Fire Jumper

Fire Jumper
Roger Wright

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Wild about Salmon!

Wild versus Farmed? What's the difference?

We do know that fish is important for our health. However, this is a complex issue. Logically we'd think farm-raised would be better for our environment and better for us. (by the way, "ocean-raised" fish is the same as "farm-raised" just a new marketing name. Farm-raised fish are fish in pens in the ocean and when this got a bad wrap they changed the name, that's all!) But we have learned that farm raised means that the fish don't get lots of swimming room, are prone to disease (and therefore fed antibiotics) and can get out and infect the fish in the wild. They are also high in mercury.

"Where does this come from?" is the most important question you can ask yourself about anything you are consuming.

Let's look at Farmed Salmon. Since Farmed Salmon are fed pellets instead of what they eat in the wild, three elements are affected:
1. First, the food that they normally eat in the wild converts into powerful omega 3s for us; the farm raised salmon doesn't have as high nutritional value.
2. Second, the food they eat naturally helps them turn that beautiful pink color to which we are accustomed; the farm raised are therefore fed colorings to make them more palatable to our eye.
3. Finally, the food they eat affects how they taste and there is truly no comparison in flavor or texture.

When choosing to eat fish, we must consider:
1. The importance of fish to our health with valuable Omega-3s, protein, low fat.
2. The sustainability of the fish, that it is not overfished and that it is safe for our environment.
3. The health of the fish and the life of the fish (what it eats, how it lives).
4. Cost. We really can't afford to eat farmed salmon.
5. Taste.

Fish, particularly cold water oily fish, have valuable Omega 3s. We are just now exploring all the benefits of these EFAs and are finding that they are invaluable to good health. They help reduce risks of heart disease, cancer, age-related blindness and eye problems, arthritis, and other inflammatory diseases as well as keep a healthy circulatory system. We should strive for two to three servings (total of 6 - 12 ounces per week as one serving is considered 3 but can be as much as 6 ounces) per week of a fish high in Omega 3s.

We know that wild Salmon has great benefits; however, most grocery stores and restauants that offer "salmon" are offering a genetically engineered (farmed) salmon that is taking over the environment. Or, we find out, that because of the way the fish is caught, it's habitats are being damaged and it's becoming endangered. We have to carefully look at where the fish is caught and whether or not the fishery is sustainable. It is important that we make sure our fish is Sustainable and safe for the environment.

It is also important that we make sure THE FISH is healthy and therefore truly healthful. Farm-raised fish are raised in small pens in the ocean secured by nets or in ponds, depending upon the fish species. As with most industries, maximizing revenues is key so they will stock a pond with as many fish as they can leaving very little room for the fish to move about freely and they are fed pellets of food instead of their natural food (sounds like the chicken and cattle scenarios all over again). This, in turn, doesn't allow them to use their muscles naturally nor convert their natural food into powerful Omega 3s for us. Therefore, farm-raised fish doesn't have the health benefits of Wild fish. Therefore, farm-raised salmon doesn't have the color of natural salmon and they are fed colorings to help make the salmon palatable for our plates.

"Wild salmon become pink by eating sea creatures like krill, which contain a carotenoid called astaxanthin. Farmed salmon are naturally grayish but turn pink when they are fed various sources of astaxanthin, including one that is chemically synthesized and others that originate from yeast or microalgae." NY Times, Marian Burros

And since they are crammed in next to one another, disease can spread quickly so they are fed antibiotics. And they are infested with sea lice, 30,000 times more than normal! Then they get out of their pens and wreak havoc on our delicate ecosystem. These farmed fish consume more of our natural resources and infest other salmon with sea lice and other diseases.

We've heard this story all too often. Farm-Raised fish is bad for our planet, our bodies and our future. Make a powerful statement and refuse to eat or purchase farm-raised fish.

According to the Union of Concerned Scientists (, over 68% of all seafood consumed in the United States is imported, and most of it is industrially produced. Many of these commodities are farm-raised and often involve little oversight regarding antibiotic drug use. While the U.S. government has standards that should ban imports with high levels of antibiotics in seafood, there is essentially no enforcement. Farmed salmon have more antibiotics administered by weight than any other form of livestock. Farmed salmon have significantly higher levels of PCBs, dioxin, and other cancer causing agents over wild salmon.

We eat fish for the omega 3s and to lower your risk of a heart attack. Farm-raised salmon is high in mercury. Mercury can actually increase our risk of heart attack. Our waters, and therefore our fish, have become contaminated with mercury because of all the industrial pollution. When it enters the water, it is converted into toxic methylmercury and it is consumed by the smaller fish and then the smaller fish are consumed by the larger fish. Larger predatory fish are higher in mercury than smaller fish because it accumulates in their bodies over time. The older and larger the fish, the higher it's levels of mercury. Mercury is of particular concern to growing children and babies in utero. Therefore, women hoping to one day become pregnant (mercury stores in your fat, remember), nursing and pregnant moms, as well as growing children need to be even more cautious. It's important that we choose
wild fish that is lowest in levels of mercury. As a guideline, adults should not exceed 0.5ppm of mercury and the women/nursing/pregnant /children group should not exceed 0.2ppm per week.
Many fish, including farmed salmon, are also contaminated with PCBs. Farmed salmon has far higher (7 times!) levels of PCBs in their system than wild salmon.

Unlike farmed salmon, wild Alaskan salmon species grow free of antibiotics, pesticides, synthetic coloring agents, growth hormones and GMOs, and Wild Alaskan Salmon has the least amount of mercury of almost any fish.

Cost...Can We Afford It?
It may seem that farmed salmon are cheaper than the real thing. The price per pound may indeed be less. However, we can't really afford farmed salmon. There is actually a Net Loss with Farmed salmon. How so? Salmon is carnivorous and need to eat fish. The fish farms instead feed them pellets of fish meal and fish oil (and added coloring agents to give their flesh that orange glow that we are accustomed to seeing on salmon) and this fish meal food is made up of, you guessed it, wild fish. Instead of making the fish venture off to find their food naturally, we are giving them free processed man-made fish meal. It takes about 8 tons of wild fish to make up only 1 ton of fish oil for their feed. That 8 tons of wild fish would have fed a lot many more fish in it's natural state. Therefore it takes almost 3 tons of fish to make 1 ton of farmed salmon. This is diminishing our resources of wild fish. There is a real problem that there may not be enough fish to create the fish meal. They are now looking into alternative sources of protein and colorings to make them seem "real" to the consumers. Plans are in the works to force this carnivorous fish into becoming vegetarian. Of course, there are no studies on the effects this will have on the fish or on the value of the fish as food for us.

Plus the fish aren't eating their natural food. They are being "forced" to eat ground up fish that are highly contaminated. Farmed salmon also has "significantly hither concentrations of PCBs, Dioxin, and other cancer-causing contaminants that salmon caught in the wild" according to a new study.

We also know that farmed fish don't have the same valuable omega 3 as wild salmon. How much more do we need to consume (and purchase) in order to get those Essential Fatty Acids? That alone should cause us to pause over the cost. At the very basics, we eat for nutrition. That is being washed down. Farmed fish are not nearly as healthful for us.

At present, farmed salmon presents a tremendous stress on our delicate aquatic ecosystem. This means less fish for us as consumers and less fish for our oceans, which in turn affects other fish as well as plant, algae, and other living creatures of the ocean. How much more will we spend to try and correct this problem in tax dollars and consumer dollars? It's more expensive to harvest farmed salmon.

Furthermore, farmed fish are in overcrowded pens in the ocean who live in feces infested waters. They are ridden with sea lice. This spoils the surrounding marine life and fish migrating (like wild salmon) past the pen. Since they live in such close proximity, farmed fish are fed antibiotics to ward off infection which could wipe out the entire lot. They are given other drugs also. This takes a toll on the surrounding aquatic life as well as on us consumers. Farmed salmon have more antibiotics administered by weight than any other form of livestock.

Atlantic salmon is being farmed in the Pacific. Atlantic salmon is actually not a natural species of salmon to the Pacific Ocean. They are escaping from their nets (or being let free, especially when there is a sickness in the pen so that the "fishermen" can avoid a fine and avoid a costly clean up - they are fined if they let them free officially but they are not if they "escape" and that way any additional costs to clear up a disease are also eliminated) and are wreaking havoc on the delicate ecosystem. They can spread disease. Many are genetically modified to grow quickly so they eat more. The farmed salmon that escape are causing the demise of the Wild Pacific Salmon. Millions "escape" every year.

Farmed fishing is not sustainable fishing. Farmed fishing is damaging to our environment and our future.

And who do we trust to get wild salmon? To add another layer to our frustration, now we must know our source is reputable.

According to recent testing done for the New York Times in March 2005, most supermarkets that offer "wild" salmon are really selling farmed salmon with a heftier price tag! (Farmed goes for $5 - $12/lb while Wild can go for $29/lb.) The NY Times tested for artificial color in the salmon! And it's not necessarily the fault of the store, people have seen truckloads of fish get remarked as wild and sent out across the stores. Information gathered from


  1. OMG!

    This really freaked the s*it out of me. I always try to buy wild salmon, and eat a ton of fish, but now you tell me that it might not be wild after all?! I eat as much canned fish as possible since from what I know that's the best way to make sure it's actually wild. Where am I supposed to go to purchase real fresh wild salmon now?

    Also, do you know anything about flesh frozen fish? I heard that it is the best way to get the freshest, wild salmon, but I have no idea where to get it kosher.

    Thanks for this informative blog. I really enjoy it.

  2. Wild salmon is wild. "Ocean farmed" is FARMED. Canning is a "decent" preservation option, but some people have a problem with the aluminum it is stored in. You BEST bet is to buy wild salmon (and fish) fresh, from a busy store, like I & D Glatt in Brooklyn, NY. They deliver right to your door and provide the best fish. You can even get sushi quality if you ask for it and eat it raw. As for frozen, I say stick to fresh and if you HAVE to freeze that, freeze the fresh stuff you bought (suggestion: how about buy only what you need for the week, each week).