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Wild versus Farm-Raised Salmon

From both a nutritional and environmental impact perspective, farmed fish are far inferior to their wild counterparts:

Fat Content

The fat content of farmed salmon is excessively high--30-35% by weight. Wild salmon have a 20% higher protein content and a 20% lower fat content than farm-raised salmon. Despite being much fattier, farmed fish provide less usable beneficial omega 3 fats than wild fish. The wild coho tested for fat content were not only much lower in overall fat content, but also were found to have 33% more omega 3 fatty acids than their farm-raised counterparts.

Farm-raised fish contain much higher amounts of pro-inflammatory omega 6 fats and less usable omega-3 fats than wild fish. The reason for this is that both omega 3 and omega 6 fats use the same enzymes for conversion into the forms in which they are active in the body. So, when a food is eaten that contains high amounts of omega 6s in proportion to its content of omega 3s, the omega-6 fats use up the available conversion enzymes to produce pro-inflammatory compounds while preventing the manufacture of anti-inflammatory substances from omega-3s, even when these beneficial fats are present.

Antibiotic and Pesticide Use

Disease and parasites, which would normally exist in relatively low levels in fish scattered around the oceans, can run rampant in densely packed oceanic feedlots. To survive, farmed fish are vaccinated as small fry. Later, they are given antibiotics or pesticides to ward off infection.

Synthetic Pigment Colors Flesh Pink

In the wild, salmon absorb carotenoids from eating pink krill. On the aquafarm, their rich pink hue is supplied by canthaxanthin, a synthetic pigment. European health officials have debated whether the canthaxanthin added to the feed to give farmed salmon their pink hue poses any human health risk. Canthaxanthin was linked to retinal damage in people when taken as a sunless tanning pill, leading the British to ban its use as a tanning agent. (In the U.S., it’s still available.)

Environmental Impact of Farm-raised Fish

Aquafarming also raises a number of environmental concerns. Uneaten feed and fish waste blankets the sea floor beneath these farms, a breeding ground for bacteria that consume oxygen vital to shellfish and other bottom-dwelling sea creatures. Food additives given to farm-raised salmon including dyes and drugs used to prevent infectious diseases drift to the ocean bottom below the open net pens where they are invariably recycled into our food stream. The interbreeding of wild and farm stocks also poses a threat of dilution to the wild salmon gene pool.

To produce one pound of farmed salmon, 2.4 to 4 pounds of wild sardines, anchovies, mackerel, herring and other fish must be ground up to render the oil and meal that is compressed into pellets of salmon chow. Removing such immense amounts of small prey fish from an ecosystem can significantly upset its balance.

For more in-depth information on wild versus farm-raised salmon, see nutritional differences between wild-caught and farm-raised fish


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This page was updated on: 2004-06-27 04:04:00

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