,

    Pink salmon is invariably wild and cheap. It’s also likely to be one of the least contaminated with mercury and other toxins due to its lower position on the food chain (compared to larger species like king and atlantic). My research also indicates that its one of the highest in O-3’s.

  17. I was at the butcher just now picking out all of my good WILD fish and grass-fed, hormone free organic meet for the week. I am glad I asked what was wild and what was farm raised. It just so happens that the good salmon we had last week was wild! So I am good to go

  18. I love fish but it is difficult to find fish that is not farm raised unless you catch it yourself. I saw a segment on TV about farm raised Tilapia that bothered me. The fed them pellets in a long aluminum tank. Many of the fish were eating each others poop too.

    Salmon is great but it is soooo expensive! That is why I opt for taking a high quality fish oil on a regular basis.

    Which Is Better? Eating Fish Or Taking Fish Oil Capsules?

  19. Trout Unlimited has a campaign running, to encourage people to buy more wild salmon and to ask for wild salmon at the grocery store. The more people know about this, the more we can help wild salmon stocks to recover. The example of the red drum fish recovery in the south, and striped bass in the north, shows what can be done.

    Check it out at
    http://www.whywild.org

    Much of America’s farmed salmon comes from Chile. Not only does it have all the yummy additives you mentioned, but a heavy load of antibiotics as well. Here’s what’s happening in Chile:
    http://www.iht.com/articles/2008/03/26/america/salmon.php

  20. I’ve noticed some cans of salmon have a raised stamp on the lid that says “wild caught” whereas other salmon that claims is wild caught only says so on the label. Is there a diffence?

  21. I personally eat Kelley-Clarke Wild Alaskan Canned Pink Salmon (linked here: http://www.icicleseafoods.com/locations/kcs/blacktop/ni_pink.asp

    Does anyone have any experience with this brand? The site says wild caught and practically devoid of mercury/other contaminants due to the fish’s short life. I have it every day as part of my big salad and would like to know others thoughts.

  22. Farmed salmon also spread disease to the wild salmon who are trying to survive. Farmed salmon contribute to the decrease in wild salmon.

  23. Totally agree with this article. Farmed salmon will kill a person. Would like to post this article to our website if that is ok? Please let me know – thanks!

  24. I personally eat Kelley-Clarke Wild Alaskan Canned Pink Salmon (linked here: http://www.icicleseafoods.com/locations/kcs/blacktop/ni_pink.asp

    Does anyone have any experience with this brand? The site says wild caught and practically devoid of mercury/other contaminants due to the fish’s short life. I have it every day as part of my big salad and would like to know others thoughts.

  25. Hi

    I ate salmon {wild} very little farmed salmon, tuna, along with a variety of seafoods in the form of sushi and sashimi for 11 years, as my prime source of protein and omega 3 fatty acid..I got high blood pressure, heart problems, eye problems, heavy legs, gout, thick soles on my feet, red finger and toe nails, twitching eye, loss of eye lash’s, grey hair, and a host of nasty shit like insomnia. I thought eating fish 3-4 times a week raw{sashimi} so it is not cooked in fatty oils etc, was healthy..hahaha. I damn near killed myself and went from athletic at 46 with better than perfect blood pressure, and no health problems to severe arthritis in my limbs and all the nasty crap imaginable. I was a wreck 4 months ago after eating what I thought was great food. I cured it all by stop eating all seafoods, used cilantro and chlorella to remove the Mercury, PCB’s, Cadmium, and lead. I used tart cherries and their juice, along with apple cider vinager, to relieve the uric acid buildup {causes gout} High Purines in seafood can cause uric acid build up. I used Greens + smoothie drink, as it contains Chlorella and alfalfa as it binds the murcury being flushed from all cells, including the brain, that cilantro was doing. I have reversed the crap all the seafood caused.Anyone saying Tuna or excessive amounts of seafood is safe is a fool.I know as my blood pressure soared, my right eye was twitching so bad it was unbearable and I had problems with spotty vision. At 56, my health is rapidly returning, my grey hair is turning brown with blonde highlights again, all the heavy let and gout are gone.. my muscle mass has improved and all the arthritis that was plaguing my life is either gone or almost gone. It took 11 years to wreck my health and 4 months to resore it.I now use walnuts and soy drink {silk} for omega 3.. currants for omega 6. I eat more organic foods now than ever before and I recommend a greens supplement. I love greens _ by sam Graci.Not endorsing any product just passing on my experience. I don’t care what anyone says about the health benefits of seafood. Keep it, I can be healthy without it and just might live longer.. TIA

    1. Just a side note – nobody ever recommends “excessive” anything, and this site particular recommends informed and smart amounts of ANY food. Also, your hair does not turn color at all. Hair is dead. If you noticed a change in hair color, either 1) you lost the hair of one color and it was replaced with new hair of another color or 2) someone changed your hair color in your sleep. Diet does affect hair color, but your hairs do not change color. Sorry. Pet peeve.

    2. I think if you are honest with yourself you will come to the conclusion that your health issues were the result of too many carbs, not eating seafood. How do I know? I had exactly the same experience as you, with the exact same health issues, that have all been resolved by getting off all the carbs.

      And soy milk (or ANY non-fermented soy product for that matter) is the exact OPPOSITE of healthy.

  26. Bill, always a naysayer somewhere. Actually, that sounds like a bunch of bunk to me

  27. Hi – Can you please tell me how I can differentiate between wild and farmed salmon ONCE IT IS COOKED AND ON MY PLATE. I need to know for sure so as not to have to depend on the waitress to tell me. Thanks so much !! Suzi

    LIFE’S TOO SHORT TO FOLD YOUR UNDERWEAR

    1. Once it’s cooked, it’s actually very difficult to tell whether or not it’s farmed. Sometimes you can, and in those cases, you’re looking for an excessive amount of grey/translucent fat or grease.

      An easier way to tell is by taste. Farmed salmon have a heavier processed taste, almost metallic if you will. Wild salmon tastes tangier without that metallic taste. The difference is very fine, but when you’ve sampled both types, you learn the difference. I grew up fishing for kings in Alaska so I’m very good at telling the difference!

      Obviously, the easiest method for telling them apart is before they are cooked. Wild salmon NEVER has prominent white striations (fat).

      Good luck!

    2. The only wild salmon that restaurants serve is Sockeye. Everything else will be farmed. Here’s a good way to know: Sockeye, Pink and Chum salmon are NOT farmed as of 2012. These 3 salmon species are plankton eaters and almost impossible to farm. Restaurants that serve pure wild are proud and will tell you, if they don’t know its farmed.

  28. Thanks so much for this article and research. Poor me! I had thought farm raised is better in my head and we always do salmon farm raised once a week since for the past 4wks. Thank God I stumbled on the website courtesy of my wife inquisition.
    Henceforth, I have to request for Wild Alaska Salmon from my local Publix Store or Whole Foods (if I can drive 20miles)..
    but come to think of it, what’s safe to eat again? Chicken? Beef? or Goat? Maybe!
    Maybe I should be a vegetarian….or go back to my village and look for real natural stuff

    1. Go for Frozen Wild Alaska Sockeye Salmon fillets. You can’t beat it.

  29. hey mark need some help with my project its about farmed salmon and the effects on wild salmon and the pros and cons aboit sea farms

  30. It appears that I can only consume wild and perhaps the semi-wild salmon. I thought I was allergic to salmon for years, but suspected that it was the dye in farm raised.

    I have since eating a slowly increasing quantity of wild smoked salmon with no ill effect. But, the violence of my bodies previous disagreement prevents me from testing this hypothesis with a farm raised salmon steak.

    I’d rather not have my stomach that angry ever again! Any body else have anything like this?

    1. Why even consider farmed salmon. Wild may cost a little more but it is far superior.

    2. The dyes used in salmon are canthaxanthin and astaxanthin – both naturally occurring colours. If you are eating wild salmon that is pink then it has been coloured by these compounds in its natural environment, from shrimp and krill.

  31. I have eaten yesterday “Wild” Alaskan salmon that I purchased from Costco. I am experiencing hives the size of quarters and painful itchiness. Has anyone else had this happen to them?

  32. I’m discouraged.. I don’t think I’ll be eating much of anything anymore..

  33. Stephanie, I know it’s discouraging. So much of our food is either polluted or so processed that you’re actually healthier by not eating it.
    But just keep doing your homework like you’re doing by reading Mark’s Apple.

  34. Also keep in mind that there literally is no wild ATLANTIC salmon left. The fishery has died out. The only Wild Salmon is from Alaska! Make sure you always ask. If it’s not Alaskan salmon, it’s not wild. We allow no farmed fisheries in Alaska.

    Here is a link to some great nutritional information on wild Alaskan seafood: http://www.alaskaseafood.org/health/facts/

    1. There is wild salmon on the market from Washington, Oregon, California and Canada.
      Russia has wild salmon runs also.

      1. Thank you for your reply. I live in Washington and was quite offended by Sara’s comment.

        I hope people don’t believe everything they read.

      2. Also my brother in law goes fishing in high altitude lakes here in Idaho and brings back salmon, catfish and golden trout….all wild.

        We do have fish farms of rainbow trout and salmon here in Idaho but would a fish swim up stream for 50+ miles to a lake?

        After reading this I’m worried I’m eating a ton of chemicals every week. My diets made up of probably 3 whole salmons a week.

    2. The Alaskan salmon is usually NOT wild. It is “ranches”. Raised like in the picture way above, and then released. Fed many antibiotics beforehand. Hatcheries, where a lot wild salmon come from, also use a lot of antibiotics when fish are young.

  35. Monterray Bay Seafood WATCH guide lists California and Oregon wild salmon on their AVOID list. Click here: http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/cr/cr_seafoodwatch/content/media/MBA_SeafoodWatch_WestCoastGuide.pdf

    And another incredibly good article about the consequences of farmed fish escaping into the wild population is here: http://motherjones.com/politics/2001/11/aquacultures-troubled-harvest

    The problem with Washington salmon is that is very close to fish farms in British Columbia. Even though the Pacific Fishery Management Council has allowed some “wild salmon” fishing in Washington to occur, the fish have still been poisoned by fish that orginated in either California, Oregon and in British Columbia.

    The WHOLE problem is these evil open cage fish farms! They are polluting EVERYTHING. If we don’t stop them now, soon the fish in Alaska will be threatened as well.

    I have not done any research about wild salmon in Russia – Ive never even heard of it. However, I will do more research on Russia’s fish population.

  36. Wow. I’m amazed at the complete lack of balance in this story and the comments.

    Farming fish is going to be an important part of our future, so best get the right info. Farmed or wild, its a heck of a lot better than most other proteins we happily pig out on.

    This story was not well researched at all, and smells real fishy-kinda like a paid advertisment for Alaska salmon.

    Shame.

    1. I agree with you. Anyone who reads this should be sure to do their own research.

    2. If it is going to be an important part of our future, maybe we should raise them in a way that the end product is as healthy as the wild one. Same with beef, how could one possibly think that confining animals in their filth and feeding them boatloads of unnatural food and antibiotics could possibly yield a healthy meat?

      There is plenty of disinformation out there….I hate to tell you, but this article is not a source of one.

  37. Sara, would love to debate that point with you. This is no advertisement – merely the facts of farmed fishing. I am actually offended that you would say that considering the importance of this subject. Farmed fishing is a VERY dangerous practice. The best solution (if you love the taste of farmed fish) is to do on-shore tanks for farmed fish so the pollutants don’t harm our environment – but even still are risking your own health by eating farmed fish that are fed antibiotics and hormones so they don’t get sea lice and can grow huge within a year. At least then, people can choose what to eat and not affect anyone else, instead of helping destroy our planet by supporting the current farmed fishing practices! It’s kind of like smoking – you want to smoke? Do it where no one else is forced to breath your 2nd hand smoke. Your choice – just don’t make the rest of the world pay for your bad choices.
    Obviously I’m extremely passionate about this subject!

    1. your statements are unqualified and require research. You say farmed fish are fed antibiotics so they don’t get sea lice. First off some fish are farmed in fresh water where they don’t get sea lice – the clue is in the name. How would antibiotics even stop fish getting lice? Lice are parasitic animals not a disease. It is commendable that you are passionate about this subject, but you may get more credibility if you avoid sweeping generalisations and by understanding some of the terms that you use.

  38. A debate on my (our) health has no place for radical comments like Sara’s. The entire food supply in America is suspect, and we all have to pay attention to what we are being asked to consume. As a side bar, I was just grumbling about what they have managed to do to our fruits and veggies – they all taste like cardboard. I hope some you you are old enough to remember when peaches were sweet and apples soft and juicy.
    Whether or not this becomes an “advertisement” for Alaska Salmon, we still have to get the truth out about what is Nutritious and what is harmful.

    And speaking of advertising, Sara, aren’t you advertising for the farms?

  39. Wild Alaskan salmon are the best. I believe it comes from one of the least polluted waters.

  40. So many self-annointed experts….

    Washington, Oregon,California and Alaska all have a mix of truly wild as well as hatchery reared stocks of salmon. In WA, OR and CA it has been the hatchery reared stocks which have supported their respective commercial fisheries for years. However, due to the risk those hatchery may pose to truly wild (genetically) runs hatchery operations are currently being reviewed with the potential for substantially reduced releases. That will result in fewer returning fish coupled with a push to selective harvest – meaning truly wild fish identified by a lack of fin clipping will have to be released. So, expect to see less truly wild and/or hatchery origin salmon from those three Pacific states.

    A couple of other facts:

    Pink salmon is not a species propogated in hatcheries. It is a lower quality salmon species that is doing quite well in its normal range.

    WA is currently bringing on line a hatchery for sockeye salmon (Cedar River, tributary to Lake Washington).

    The “fact” which Sara presented that salmon from WA are contaminated by fish farms in BC is, well, laughable. Sara, exactly how does that occur? There is certainly a problem with young salmon from BC being exposed to high concentrations of sea lice as they out migrate but sea lice are a problem because they cause the death of the young fish rather than some form of “contamination” as suggested. Also, all Pacific salmon mature at sea and to varying degrees co-mingle. Oh, and Sara seems to have ignored that WA also has fish farms. Maybe Sara needs to do more research on U.S. issues before she moves on to become an expert on Western Pacific salmon (not exclusively Russia).

    Fact: There simply is not enough wild/hatchery reared salmon available to meet current demand. If you want the really good stuff you will be paying an increasing price. Oh, and the “best” salmon (taste) are those with the highest amount of fat to sustain them in the rivers as they travel to distant spawning grounds; Columbia River Spring Chinook, Copper River Chinook come to mind. fslmonrcherywill

  41. Look – this debate is healthy even though I disagree with some of your points because it gets us talking about a very important subject.

    Regardless of our disagreements, I think we all agree that we need to stick to wild salmon NO FARMED. Always ask your server/seafood market where the fish is from and where/when it was caught.

    1. Regardless of our disagreements, I think we all agree that if I was the owner of the Wild Alaskan Salmon Company I would say that we need to stick to wild salmon NO FARMED. Always ask your server/seafood market where I can get Wild Alaskan Salmon Company fish.

      Your statements reveal their objectivity if you state your allegiances and if there is any financial gain to be had by stating them.

  42. We’ve been buying only wild salmon for a while now. We’ve noticed that it is becoming harder to find. Sams club used to sell it, then stopped, then sporadically carried it, then poof, gone. They have this Norwegian ocean farmed in fjords (??) and of course farm raised from chile. Other stores used to sell wild salmon, excellent quality from brunos (coho) really, they have recently stopped carrying too, only farm raised now. Wal Mart sells frozen, wild caught salmon that is caught in the pacific and processed in China, so I am leary of it. If only the agribusinesses would stop messing with our food. These people have the morals of pimps. They are purposely poisoning us. I’m sure they don’t eat what they sell, they probably all shop at whole foods and have never seen the inside of a walmart where their wallets are fattened daily. That might be your best health choice: don’t shop at walmart, the food is about 90% unhealthy there. Our local one shuttered their fresh seafood and shrunk the produce section, also removed most of the organic/kosher foods they used to carry, all in a 3 month period. I guess healthy eating isn’t profitable? Or they were told to get with the program by someone. Sorry for the rant, the systematic destruction of our populace on multiple fronts (moral, nutritional, financial) really irks me. Fortunately for me, God is on our side, due to our Covenant with Him. He is your best “whole health” benefit. Follow God’s Laws and you’ll be all right.

  43. ‘Some of the reasons it’s so darn expensive? The flood of farmed fish (and subsequent drop in asking price) has forced many traditional fishermen/women out of business.’

    Look at a basic supply-demand diagram. High prices are due to limited and difficult supply. If demand is lower for wild salmon (because of consumers substituting farmer fish), that would actually correlate to a lower price.

  44. Being a former Alaskan, I am partial to wild Alaskan salmon, your article sort of cements it in.

  45. Mark,

    What are your thoughts on the new Whole Foods standards for farm raised salmon? Do you think their standards make their farmed raised salmon a healthy choice?

    Thanks.

  46. The only way you can get wild Atlantic salmon now is if you catch it, or know someone that caught it wild. There is a commercial fishing moratorium on Atlantic salmon due to overfishing (yay earth wtg). 80% of the salmon is farmed yes, the other 20% is most likely Pacific salmon from Alaska, where we haven’t yet depleted the natural resources – that would be Sockeye, Coho, Keta, or King to name a few.

    Two good websites to look at are the Monterey, CA Aquarium’s FishWatch, and the NOAA website – http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/fishwatch/species/atl_salmon.htm

    Both have very good info on all fish types.

    You may want to consider writing an article on Orange Roughy too – my favorite fish until I found out the non -eco friendly farming methods and decided not to eat it 🙁 They don’t reach sexual maturity until they are 30 years old, and can live to be 100 (yes, these tidbits are on the NOAA website!) Oh…and it’s original name? Slimehead LOL 🙂

  47. Nobody seems to notice that the “farmed” has no taste, excessive fat (never get to swim in the ocean), is fatty & mushy…etc., as well as the environmental damge, lack of omega-3’s, excessive omega-6’s, etc. AND you can get frozen WILD salmon year ’round, for about half the price (salmon freezes well). So, why bother? GO WILD!!

    1. Farmed salmon generally live in the ocean, therefore they swim in the ocean.

  48. After reading The Primal Blueprint cover to cover, I decided to hunt down some wild salmon. Was I ever happy to find out that mid-June is the time when fresh wild salmon is available in the meat markets. I bought some, froze a bunch of it, but broiled a fresh piece. Oh my goodness! There is absolutely NO comparison between the taste(lessness) of farmed salmon and wild caught. You can see right off the bat by the color of the fish that it is going to taste better and be better for you. I’d MUCH rather have less of the wild caught (due to higher price) than a lot of the farmed stuff. Grok on!

  49. The majority of Atlantic farmed salmon still has more Omega-3 than Omega-6. The percentage of fatty acids varies from 12.5%-37% n-3, and 2.2-17% n-6. As it is fattier than wild salmon it may contain more absolute quantities of n-3 than wild salmon.

    It is not correct to say that the net omega-3 gain is less than wild salmon.

    See

    http://www.nifes.no/index.php?page_id=174&article_id=947&lang_id=2

  50. You don^t need all that much Omega-3 to begin with to recieve the health benefits of Omega-3. so what if farmed salmon has a little less.Too much omega-3 can pose health issues. Farmed salmon allows an abundance of good,nutritious,food at cheaper prices.Just don&t eat it everyday,twice a week is good.If we left all plants(fruits & vegetables)alone without pesticide,many would not be available all year round,they would be much more x-pensive & we would suffer more because of the impressive lack of variety. There is no scientific evidence that links cancer to eating farmed fish moderateltely

  51. It’s very difficult to find wild salmon in Spain and costs about 6x the price of Norwegian farmed salmon (say $35 per pound). I’m kind of going off farmed salmon though. It just doesn’t smell like fish when raw. It has an odour of feed pellets, or what I can only describe as a farm smell rather than a fresh fish smell. It is also rather flabby and fatty.

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  53. I refuse to eat farmed salmon before I even heard of the PB! I think it tastes fishier (a definite drawback for me) and once I heard what an environmental nightmare it was, I refused to eat it at all. I also knew of the reduced nutritional value before this as well.

  54. i think you might be misinformed on the Canthaxanthin issue:
    Canthaxanthin (pronounced /?kæn???zæn??n/ ( listen)) is a carotenoid pigment widely distributed in nature. Carotenoids belong to a larger class of phytochemicals known as terpenoids. from the Food Standards agency: it is believed that canthaxanthin and some other carotenoids may have positive nutritional effects on the diet – they are believed to act as dietary antioxidants.
    also the farmed fish from Chile was shown to have less Dioxins than the wild fish. Most of our Salmon here in the U.S. is from Chile not North America where the high levels of Dioxins were found. overall if we dont have aquaculture we wont have enough fish to eat! the aquaculture industry needs to address the antibiotics issue and the effluence issue, but we cant just ignore the benefits of farming fish.

  55. Great article! Most sashimi salmon will be farmed salmon, because it is available year-round. Alaska does produce most of the wild salmon in the U.S., but hatcheries do contribute nearly 1/3 of the current marketed catch (pinks, then chum or “silver bright” salmon). All sockeye are truly wild (and delicious). The hatchery releases are closely managed in Alaska and are labeled as “wild caught”, but Russia, Japan, and China are building hatcheries and flooding the North Pacific (now at 500 billion salmon released annually), potentially affecting the food source for truly wild salmon stocks.

    1. You are being dishonest because you are making comments without knowing ALL the facts. A lot of the PINK salmon from Alaska are born in hatcheries and are released into the wild soon after. No Sockeye and very few King salmon are from hatcheries. Hatchery fish are not drugged throughout their life and do not pollute the inshore waters like farmed salmon. I’m sick of people that read one story then assume that they are now an expert…. Far from it. Go back to sleep.

  56. I read every posting. I am getting ready to buy more canned kippered herring. The brands I buy are King Oscar , Appel and Polar the last two are alledgely from Germany and wild caught. We always look and purchase wild caught fish except my wife who eats Talapia. When I saw eating one serving of salmon per month I got ill. I eat kippers for breakfast almost every morning for forty years. I eat fish at lunch from fried catfish to blue gill and sushi at least half of my other meals. I eat meat less then a dozen times a year. I am obese however have lower then normal blood pressure a resting pulse of 58 blood test and physicals every six months. I just ordered 64 six oz. cans of wild caught herring.
    If anyone has any difinitive answeres on over indulging in fish. Presently consuming almosy 3,000 calories per day in fish. I would need some guidence.

  57. So very biased in your facts. Does EWG write your analysis? Maybe to be fair you should mention that the dyes used are made from the same carotenoids that wild salmon get their color from. Also the carotenoid canthaxanthin is the only one shown to cause retinal damage and it’s use is strictly controlled. One would need to eat 3kg of farm raised salmon daily to be harmed. I find the remainder of your analysis on nutrition is essentially accurate though outdated. The information on toxins is likewise outdated and misleading.

  58. I have a question, I am trying to find where to purchase canned Atlantic Salmon and am having no luck, could you please help me? Thank you.

  59. Hi Mark!

    I live in Malaysia where it is impossible to get wild salmon or so I thought. recently I came across frozen wild Alaska salmon fillets sold in boxes by a brand called Queens. it even has a note to say that it’s certified sustainable fishing. have u heard of this brand? I cooked it tonight n thought it somewhat different from the regular farmed salmon- it wasn’t as pink, wasn’t as oily/ fatty n the flesh seemed tougher or drier(but that could be my bad cooking!). would really appreciate if u can help me out here Mark. thanks!

    1. What about organic farmed salmon? Where does that sit on the scale?

  60. I often find wild salmon in resturants are far too salty. Farm salmon is fine especially smoked salmon, which is as tasty as any other kind of cooked salmon. Smoked salmon usuaily means farmed salmon and going back to wild would hit the supply and cost of quality smoked salmon. If you talk to sellers and supplier of salmon they say pretty much the same thing, only some resturants will say differently but not, strange enough, many of the working chefs.

  61. I’ve just come to your website as my daughter told me I was eating too much salmon and it contained PCB. I have now read the contents of your research and quite frankly horrified by what I read. Why on earth are Government bodies permitting fish farmers to use additives to fish feed knowing such to cause cancer? I suppose one might retort they permit cigarettes to be manufactured and sold so what’s the difference. It’s sheer lunacy and criminal as far as I’m concerned. Only wild salmon for me from this moment on, and in small quantities.

  62. Hmm was doing some research on wild versus farmed and ran into a couple of interesting papers. This one by the university of California agriculture division http://seafood.ucdavis.edu/pubs/farmed_and_wild_salmon.pdf

    Table 1. USDA Nutrition Information for 100 Grams of Edible Cooked (Dry Heat) Farmed
    and Wild Salmon
    Calories Protein
    (g)
    Fat (g) Saturated
    Fat (g)
    Sodium
    (mg)
    Cholesterol
    (mg)
    Omega-3
    (g)1
    Farmed
    Atlantic 206 22.1 12.3 2.5 61 63 2.1
    Coho 178 24.3 8.2 1.9 52 63 1.2
    Wild
    Chinook
    (King)
    231 25.7 13.3 3.2 60 85 1.7
    Sockeye
    (Red)
    216 27.3 10.9 1.9 66 87 1.2
    Coho
    (Silver)
    139 23.4 4.3 1.0 58 55 1.0
    Pink
    (Humpback)
    149 25.5 4.4 0.7 86 67 1.3
    Chum (Keta) 154 25.8 4.8 1.0 64 95 0.8
    1Omega-3 values equal the sum of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid
    (DHA).

    The chart is at the link in case it’s unreadable here.

  63. Yo, the “farmed salmon doesn’t can well” link doesn’t work. Which is a shame, because I am really suspicious that most canned salmon is farmed…

  64. Thank you for the article. I’m dealing with spinal trama and the least bit of inflammation makes me sick for days. The Nutrition data site notes the differences in inflammation level in farmed Salmon as being very inflammatory and wild being very anti-inflammatory.

    I can definitely tell the difference after eating farmed vs wild. About 12-24 hours of pain from spinal swelling and nerve pressure.

  65. Thank you for this great post. I live in Greece and it is difficult to find wild salmon here. Whenever we go out for dinner, anywhere in Europe, and salmon is on the menu I ask the server if the salmon is wild and 9 out of 10 times they do not know!

    I was just in England in a posh little cafe and they had no idea where the salmon came from but assured me it was good quality. Ummmmm, no thanks!

    Have a wonderful week!!
    ~ Anika

  66. This information is outdated. And no one seems to mind that the wild salmon population is greatly supported by hatchery-released fish. What is important about farm-raised is the size of the pens and locations of same.We were all raise d on wonderbread so chill out.

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  68. I have seen a lot of salmon farms. None look like the picture you show. That looks like an Alaskan salmon ranch. Where they farm it primitively like your picture and then release it, and catch it and call it wild. Farmed salmon is never canned because it is or way too high of quality to stick in a can. Wild salmon often must be canned because you wouldn’t recognize the boot trodden fish if it was attempted to be sold whole. I know where a farmed salmon has been….I don’t know how long a wild fish has sat on a boat. Farmed salmon as it is raised in Canada, is raised as good as any free ranged farm animal. And there are often cycles where no antibiotics are used at all!

    Wild salmon has been found often with more PCB’s then farm salmon. Most sources of Chicken and Beef also have more PCB’s than farmed salmon.

    The feed fed to farm salmon is of a very high quality, and very expensive.

    Say what you want, but the benefits of eating farmed salmon FAR out weigh the risks. Like walking to work….is it really good for you when you could easily be struck by a car and killed? Stay home and eat farmed salmon! Mm mm.

    You information is definitely negative and biased. There are charts like you show that have completely different results.

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  71. What about farmed salmon from Norway? I used to avoid farmed salmon at all costs but lately I haven’t been able to afford many protein options that I’m not allergic to (and I only eat raw protein as well and get sick from canned foods for some reason). What would you guys recommend? thoughts on farmed salmon from Norway?