Farm-Raised Vs Wild Salmon: Which Is Better?

Indigenous to the Atlantic ocean, salmon is one of the most loved and in some cultures, most prized foods. In the 1500s, the Beothucks of Newfoundland buried their dead along with carcasses of dried or smoked salmon, which was meant to be eaten on the journey to the next life. It is believed that they placed salmon on a pedestal higher than fruits and birds.

In current times, although the wild Atlantic salmon is still voted the tastiest, there is a high demand for salmon that is farm-raised or “aqua-cultured.” But these farm-raised salmon are generally considered far inferior to their wild counterparts. And here’s why.1


1. Farm-Raised Salmon Could Be Poisonous

Farm-raised salmon could be toxic.

Farm-raised salmon could just be one of the most toxic foods that you eat on a regular basis. Several studies note that the farmed fish are toxic as they contain high concentrations of pesticides, organochlorine contaminants, and PCBS.2 Furthermore, one of the most common marine toxic diseases in the world, the ciguatera poisoning syndrome is the result of eating farm-raised salmon. Worldwide, it is estimated that over 50,000 people who live in or regularly visit the tropics or the subtropics are affected by ciguatera poisoning.3 However, studies note that the toxin level in wild salmon is significantly lower than farmed salmon.4


2. Wild Salmon Is Nutritious

Wild salmon is high in n-3 fatty acid and low in saturated fat.

According to nutritional data, wild salmon promises to be healthier than cultured salmon.  In the wild, salmon eat smaller fish that are high in certain omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA). And these fatty acids keep your heart healthy, reduce high cholesterol levels, and manages blood pressure. Additionally, wild salmon doesn’t contain any saturated fat, and is, hence, a healthy option. 5 Interestingly, farm-raised salmon contains a high level of omega-3 fatty acids than the wild fish, but its level is not consistent and depends on what the salmon is being fed. Generally, finfish, Alaskan pollock, tilapia, channel catfish, Atlantic cod, and pangasius/swai are high in EPA and DHA are considered the most nutritious among cultured salmon. However, farm-raised salmon rich in omega-3 fatty acids also contain high levels of saturated and polyunsaturated fat.6


3. Farm-Raised Salmon Could Be Cancerous

Farm-raised salmon could cause prostate cancer.

Since farmed salmon contains high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, it could increase your risk of prostate cancer, warns the American Cancer Society. Men with a high concentration of omega-3 fatty acids in their body stand a 43% chance of developing prostate cancer and a  71% chance of it progressing to high-grade cancer.7 Hence, it is important that you control your fish intake and don’t eat more than the recommended amount.


How Much Salmon Should I Eat?

Eat 2-3 servings of fish every week.

It can be confusing to determine how much salmon is good for you – be it farm-raised or wild. To help you decide better, here are some tips from the FDA.8

  • Eat 2–3 servings of fish every week.
  • One serving is 4 ounces or about the size of an adult’s palm.
  • Don’t just stick to salmon. Include other varieties of fish in your diet.
  • If you’re eating wild salmon caught by friends or family, limit your intake to 1 serving per week.

However, although the FDA recommends that pregnant and women of child-bearing age eat fish, it is best to carefully choose the least contaminated wild salmon or opt for other sources of omega-3 fatty acids. The pollutants in salmon can cause cognitive and behavioral changes and lead to a reduction in IQ. [/ref]Foran, Jeffery A., David H. Good, David O. Carpenter, M. Coreen Hamilton, Barbara A. Knuth, and Steven J. Schwager. “Quantitative analysis of the benefits and risks of consuming farmed and wild salmon.” The Journal of nutrition 135, no. 11 (2005): 2639-2643.[/ref]

When it comes to salmon, research suggests that wild is better. Apart from the “nutrition” aspect of it, yet another reason to opt for wild salmon is fish sustainability. An increased demand for farmed salmon encourages overfishing, reduce in fish harvest, and ecological unsustainability. However, if you do not have access to wild salmon, go for the farm-raised ones, but eat it in moderation.