I love salmon, doesn’t it taste great. While fish farms now contribute a large amount of the fish being consumed, over 50% of salmon in fact, the bottom line is that wild “free range” fish are far superior in many ways to their farm-raised counterpart. I can remember as a child that salmon used to be expensive, including pink salmon (which all came from Canada) and particularly the red variety (which is still expensive, because it is wild salmon – the best).
Have you not noticed, like supermarket chicken, that pink salmon has become ridiculously inexpensive? That is because, like the supermarket chickens, they have become a farmed commodity.
Statistics on the nutritional content (protein and fat-ratios) of farm versus wild salmon show that wild salmon have a 20% higher protein content and a 20% lower fat content than farm-raised salmon. But what about the pesticides?
European farm raised salmon contain pesticides
Are there pesticides on your salmon? Several studies have also shown that farmed salmon accumulate more cancer-causing pesticide residue than wild salmon. A recent report analysed two metric tons of salmon from 39 sources worldwide.1 The results clearly make a strong case that eating farm-raised fish poses a significant safety concern. Research clearly shows that European salmon are far more contaminated with cancer-inducing contaminants than salmon from American sources, in some cases containing ten times the contamination levels of American sources.
The biggest reason that the farm-raised fish had higher levels of pesticides appears to be dependent upon the type of feed they are receiving.2
Farmed fish are given feed pellets that are most often made from fish meal and fish oil-extracted from sardines, anchovies and other ground-up fish. Pesticides, including those now outlawed in the United States, have circulated into the ocean where they are absorbed by marine life and accumulate in their fat. If the fish oil is not properly distilled to reduce the concentrations of these pesticides, it can lead to much higher concentrations in the salmon feed. One commercial salmon feed analysed in a Canadian study showed a total pesticide level ten times higher than any other feed.3
Reduce your chances of eating fish tainted with chemical toxins
Limit your intake of fresh water fish like trout (particularly from inland lakes) as they are more likely to be contaminated with pesticides and carcinogens like dioxin or PCBs and heavy metals. Lean ocean fish like cod and flounder are apparently the least likely to be contaminated.
Eat smaller, young fish as they have had less time to accumulate toxins in their fat. Orange roughy, snapper, tuna or similar ocean species that can grow quite old can potentially be loaded with heavy metals and other contaminants.
Check DOC (Department of Conservation) before eating fish from nearby waters. It may be that local industries have polluted the water and caused unusually high levels of toxins in locally caught fish.
Hites RA, Foran JA, Carpenter DO, et al. Global assessment of organic contaminants in farmed salmon. Science 2004;303:226-9.
Hu FB, Bronner L, Willett WC, et al. Fish and omega-3 fatty acid intake and risk of coronary heart disease in women. JAMA 2002;287:1815-21.
Easton MD, Luszniak D, Von der GE. Preliminary examination of contaminant loadings in farmed salmon, wild salmon and commercial salmon feed. Chemosphere 2002;46(7):1053-74.