Farmed vs Wild Caught, Which One is On Your Plate?

Farmed vs. Wild Caught fish — have you ever wondered if there was a difference. There is a difference in price, so that might make you wonder if there is a difference in quality, nutrition, and taste!

I was in my local market and was picking up some Salmon for a great dinner later that night. Now don’t worry… I am not cooking it, Shannon will do her wonders on it. We do believe that quality food sources yield quality meals. With that in mind lets take a look at what I saw in the market and what some research on the web revealed about Farmed vs. Wild Caught!

Here are some Salmon fillets I found at the market.  One of the labels reads, “Fresh Farmed Atlantic Salmon Fillet”, the other reads, “Fresh Wild Alaska COHO Fillet Prod of USA”. Can you guess which one is the farmed salmon and which one is the wild caught salmon? [click the image for a larger view]

The pale bland looking fillet on top is the “Fresh Farmed Atlantic Salmon Fillet”, while the lower fillet that is deep red juicy looking is the “Fresh Wild Alaska COHO Fillet Prod of USA”. There was only a one dollar difference in cost per pound between each Salmon fillet, but it sure appeared to be more of a difference than that in look. Notice that the wild caught clearly states it is a product of the USA, that made me look at the other farmed label to see where it came from. Well, I was quite surprised to see this fish was from way out of town, Chile to be exact. Now that fish traveled a long way to end up in that store in Texas.

Color Optional Fish?

Looking at the label again I read something that just gave me the shivers every time I read it, “Color Added Through Feed”. Yup if you have not heard about it Salmon that are farm raised do not have pink meat. Do you want to know what color it is before the feed additives are added, how about gray! A unappetizing and unmarketable whitish gray. Wild salmon feed on smaller fishalgae, insects, and krill, containing “astaxanthin”, the same pigment that makes carrots orange. These krill are little red shrimpy creatures that actually turns salmon meat that beautiful deep red. Not to mention that krill are considered one of the best sources of Omega 3. So what are farm raised fish fed? Well besides the food coloring or dye, how about “fish meal”, made up of ground fish parts, antibiotics, and fillers.

Antibiotic Fish?

When you contain fish in a pen environment the diseases are also penned in and the solution has been to add antibiotics to the fish feed. So now we have antibiotics in our fish along with the ones that are in our beef, but that is another story. Have you heard of PCBs and DDT which were banned from the united states in the 70’s? Well the issue is these cancer-causing pollutants linger in the water and soil as they biodegrade slowly. Farmed salmon accumulate these contaminates from the fish feed in their fat. A study done by EWG showed that 7 out of 10 farmed salmon being sold in markets contained PCBs and DDT, not to mention levels of antibiotics. Now to be fair the farmed fish industry in the US has realized these issues and has worked hard to lower them, but when I walked through the market most of the farmed fish I saw were from other countries. The question is do these other countries try to lower these toxic poisons?

Fatty Fish?

We buy fish because of the good fat they contain, ie. omega-3s, RIGHT! Well farmed fish are high in omega-3s but also saturated fats. Over all the meat to fat ratio is out of balance in most farmed fish and it is easy to understand why. Farmed fish just sit around and eat. The eat when the automatic feeders dump the food into the water and they eat when the other fish poop. Yes I know that sounds nasty, but fish in a tank eat most anything that falls in front of them. This helps explain how the diseases are so easily passed among the heard. Lets get back on topic. We were talking about fat fish. In the wild the salmon has to swim to get its food, swim against currents, swim to escape bigger fish, and don’t even get me started on the bears. That wild caught salmon on your plate is one muscle bound fish working out all the time and that yields a fish low in saturated fats. Take a look at the picture above and you can see the increased fat that is in the salmon meat.

Corn Fish?

You may have heard that there is an excess of corn in the US. Ever wondered where it all goes? When the Atlantic farmed fish growers found the issues with using fish meal that contained PCBs and DDT, they switched to pelleted fry food made up of soybeans, wheat, and corn, with fish oil added. These grains add weight to the fish in the form of fat, these are the same reasons cattle are fed grains over grass. This sure must put a hurting on the great salmon as he is now fed foods that would never be found in the oceans of the world. I wonder if we will start seeing diabetic salmon?

Tasty Fish?

How about taste between the farmed and wild caught? Personally I can taste a farmed raised salmon a mile away. They have almost no taste and that is why the restaurants that serve them use lots of sauce on them. Wild caught salmon will have that distinctive salmon fish taste and lots of it, not to mention that melt in your mouth salmon meat. Maybe I can start to take a side with those bears, after all they go for the honey too 🙂

I for one will keep purchasing that great tasting, healthy “Wild Caught Alaskan Salmon Product of USA.”


Farmed salmon has raised concern among consumers
Is Farm-Raised Fish Healthy?
EWG: Wild versus farmed
EWG: First-Ever US TEst of Farmed Salmon Show High Levels of Cancer-Causing PCBs

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Disclaimer: The information in this post is meant for educational purposes only. It is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice. None of the opinions are meant to diagnose or treat any disease or illness. You should always consult your healthcare provider.

About Jeff

Jeff Pearce is a board certified Holistic Nutritional Consultant and has coached hundreds of people in the Dallas/Fort Worth to help them achieve their health goals. If you would like more information about his services view the Health Consultations section. For those not in the physical area Distance Coaching is an option. A 15 minute "No Cost" informational consult is available, by phone, to chat and answer questions about services. To schedule your no cost informational consultation please contact us .


  1. Google Alexandra Morton. She is a biologist here on the Westcoast of Canada who has devoted her life basically, to the fight for getting penned salmon feedlots out of the Ocean. She has an extensive blog with all of the info. one could ever hope to find and farmed salmon does not present a positive outlook for the future of wild fish stocks.

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