If you’re on a healthy nutritional plan, you’re probably eating a nutrient dense diet which is filled with lean protein, whole wheat carbs and rich omega-3 fatty acids. To get your healthy omega-3 fatty acids, you may have decided to introduce salmon to your diet which is a great choice but make sure you know the difference between farm raised versus wild ocean caught salmon before stocking up. There are several health related issues with farm raised salmon which can be found in your local grocery stores and restaurants. We will discuss how farm raised salmon differs from wild ocean caught salmon and the biggest issues that surround the farm raised type.
Farm raised salmon are fish which are housed in controlled farms across the country. These salmon are jam packed into little bins with hundreds if not thousands of other salmon and fed fishmeal pellets as their daily diet to bulk them up for market. Fishmeal consists of ground-up sardines, anchovies, mackerel, and other small fish. These are the biggest issues with farm raised salmon:
- PCB levels – Polychlorinated biphenyls “PCBs” are mixtures of up to 209 individual chlorinated compounds (known as congeners). There are no known natural sources of PCBs. PCBs are either oily liquids or solids that are colorless to light yellow. PCBs have been used as coolants and lubricants in transformers, capacitors, and other electrical equipment because they don’t burn easily and are good insulators. The manufacture of PCBs was stopped in the U.S. in 1977 because of evidence they build up in the environment and can cause harmful health effects. However, PCBs persist in the environment. Salmon absorb PCBs from contaminated sediments and from their food. Studies found that the fishmeal pellets fed to farm raised salmon is highly contaminated with PCBs. Farm raised salmon is dangerous because of the process of bioaccumulation. When you eat salmon, your digestive processes break down the contaminated salmon fat, releasing the PCBs into your system. Your body then stores the PCBs in its own fat. So if you eat a large amounts of salmon, the PCBs of each piece of salmon become stored in your body. The PCBs eventually leave your body, however its over the course of years. The danger comes when you eat salmon often because the PCBs and other contaminants bioaccumulate inside of you.
- Higher Fat Content – Because salmon are jam packed in bins with other fish, they can’t move around as much so they have a higher level of fat. On the other hand, wild ocean caught salmon are free to swim and move all over, so they are a much leaner fish. The last thing you want is to think you’re choosing a healthy lean salmon but in fact are getting a much fattier fish than expected. Not only does sedentary effects pack fat onto farm raised salmon but the fishmeal they are fed also has a direct effect of their overall fat content. The oils from the fishmeal pack fat onto farm raised salmon which results in farm raised salmon having 52% more fat than wild ocean caught salmon. But the weight gain from additional fat also results in higher levels of PCBs and other contaminants in the farmed salmon.
- Artificial Colorings – Wild ocean caught salmon have that beautiful pink color to them. They get this coloring from being in the wild and by eating their daily diet of natural food from the ocean. Farm raised salmon do not have this pink color, so they are given artificial colorings to make them more palatable to the eye. This basically makes them more marketable, since many consumers prefer fish with the traditional pink color. The chemicals used to turn farm raised salmon pink are canthaxanthin and astaxanthin.
- Overall Cheaper Salmon – Wild ocean caught salmon tends to be 3-4 times more expensive per pound than farm raised salmon. Make sure you get what you pay for, so next time you’re at the grocery store, take a look at the label to see what type of salmon you’re getting. The FDA makes it mandatory for all packaged salmon in grocery stores to specify if the salmon you’re purchasing is either farmed raised or wild ocean caught. Also, when you’re at your favorite restaurant, ask the waiter/waitress if the salmon is farm raised or wild. This way, you will pick a healthier fish and make sure they are not over charging for a fish which may be of cheaper quality.
Filed Under: Wine and Food