Salmon: Wild Versus Farmed

Laura Dolson from About.com hit this topic right on the head. I've talked a little about the importance of ensuring that your fish is low mercury and wild caught, but her article summarizes it up well:

Farmed vs. Wild Salmon
There is somewhat of a controversy about eating wild vs. farmed salmon. The issues fall into three main categories:

Contamination: Most of the salmon available for human consumption today is farmed, but several independent studies have found concentrations of PCBs and other contaminants at levels of up to 10 times higher in farmed salmon. In Europe, there have even been situations where farmed fished tested at high levels of heavy metals such as lead and cadmium. These contaminants seem to be getting to the fish through the feed, which become concentrated in the oil of the salmon.

Farmed salmon in the U.S. are regulated through the USDA and FDA, which allows much higher levels of these contaminants than are allowed than with wild salmon, which is regulated by the EPA. A common argument about this is that the EPA has reviewed the scientific literature and made new recommendations much more recently than the FDA. FDA regulations have not been updated since 1984, when people in the U.S. were eating much less salmon and other fish. More information about contaminants in farmed salmon.

Omega-3’s: Farmed fish is fattier -- much as farm animals are “fattened up," the same is true of salmon. This means that there are higher levels of omega-3 fats. But there are caveats regarding this:
  1. Because of the contaminants, it is often recommended that farmed salmon be cooked in ways that reduce the fat content.
  2. New feeds are being developed with less fish meal in them and more plant foods. In general, the more plant-based ingredients, the lower the level of omega-3 fats in the salmon. (Note that in the ocean, salmon are carnivores: they eat no plants at all.)
  3. Even today, the percentage of omega-3 fats is lower in farmed salmon, apparently because of the soybean, wheat, etc., in the meal fed to them.
Environmental Issues: Farmed fish produce a bunch of environmental problems. Read about them at the Seafood Watch site. But there’s good news: Both wild and farmed salmon have low levels of mercury. Also, salmon is not being over-fished – especially salmon from Alaska is in good shape. More about this from Seafood Watch. Additional Note: Most canned salmon is wild.


  1. Informative..
    Anyway I rarely consume salsa but I will forward this message to some of my friends who consume salsa regularly


  2. I think its very nice article. and I've talked a little about the importance of ensuring that your fish is low mercury and wild caught, but her article summarizes it up well:

  3. I just want to say that It was very good post, it helped me in finding a good affiliate,

  4. PaleoDiet.HealthAndWealthReporter.com

    Thanks for addressing the issue.
    Many years ago I read about an open ocean cage that could be used foe fish farming but don't think it's ever been implemented.
    Meanwhile, we continue to destroy our ocean resources and try to replace them with fish farm factories!

  5. Thank you for taking the time to write this blog post. Much appreciated, very valuable information.

  6. Thank you for sharing, I love your blog, it's very useful.

  7. I like to catch my own fish. We go fishing regularly and there's really nothing like fresh caught bass and catfish. It's sad that places are allowed to get away with poor farming methods and an abundance of toxins. I think the FDA is a pretty worthless organization, often doing more harm than good. But that's just me.


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