High in protein, high in omega-3 fatty acids, a provider of vitamin D, vitamin B12, niacin, selenium, vitamin B6, magnesium and calcium—those are just some of the benefits of eating salmon and other fatty fish. Before you dig in, however, know that there are significant differences between farmed fish and wild fish. Take, for example, farmed salmon versus wild salmon.
For starters, farm-raised salmon have high levels of PCBs and other environmental toxins, including endocrine disruptors (as many as 14 toxins—some of them human carcinogens) than wild salmon, according to researchers at Indiana University. The study’s leader, Professor Ronald Hites, from the IU School of Public and Environmental Affairs, said, “We think it’s important for people who eat salmon to know that farmed salmon have higher levels of toxins than wild salmon from the open ocean.”
Getting this information out about the toxins in farmed salmon is important, too, since the production of farmed salmon has increased 40-fold over the past 20 to 25 years. Additionally, it appears that the toxins come from what the farm-raised salmon are fed. Hites and his colleagues measured toxins in “salmon chow”—a mixture of ground-up fish and oil fed to the farm-raised salmon—and found a correlation between the toxicity of the feed and the toxicity of the salmon. They say the toxins are passed from the feed into the salmon.
Toxins in farmed salmon and “salmon chow” are not the only reasons why wild salmon is preferred over farmed salmon. For instance, wild salmon contains 20 percent higher protein content than farmed salmon. Wild salmon—and other wild fish—also contain more omega-3 fatty acids than farmed fish, while farmed fish contain more omega-6s.
Furthermore, salmon farmers often use antibiotics to control disease and are passed along to anyone who eats the farmed fish. Not surprisingly, these can potentially cause negative health effects for those who ingest the antibiotic-ridden farmed salmon.
That’s not all.
Wild salmon absorb carotenoids to get a natural pink color, while farmed salmon ingest a salmon-colored dye in their feed to give them a pink hue. Without the dye, farmed salmon appear gray. Additionally, fish farming has numerous negative impacts on wild salmon—not the least of which is sea lice from fish farms, which can kill up to 95 percent of juvenile wild salmon migrating past the fish farms.
Then there’s the issue of genetically modified (GM) salmon, or Frankenfish, which has become a hot topic these days. GM salmon are modified with extra growth hormone genes and can be up to 40 percent more allergenic than other salmon. Contrary to claims, GM salmon can also reproduce— possibly with wild salmon—therefore tainting the wild salmon population. To make matters worse, the FDA indicates that it won’t require any special labeling of GM salmon.
You see? Fish—including salmon—really are born to be wild, not farmed.