Fishy Faceoff: Wild-caught vs. Farm-Raised Salmon
Salmon has made a lot of waves in recent years for being a tasty fish with outstanding health benefits, and its high content in anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids earns the approval of many health professionals. Salmon has also received a lot of buzz about where it comes from and how it’s produced; that is, whether it’s caught wild in open waters or raised in an enclosed farm. Ecologically-aware activists and health-conscious consumers aren’t letting this discrepancy swim by so easily, so let's dive into what separates these two marine dwellers.
The human body needs fatty acids for thousands of various functions in order to stay alive, and can produce all the unique fatty acids it needs except for two: Omega-3 and Omega-6. We obtain these “essential” fatty acids through the diet, and optimally, in a 2:1 ratio. But that’s not the case with most Americans, as our high consumption of omega-6 foods (vegetable oils and corn) trumps the amount of omega-3 foods in our diet (flaxseeds, grassfed beef, and oily fish like salmon). This longterm inflammatory imbalance puts one at risk for chronic illnesses like coronary heart disease and arthritis, hence the push for more salmon on menu. But here’s the catch: that salmon gets all of its omega-3 content from its diet of small “feeder” fish, who get their omega-3 content by dining on green algae. This occurs naturally in the world of wild salmon, but the diet for their farm-raised brethren is up to the farmer. Even when fed high-quality omega-3 oil, farm-raised salmon tend to have lower levels of usable omega-3 fats due to their higher total fat content; higher amounts of omega-6 in farm-raised fish negates from their omega-3 stores. The reason behind this comparably high fattiness is due to less physical activity... unlike wild salmon, farmed fish have the luxury of laziness when it comes to feeding and predators, and no one earns a lean swimmer’s body by merely floating around in the water.
A basic proximity rule with organisms is that the more densely they’re packed, the more tendency they have to spread disease and parasites among each other. This rule applies to humans as much as it applies to salmon, and similarly, they are distributed medication to quell outbreaks. Concentrated amounts of antibiotics, pesticides, and other substances provided by farmers for disease damage-control doesn’t sit well with a lot of salmon consumers, leaving many to opt for the wild-caught salmon that’s less likely to fall sick in the first place.
Both the wild-caught and farm-raised sides of the debate yield concerns for ecological impact and sustainability. Farmed salmon run the risk of depleting the population of small “feeder” fish that they’re given to eat, which could majorly disrupt the delicate marine ecosystem that those small fish are involved in. Additionally, any chemicals or pesticides meant to keep farmed salmon disease-free could inevitably leach out into open ocean waters, potentially leaving devastating effects on aquatic plant and animal life in the surrounding areas. Overfishing of wild salmon could disrupt not only amount of native salmon in the area but also the ecosystem in which it thrives. Both fishing and farming require strict regulation and monitoring by knowledgable ecologists and salmon experts.
So, is the better choice for salmon farmed or wild-caught? The decision is yours! As a consumer, the best way to hold seafood producers accountable is to demand only high quality fish caught with sustainable practices. The extra time and effort spent researching and supporting sustainable seafood practices is worth it when it results in tastier, more nutritious fish without leaving negative traces to the delicate marine environment.
PeachDish is proud to source wild-caught salmon from Sea to Table, a family-owned seafood distributor that sources only wild, domestic product that is sustainably harvested and traceable to landing points. By bypassing the opaque traditional distribution chain, Sea to Table creates more valuable and transparent connections between fishermen, restaurant chefs, and seafood-lovers everywhere. Learn more about sustainable seafood partners: