What’s better for you: farmed or wild salmon?


Salmon is the most popular fish eaten in Canada, thanks in large part to its availability, but the health benefits are a big contributor for many shoppers’ decisions as well. But how much does a fresh fish differ from a farmed fish?  And how can a salmon bought in North Battleford, Sask. be the same as one bought in Truro, Nova Scotia?

Nutritional value of farmed versus wild salmon 

Atlantic salmon is typically used for farming, making for some interesting nutritional comparisons, according to the Cleveland Clinic. An 85 gram cut of wild sockeye salmon has fewer calories and half the fat content of farmed Atlantic salmon. The farmed fish does have more omega-3 fatty acids, however.

Omega 3s are known to lower the risk of breast cancer, according to the National Institutes of Health .

There are also more pollutants in farmed salmon than fresh. A test from the Environmental Research Group found farmed salmon has 16 times the amount of pollutants known as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) when compared to fresh fish. The farmed salmon also had four times the amount of PCBs than beef. 

PBCs are synthetic chemicals that cause cancer in animals, and can impact their immune, reproductive, and nervous systems, according to the Environmental Protection Agency . The government of Canada has noted that PCBs are probably human carcinogens, but there isn’t conclusive research on long-term exposure to low-levels of the substance.

Where are salmon found or farmed?

Canada is the fourth largest producer of farmed salmon in the world, according to the federal government . British Columbia is the largest provincial producer of salmon, growing more than 70 per cent of the country’s farmed salmon. 

Since there are so many varieties of salmon, it’s impossible to pinpoint one location for wild salmon. Atlantic salmon live in the coasts along the Atlantic Ocean, Chinook salmon are found around B.C. and the pacific northwest, while pink and Sockeye salmon can be found from the Fraser River to Alaska.

Do they really dye farmed fish pink to look more natural?

Anyone who has ever pulled a salmon from the water and eaten it shortly after knows the distinct pinky-red colouring of the meat. To achieve a similar look, fish farmers may add pigmenting compoundsto the food they feed the fish, in order to change the colour. 

“If we didn’t do it, customers wouldn’t buy it,” Don Read, a fish farmer from B.C. told Time magazine. “Consumers buy what they’re familiar with. Consumers buy what they are comfortable with. They won’t go into the store to buy white salmon.”

Environmental impact

In some areas, wild salmon are an endangered species thanks to pollution, habitat destruction, overfishing, and climate change, according to Time . A farmed fish can spend as much as two to three years in open net farms, giant nets in open water that hold hundreds of thousands of salmon . These areas can be breeding grounds for parasites, which can then be a danger to wild salmon if the farmed fish are able to escape.

It’s estimated that as much as 20 per cent of all farmed salmon die before they’re harvested. For reference, that same statistic for chickens is five per cent, and 3.3 per cent for cattle. 

Price difference

Due to the difficulty in acquiring wild salmon compared to the farmed counterpart, the wild fish can cost as much as four times more per pound .

A cut of farmed salmon weighing approximately one pound from Walmart.ca costs nearly $17. At four times the price, that same size cut of meat from a wild fish would cost $68.

Source Healthing