Farmed or wild salmon? The surprising truth about which is better for you

Editorial Staff

“Is there a nutritional difference between wild and farmed salmon?”

In the world of healthy eating, salmon is often a top choice for its protein and high omega-3 content. However, the relative benefits of eating farmed or wild salmon, have long been hard to quantify.

A recent article in the New York Times has shed light on the complexity of salmon’s nutritional value.

An interview with Stefanie Colombo, an associate professor and research chair in aquaculture nutrition at Dalhousie University in Canada, reveals minimal nutritional differences between wild and farmed salmon, according to the the Times.

“There are so many different options in the marketplace, it can be confusing,” Colombo told the newspaper. “The main finding of our work was that there’s not much difference between wild and farmed,” she said.

The study carried out at Dalhousie, aimed at demystifying the marketplace’s diverse salmon options, found that while wild sockeye and chinook salmon are the most nutrient-dense, farmed Atlantic salmon closely follows in terms of omega-3s, proteins, and other healthful nutrients. Surprisingly, wild Pacific pink salmon showed lower nutrient levels.

Seasonal variations

Dr. Colombo’s research, however, highlights that nutritional values are averages and can vary based on factors like feed type in farmed salmon and the catch season of wild salmon. Despite these variances, all examined salmon types were deemed highly nutritious.

Addressing concerns about mercury and other contaminants, the study noted that farmed Atlantic salmon generally have lower mercury levels compared to their wild counterparts. Nevertheless, all tested salmon samples maintained mercury levels well below international safety standards, mitigating health concerns even with daily consumption.

Regarding polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and other seafood toxins, research indicates that both wild and farmed salmon maintain safe levels, attributed to their relatively short lifespans.

Ecological impacts of salmon production, including overfishing and farming-related pollution, remain a concern. However, experts emphasize that salmon, regardless of its source, has a lower environmental footprint compared to most other animal protein sources.

For conscientious consumers, Dr. Colombo advises seeking salmon with certifications from the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) or Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP), ensuring sustainable and ethical sourcing.


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