Buying Salmon: Differences Between Wild vs. Farmed

Wild Salmon


Most salmon and seafood consumed in the United States is imported, and much of it is farm-raised, with little oversight regarding use of antibiotic drugs or additives. Without independent lab testing for harmful levels of mercury and other industrial contaminants farm-raised salmon and other seafood can be harmful to our health.

One criteria I have when it comes to what I buy is to know and trust the source. After much disappointment, I finally found what both Curt and I feel is the best possible source for all of the fish we buy, Vital Choice Seafood. Other than superb flavor and texture (never mushy or smelly) here are the primary reasons we like their fish best…

They carry the purest wild seafood possible: fish and shellfish that grow in the wild environment to which they are adapted, free of the antibiotics, pesticides, synthetic coloring agents, and genetically modified organisms (GMOs) which are commonly used at fish farms.

Their seafood is tested regularly by independent labs, and the results show that it is free of harmful levels of mercury and other industrial contaminants. Longer-lived predator species such as Halibut and Tuna accumulate mercury over time, by selecting only the smallest of the catch ensures optimum purity.

Further reading:

Fresh Fish Diets Delay Dementia, Protect Memory, Ward-off Alzheimer’s (fish and health)

The Trail of Corn; going where no man (or woman) has gone before (GMO)

Growing Flax: a story of beauty, health, prosperity and ruin (GMO)

Superior Wild Salmon, Naturally

Unlike penned, grain-fed, flaccid-fleshed farmed Salmon, Vital Choice wild Alaska Salmon spend several years feeding on the sea’s natural foods and straining against the strong, cold currents of the North Pacific before migrating thousands of miles to the headwaters of their birth rivers.

Of the millions of young Pacific Salmon that begin this demanding ocean odyssey every year, only the strongest, healthiest fish will reach harvest age. This is why wild Salmon offer flavor, texture and nutritional profile far superior to any farm-raised fish. While the U.S. government has standards that should ban imports with high levels of antibiotics in seafood, there is essentially no enforcement.

Only one percent of sustainably harvested wild Salmon meets Vital Choices’ strict quality standards.

Wild Salmon vs. Farmed: Environmental and Purity Issues

Aquaculture is an increasingly important source of seafood, and while I’m not opposed to fish-farming when it is practiced sustainably this is a point of where quality can go down-hill rapidly. The environmental sustainability of current Salmon farming operations is doubtful, and the nutritional profiles of their products appear inferior and questionable.

Vital Choice fresh-frozen wild Alaska Salmon live their entire lives free to roam the open ocean, and are only harvested as they approach the end of their four-year life cycle. They guarantee that all of their fish come from carefully managed, sustainable fisheries.

Alaska Salmon are endorsed as a “Best Seafood Choice” by leading environmental organizations, including the Marine Stewardship Council, Environmental Defense, the Blue Ocean Institute, the Monterey Bay Aquarium and many others.

In contrast, farmed Salmon are typically rated “Avoid.”

Unfortunately, all fish and animal foods contain at least some traces of the industrial contaminants found everywhere in today’s environment, but farmed Salmon contain levels of PCBs and dioxins far higher than any other fish or animal food tested. While even these comparatively high levels of PCBs and dioxins are small, it only makes sense to minimize intake as often as possible.

Wild Salmon vs. Farmed: Nutritional Distinctions

The nutritional drawbacks of farmed Salmon receive far less attention than their environmental disadvantages.

The “Omega Ratio” advantage of wild Salmon Wild and farmed Salmon contain comparable amounts of the omega-3 fatty acids that make fish such healthful food. In fact, farmed Salmon may contain somewhat higher levels of omega-3s.

The higher levels of omega-3s in farmed Salmon come from feeding them fish meal or fish oil derived from mass harvesting of small fish nearer the bottom of the marine food chain: a practice with alarming implications for the future of the marine ecosystem.

And, compared with wild Salmon, typical farmed Salmon contain much higher levels of omega-6 fatty acids, which already occur in extreme excess in typical Western diets: most Americans consume 20 to 30 times more omega-6 fatty acids than omega-3s. Experts recommend consuming no more than four parts omega-6s to omega-3s: that is, an intake ratio of 4:1 or lower, instead of the typical 30:1 ratio.

When consumed in such excessive amounts, omega-6 fatty acids blunt the benefits of omega-3s to a very substantial extent and can promote chronic, “silent” inflammation and the diseases associated with it, including heart disease, diabetes, senility, and cancer.

In fact, the intriguing results of a Norwegian study suggest that consuming standard farmed Salmon, raised on diets high in omega-6 fatty acids, raises people’s blood levels of the inflammatory chemicals linked to increased risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and cancer (Seierstad SL et al 2005).

Salmon farmers claim they’re striving to reduce the omega-6 content of farmed Salmon feed, but tests conducted in 2005 show that average wild Salmon offer a desirable omega-3/omega-6 ratio of 10:1, while farmed Salmon have an average ratio of 4:1 or less (Hamilton M et al 2005).

But to the extent that Salmon farmers are able and willing to replace omega-6-rich vegetable oils and grains with costlier fish meal or fish oil, this will contribute to further over-fishing of species closer to the bottom of the marine food chain, with negative impacts throughout the oceanic ecosystem.

Vitamin D Comparison Between Wild Salmon and Farmed Salmon

Research published in recent years makes it clear that vitamin D is a much bigger factor in human health than previously thought, reducing the risks of osteoporosis, fractures, inflammation, and major cancers.

New findings show that wild Salmon – especially Sockeye – are the best food sources available, by far. For example, while a cup of milk contains 100 IU, there are 600-700 IU of vitamin D in a 3.5 ounce serving of Sockeye Salmon.

Farmed Salmon contain only one-quarter as much vitamin D as wild Salmon, according to independent tests by researchers at Boston University.

These are the primary reasons we shop for fish at Vital Choice Seafood.

Some of our favorite fish recipes:

Subtropical Roasted Salmon

Grilled Wild Alaska Halibut on Tabouli

Thyme-Crusted Sablefish (recipe also work well with Salmon too)Transparency & Appreciation: I want all of my readers to know that I do provide links on this blog to other businesses that sell products that I use and love, I will never post a link to anything that is inconsistent with my ideology.
When you do click on a link to a business that I have referred you to and you make a purchase, I will earn a small commission – the price to you though is always their regular price, or in some instances a special offer price.
When you do make a purchase you are showing me that you support my efforts in creating this blog for everyone to enjoy and learn from… I am very grateful to those who have chosen to read what I have written, and my referrals.
Thank you very much!

Regarding Health and Wellness – This site does not provide medical advice. I am not a doctor or health advisor. My purpose is to share experiences and information as I seek to improve the health of my family through a real food and natural lifestyle. Any statements or claims about the possible health benefits conferred by any foods or supplements have not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

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