Salmon is widely known for its health benefits.
It is a fatty fish that is loaded with Omega-3 fatty acids, which most people don’t get enough of.
Unfortunately, not all salmon are the same.
Today, a lot of the salmon we eat isn’t caught in the wild but bred in fish farms.
The Difference Between Wild and Farmed Salmon
Wild salmon is caught in the wild, in its natural environment… oceans, rivers and lakes.
But half of the salmon sold worldwide comes from so-called fish farms, also known as aquacultures.
The annual global production of farmed raised salmon has increased from 27,000 to more than 1 million metric tons in the past two decades.
Whereas wild salmon eat other organisms found in their natural environment, farmed salmon are fed with high-fat processed foods in order to produce larger fish.
Wild salmon is still available, but global stocks have halved in just a few decades
Persistent organic pollutants sound dangerous because they are. POPs have been linked to several diseases, including type 2 diabetes and obesity. Evidence suggests obesity might be even more of a risk factor for diabetes when POPs are present in your body. And specific types of POPs increase the risk of stroke in women. Why does this matter? Because PCB (one type of POP) levels are five to 10 times higher in farmed fish than in wild fish.
Final Fact: Wild salmon wins here, hands down.
2. Cancer-causing chemicals
In the wild salmon vs. farmed debate, this is a tricky issue. Although both offer omega-3 fatty acids, eating large amounts of either type of fish to get their full benefits could expose you to cancer-causing chemicals. These chemicals come from the polluted water these fish swim in. The fact is your omega-3 sources should be broad, with fish as only one source out of a few. However, one study does conclude: “The benefit-risk ratio for carcinogens and noncarcinogens is significantly greater for wild salmon than for farmed salmon.”
Final fact: Both wild and farmed salmon come with risk if eaten in large quantities. But eaten in moderation, wild salmon is safer.
3. Unsafe contaminants
Recent studies show contaminants in farmed salmon were generally higher than in wild salmon. Contaminants were below the approved U.S. Food and Drug Administration tolerance levels, but they still surpassed the levels considered safe “for frequent consumption” by the Environmental Protection Agency. Other research has suggested that children, women of child-bearing age and pregnant women should choose wild salmon — or other sources of omega-3 fatty acids.
Final fact: Both wild and farmed salmon contain contaminants, but wild salmon has lower levels and is safer overall for consumption.
4. Concern about antibiotics
This was a source of debate in the late 1990s and early 2000s, when Chilean salmon imports to Japan had higher antibiotic amounts than allowed under regulations. The concern was too much exposure to antibiotics could lead to resistance to their effects. Antibiotic use in farmed fish is said to have been reduced, but it is unclear just how much use still occurs.
Final fact: Farmed salmon comes with uncertainty about antibiotic use. Wild salmon does not.
Both farmed and wild salmon have nutrients we all need. But it is becoming clearer that the risks associated with farmed fish are higher than concerns about wild fish. If you want to get the entire health benefits that fish such as salmon provide, your best bet is to keep it wild.
5. Overall Nutrition
There are some key nutritional differences between wild and farmed salmon. A small fillet of wild salmon has 131 fewer calories and half the fat content of the same amount of farmed salmon. And although farmed salmon may have slightly more omega-3 fatty acids, it also has 20.5 percent more saturated fat content — and that’s fat you do not want.
Final fact: Wild salmon gets the edge for having fewer calories and less saturated fat.