General Question

bongo's avatar

Do you eat farmed or wild salmon?

Asked by bongo (4302points) November 2nd, 2011

Ok so this doesnt affect vegetarians or people who dont like fish!

Do you care whether your salmon is farmed or wild caught?
Do you know the environmental differences?
Which do you think is better for the environment?
Do you care or do you just want cheap fish?
Are you happy to pay a higher cost for fish to know that it has been reared in a sustainable way?

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38 Answers

Brian1946's avatar

I try to ensure that all the salmon I eat is wild caught, because I’ve read that farmed salmon has a substantially higher mercury content.

I’m happy to pay a higher price if it helps my internal and the external environments.

Unfortunately, unlike most of Oregon, Los A seems to have a paucity of restaurants that specifically offer wild-caught salmon.

Consequently, I’ve resorted to eating the wild-caught salmon burgers that they sell at Whole Foods.

NinjaBiscuit's avatar

Brian is right, farmed Salmon has a higher mercury content. That and the food pellets that they are fed cause them to be fattier and are sometimes filled with chemicals and antibiotics that eventually make their way into our oceans.

I’m fine with the higher price, and get it when I can afford it. (When I can’t afford it I just go without. I don’t want farmed fish.)

Wild caught is definitely the way to go!

bongo's avatar

If you are worried about mercury I think you would be surprised to find that a paper by Jardine et al., (2009) Mercury comparisons between farmed and wild Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar L.) and Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua L.) actually found that mercury levels were actually higher in wild salmon than farmed, the problem with mercury and farmed salmon is more the influence of mercury in the runoff waters from the farms and subsequently affecting other fish species in the area.

“Wild and farmed Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar L.) and Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua L.) were collected to assess changes in mercury with size in wild vs. farmed fish. Mercury concentrations were compared with Health Canada and United States Environmental Protection Agency consumption guidelines. Lipid dilution of mercury was examined by comparing lipid-extracted (LE) and non-lipid-extracted (NLE) flesh samples in both farmed and wild fish. Mercury concentrations in the flesh and liver of farmed salmon were significantly lower than concentrations in wild salmon of similar fork length (P<0.001), possibly due to growth dilution in rapidly growing farmed fish. Mercury concentrations were higher in LE tissue compared with NLE (P<0.05), suggesting lipid dilution of mercury in farmed fish with a high lipid content. Farmed cod, which do not grow more rapidly than wild cod, did not have significantly different flesh and liver concentrations compared with wild cod of similar fork length (P>0.05). Between species of farmed fish, cod had significantly higher mercury concentrations than salmon (P<0.05), but neither farmed nor wild salmon mercury concentrations exceeded federal consumption guidelines. These results suggest that rapid growth rates and a high lipid content may play important roles in regulating concentrations of contaminants such as mercury.”

the mercury content has a dilution effect from the unnaturally high lipid content in farmed salmon due to 40 years of selective breeding.

SpatzieLover's avatar


why does it feel like this question is spam?

bongo's avatar

@SpatzieLover this question isnt spam, its because im currently writing a paper for university on the environmental effects of salmonid farming, I just thought it would be a good question to pose. I had never thought about the public perception of mercury effecting the way people buy fish. interesting mind!

JLeslie's avatar

I buy wild caught for cooking at home. If I am at a restaurant I don’t make a big deal by quizzing the waiter, I just take whatever they serve.

In fact generally I look for wild caught for any fish I buy to cook at home, but not 100%

I also do not buy fish from China, because my mom told me not to.

I had my mercury level tested last year out of curiousity and it was perfectly normal. I eat canned tuna about 4 times a month, and other fish about 4 times a month, more or less.

JLeslie's avatar

I forgot to add that I do indeed pay more for fish caught in the wild, and do not mind as long as they are not gouging me. There is a point where I will say no, and stop buying.

Most of my concern is not mercury, but other toxins, the living conditions of the fish, and the livelihood of the fisherman.

cazzie's avatar

I live in Norway and have some knowledge of the subject. I do end up eating farmed, but I have much bad conscience about it, knowing that 3kg of fish is fed to the farmed salmon for every 1kg of farmed salmon produced.

I can completely understand that farmed salmon would have a lower mercury content. They are harvested soon, thus limiting their exposure and the fish meal they are fed are from fish lower and shorter-lived on the food chain.

When we buy salmon in our supermarket, the difference knocks you over when you first see it. Fish have growth rings.. not completely unlike trees. The farmed salmon have very fat growth rings compared to their wild counterparts. The farming of salmon added a layer of complication on fishing and coastal welfare here in Norway. If anyone wants to read more:

syz's avatar

The author of Four Fish seems to recommend that you limit your salmon intake to wild, sustainably harvested salmon (there are some companies that severely limit the take, usually by native societies). Sadly, there is no good answer.

bongo's avatar

@cazzie You are lucky to live in Norway with regards to eating fish, you guys have some of the biggest, most high-tech, chemically restricted salmon fish farms on the planet. Norway knows how to look after their fish and I would love to go there and see how they do it. I know there are still many problems but these are so widely known that things are trying to be done to fix it as opposed to problems no one knows about in other fish farming such as shrimp fisheries especially that just get swept under the table. The protein thing is a big deal however, did you know that Cattle require 8–10 kilograms of feed per kilogram of live weight. Poultry require 3 kilograms of feed per kilogram of live weight. To eat a higher predator like salmon, it is actually very energy efficient considering their level in the food chain because they are cold blooded.

@syz I was actually recommended that book about 6 hours ago by my personal tutor in a meeting I had this morning! I am definitely going to go out and get a copy now, thanks!

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

I refuse to eat farmed salmon. Not for the mercury, because here in the Northeast it’s in everything. I can tell the difference in the taste and feel of the fish. It’s like the difference in game animals versus feeder beef.

marinelife's avatar

I come from the Pacific Northwest and have lived in Alaska so I am quite aware of the taste difference in wild salmon vs, farm-raised salmon. I much prefer wild salmon.

MissAusten's avatar

I much prefer the taste and texture of wild salmon to farmed too. That plus the environmental and health concerns (doesn’t farmed salmon have food coloring added to it?) made me stop eating farmed ages ago. It’s not a big deal for me because I prefer many things over salmon and almost never order it at restaurants, but if I see wild salmon on sale at the grocery I’ll buy it. My husband and kids love it.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

I don’t eat salmon often enough to tell a difference in taste but I’d rather have wild caught then farmed where the fish are fed processed kibble and the wastes of their raising raise the risk of polluting nearby water sources.

mazingerz88's avatar

I feel a bit guilty because it’s all about the taste for me. And I find wild tastier, so there. : )

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@mazingerz88 If it’s any consolation they have to take better care of the environment and the rivers to produce wild salmon so you’re encouraging better stewardship by eating wild over farm,

Coloma's avatar

I don’t eat much fish or meat in general, but, while I have heard wild caught is better, I also don’t like the idea of pilfering wild salmon and interrupting their life journey.

Besides, if these so called “wild” salmon are being raised and planted by hatcheries, other than the water they swim in, I don’t see the connection to “wild” in the truest sense of the meaning.

downtide's avatar

I’m aware of the differences although availability and price affects my choice more than the moral issues. Wild salmon is occasionally available round here but it’s a lot more expensive.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

This is only slightly related to the question so if the mod’s feel the need to remove it it’s ok, But we now have a native strain of salmon recolonizing the Salmon River near Pulaski NY. They’ve been getting wild salmon in some of the areas along the River for the past three years. I thought that was pretty neat.

rooeytoo's avatar

To me farmed fish is the same as factory farm raised any creature. I don’t like the idea ethically or health wise. I only buy free range despite the cost and sometimes extra effort needed to source it.

jca's avatar

I don’t eat salmon after watching a documentary about killer whales, which included information about salmon farming. Unfortunately, the sea lice, which are prevalent in the farmed salmon populations, end up on wild salmon populations as well. Since farmed salmon live in the ocean (penned in, but still, in the ocean), whatever happens to them does affect the wild salmon, as well.

bongo's avatar

I love how informed you all are about your food, very respectable. If only the whole world was as informed. It frustrates me how little a lot of people care about where their food comes from. Thanks for all your answers so far, all great points.

gailcalled's avatar

I don’t eat either. There is also the issue of how the commercial wild salmon are slaughtered because there are too many to deal with humanely at one time.

rojo's avatar

I prefer wild but will eat farmed. I just love salmon.

Pheasant's avatar

Never really pay attention, just will buy some and fry it up in the skillet.

Bellatrix's avatar

I like Salmon but I don’t think our big supermarkets specify whether it is wild or farmed. I don’t eat it very often either. I have seen a program about this but truthfully, haven’t thought about it much because it is not on the environmental radar here so much.

I am thankful for your response @syz because while reading people talking about their preference for wild I was wondering about sustainability. I seem to recall reading something about lower wild salmon fish stocks. I am going to do some research on the salmon supplied here. Great question @bongo.

YARNLADY's avatar

I buy salmon on sale, but I don’t look to see the difference.

Dances_with_Werewolves's avatar

I primarily eat the fish I catch. On the rare occasion that I’ve purchased salmon, I go for the wild caught ones.

bongo's avatar

@Bellatrix Yes, many wild salmon stocks are low and eating wild salmon is very unsustainable, however in some areas such as New Zealand and some parts of Chile and Australia, salmon are seen as pests, destroying local habitat, after escaping from aquaculture farms (meaning not all wild caught salmon are actually wild and may just be escapees from farms anyway) At the same time many of these pest salmon are also protected under environmental laws as salmon is a very economically important species. This makes it near impossible for countries to eradicate them from waters where they are pests.

I’m not even much of a fan of salmon and so rarely eat it myself although am very interested in the whole business and arguments involved in salmon farming vs wild caught. When I do buy it, I will usually buy Marine Stewardship Council certified, responsibly sourced, farmed Scottish Atlantic salmon. However, here the salmon are native and the farms well managed. Many supermarkets in the UK are starting to be almost forced by the consumer to state how the fish is produced and caught and where it has originated from. I think this is fantastic however, is only spreading into the market very slowly. I have no idea what it is like for that in the US.
I have however, stopped eating prawns since I became aware of their farming techniques and also the massive levels of by-catch associated with wild-caught with an average of 65% by-catch meaning for every 1kg prawns caught wild there is around 2kg of by-catch in some fisheries.

MissAusten's avatar

I’m in the US and almost always shop at the same store. The salmon in the seafood department is always clearly marked Wild Caught or Farm Raised. With other kinds of fish, you can see if it is fresh or previously frozen, and sometimes the signs will say where the fish was caught. I kind of assumed all grocery stores here would do the same, but maybe they don’t. Anyway, it’s easy to tell the difference between wild and farmed salmon. The wild has a much brighter red color to it. Farmed looks kind of sickly and nasty.

Bellatrix's avatar

Thank you @Bongo. Well I will have to start asking at the supermarket how the fish were caught. Really fascinating thread.

skfinkel's avatar

I eat wild salmon. I hate the idea of fattened up, pellet eating, artificially colored salmon. I didn’t think any of it had mercury, so that’s too bad, but not a part of my (previous) concern.

Sunshinegirl's avatar

I eat basically wild Alaskan salmon…I believe it is the healthiest…

rooeytoo's avatar

@Bellatrix – I am guessing that seafood purchased at the supermarket is more often than not farmed and/or imported. As with everything else sold there. Better find a good fish store and buy there.

Bellatrix's avatar

I would guess so too @Rooeytoo. My husband will not eat Barramundi down here. He has spent a lot of time in the top end and he says it just does not compare to the fresh fish up there.

blueiiznh's avatar

Wild Copper River Salmon is my favorite.

Shy of that, I will buy and eat farm raised.

rooeytoo's avatar

@Bellatrix – that is so true. Having eaten a lot of freshly caught barra, the farmed and imported Indonesian stuff does not even taste like the same fish, yuk!!! They do catch wild barra in my area but even it seems to have a different flavor from the NT barra.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Doesn’t matter to me.

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