When it comes to seafood, you want to make sure you choose the healthiest options. We look at the key differences between farm raised vs wild caught salmon.
Recent statistics show that of all the salmon that consumers eat today, up to 85% of the fish are farm imports, hatched along the coasts of Canada, Chile, Norway, and Scotland.
While there seems to be no shortage of salmon at the supermarket, does that mean that what you are buying is the best or the healthiest? There are significant differences when comparing the nutrition that comes from farm-raised vs wild caught salmon.
For the healthiest salmon, you may need to look beyond your neighborhood store, and here is why.
What Makes Salmon Healthy?
Regardless of whether it is farm-raised or wild, salmon has a reputation for being nutrient dense and a well-balanced source of protein. In addition, it is famously full of omega-3 fatty acids, which have astounding health benefits.
Omega-3 fatty acids - salmon oil - are a super-healthy type of fat that your body needs, but cannot make on its own. These are called essential fats, which means you need them to survive. Very few foods provide these omega-3 fatty acids, but happily, oily fish like salmon do.
Research indicates that the omega-3’s in salmon reduce inflammation, aid in weight management, and promote brain health - perhaps even slowing Alzheimer’s disease. Studies also show that omega-3 fatty acids can help control eczema, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis. Furthermore, these healthy fats limit peripheral artery disease, reduce coronary events such as stroke, and support a healthy heart throughout life.
Farm Raised vs Wild Caught Salmon
Wild salmon are wild. They are spawned in rivers, lakes, and oceans, where they swim, grow, and eat invertebrates and fish for several years before returning to their natal streams.
Alaskan wild salmon, in fact, are a keystone species, meaning they play an essential role in the health and function of ecosystems. Salmon are food for other species, and their bodies enrich habitats through the recycling of nutrients from the ocean to freshwater streams.
Farm-raised salmon, by contrast, are raised using the aquaculture process in fish farms. They are confined to netted pens where they are raised and bred for human consumption.
There are a few key differences here between farm-raised and wild-caught salmon. One is the difference in their diets. Wild salmon eat microscopic organisms, invertebrates and fish that live in the environment naturally. Farmed salmon are fed a processed diet. Their feed is engineered to be high in fat and protein that, by design, makes these fish grow larger and faster than nature’s plan.
Nutritionally, the fish are also quite different. While the protein content of a portion of farmed salmon is similar to that of a wild fish, the wild salmon has significantly fewer calories. Wild salmon is also higher than farmed salmon in many important vitamins and minerals like heart-healthy niacin, vitamins B-6 and B-12, calcium, iron, potassium and zinc.
Most notably, though, farm-raised salmon has more omega-6 content - the unhealthy fat - than wild salmon.
Polyunsaturated Fat Content
Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are the main types of polyunsaturated fats. They are both EFAs, or “essential fatty acids.” You need them as a part of a healthy diet.
Still, you need a good balance. Historically, the human diet was rich in seafood and other natural foods, resulting in a diet with about equal amounts of omega-3 and omega-6 fats - a ratio of 1:1. Now, our diets typically contain a much higher ratio of the unhealthy omega-6 fats. The ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3 fats in farmed salmon is 14:1, while in wild salmon, the ratio is only 3:1 - far healthier.
The more omega-3 fats we eat, the less omega-6 fats will be available to our tissues to produce inflammation. That’s important to understand. Inflammation is the cause of most diseases including Alzheimer's, asthma, cancer. heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis and type 2 diabetes.
Omega-6 is pro-inflammatory, while omega-3 is neutral. A diet rich in omega-3 fats and low in omega-6’s is essential for good health, and wild salmon provides just that.
Farmed Salmon and Antibiotics
In aquaculture, the high density of fish makes them more susceptible to disease and infections than wild fish. Therefore, the fish feed usually contains antibiotics.
Unfortunately, the use of antibiotics in aquaculture is not always regulated, and is sometimes irresponsible. This poses a health concern for consumers because ingesting even traces of antibiotics for a long time could lead to hypersensitivity to antibiotics, drug resistance, and a disruption of gut flora.
Norway and Canada, the largest producers of farmed salmon globally, do have regulatory frameworks to reduce their use of antibiotics.
But Chile, the second largest producer of farmed salmon globally, has issues with excessive antibiotic use. For more than a decade, people have questioned this excessive use. Antibiotic overuse is a significant problem that also negatively affects the environment
Two Servings of Fatty Fish Per Week
The American Heart Association recommends two servings of fatty fish per week because of its high level of omega-3 fatty acids. Fish is a good source of protein and unlike fatty meat products, it's not high in saturated fat .
Regularly eating fish and seafood is consistently associated with a lower risk for cardiovascular disease. Fatty fish is also a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are good for your heart. Research has shown that omega-3 fatty acids can significantly reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke.Two servings weekly are the optimal consumption to achieve this health benefit.
For overall health benefits, any type of salmon is a nutritious choice for quality protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and beneficial nutrients. When it comes to considering farm raised vs wild caught salmon, both contain quality protein and are nutritious choices.
Wild salmon, however, have fewer calories, more vitamins and minerals, fewer omega 6’s and abundant omega 3’s.
Sustainably Harvested Wild Salmon
The Popsie Fish Company is a three-generation family, proudly working as set net fishers in Bristol Bay, Alaska, fishing from shores close to the mouth of the Egegik River.
When considering farm raised vs wild caught salmon, the obvious healthy choice is wild salmon. With its expertise and love of fishing, The Popsie Fish Company gets you tasty wild-caught salmon in the freshest way possible.
From the fisher to the fork, you get wild-caught fish boxes from Alaska that are shipped frozen and ready to cook. There is no subscription necessary. Shop the wild-caught salmon from The Popsie Fish Company today.