Bristol Bay

Wild vs. Farmed Salmon — Which is Better for Your Body and the Planet?

Health Benefits

When it comes to navigating your salmon options (fresh, frozen, and canned), making the most optimal choice for your body and the planet can seem overwhelming. That said, salmon is touted for a variety of health benefits. In addition to being an impressive source of heart-healthy protein, salmon is also rich in omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins, selenium, and potassium

A rich source of high-quality protein, which the body needs for muscle recovery and strength, to protect bone health, and stabilize blood sugar, salmon contains 22-25 grams of protein per 3.5-ounce serving. Paired with a non-starchy vegetable (i.e. asparagus, cauliflower, broccoli, artichokes, etc.) and a whole grain (i.e. brown rice, whole wheat pasta, etc.) or a starchy vegetable (i.e. sweet potatoes, butternut squash, parsnips, corn, etc.), salmon is part of a complete and balanced meal.

For many reasons, omega-3 fatty acids — ALA, DHA, and EPA — are incredibly important. They can help fight depression and anxiety, improve eye health, promote brain health during pregnancy, improve risk factors for heart disease, fight inflammation and autoimmune diseases, improve bone and joint health, and more. Salmon is known for its omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA. On average, a 3.5-ounce portion of salmon as approximately 2.3 grams of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids; however, the same serving size of wild-caught salmon boasts approximately 2.6 grams. When in doubt, choose wild salmon!

Salmon is also an excellent source of B vitamins, selenium, and potassium. We need a variety of B vitamins for energy production, controlling inflammation, and protecting both our heart and brain health. In essence, B vitamins are involved in several important processes in the body, and salmon contains vitamin B1-B6, B9, and B12. Furthermore, a 3.5-ounce serving of salmon contains approximately 60% of selenium, a trace mineral involved in protecting bone health, thyroid function, and more. Last but not least, salmon contains potassium — which aids in blood pressure control and preventing excess fluid retention.

Salmon Sourcing

Although salmon is chock-full of health benefits, not all salmon is equal in nutritional value and its impact on the environment. There are some salmon products that are best avoided altogether — whether due to environmental concerns, sustainability, toxicity, labor ethics, or all of the above. As a conscientious shopper, it’s best to choose salmon that is a) wild-caught and b) from North American waters. The Alaskan salmon fishery, especially where POBB fishes, is one of the most well-managed, safe, and sustainable fisheries in the world, so as long as your salmon is wild-caught, it’s almost always an ethical choice.

Unfortunately, the production of farmed salmon has increased significantly over the course of the last few years, to keep up with demand and to cut costs. In fact, research shows that half of the salmon sold worldwide comes from fish farms. As you can imagine, farmed salmon has a completely different diet and environment than salmon that swims freely in the ocean. Unlike farmed salmon, wild salmon is caught in open waters, where it is able to eat organisms found in its natural environment. Farmed salmon, on the other hand, is given a processed diet in order to produce unnaturally larger fish.

Nutritional Differences

As mentioned previously, the amount (and quality) of omega-3 fatty acids differs between farmed and wild salmon. Overall, the nutrient density differs greatly between salmon that is farmed as opposed to caught wildly. Data shows that farmed salmon is much higher in fat, including much higher levels of omega-6 (which most Americans are already over-consuming) and approximately three times as much of saturated fat. Contrary, wild salmon is higher in minerals, like potassium, zinc, and iron.

Additionally, 2004/2005 studies indicated that farmed salmon contains much higher concentrations of contaminants than wild salmon, which is not surprising. Furthermore, like factory-farmed land animals, farmed fish contain antibiotics. Due to the high density of fish being farmed, they are typically more susceptible to infections and disease. To counter this issue, antibiotics are added to their fish feed. Not only is this an environmental problem, but these antibiotics wreak havoc on the human digestive system.

Environmental Impact

Due to antibiotic use, toxins such as PCBs (man-made chemicals like carbon and chlorine), and pollution of waterways (where the salmon are kept in vast pens), farmed salmon negatively impacts the environment. Plus, it’s best to avoid salmon that has been shipped overseas for processing. If you’re buying canned salmon and the label tells you your salmon is a “product of Thailand,” that means the fish was caught in the U.S., shipped across the world, processed, and then shipped back for sale. Not only is this not appetizing, but the carbon footprint is significant.

Industrial ocean fish farming threatens native wildlife as there is no barrier between the cages that contain massive amounts of farmed fish and the surrounding ocean ecosystem. Because there is no barrier, factory fish farming allows for excess feed, feces, antibiotics, and chemicals that cause algae blooms and dead zones; additionally, other wildlife are attracted to the cages and ultimately get caught in the nets and ropes. Furthermore, this type of fish farming is wiping out other fish populations in order to feed the farmed fish populations (like herring, anchovy, and krill).

When in doubt, choosing wild-caught salmon that is sustainably harvested is the most advantageous choice for both you and the environment. At POBB, the salmon is truly the best of the best. The fishermen are committed to the highest standards, so every sockeye filet has unrivaled quality and flavor. Plus, every case is labeled with the name of the Bristol Bay Fishing District, for the ultimate traceability. POBB offers efficient and affordable wild and sustainable salmon. To mention, it is absolutely delicious!