Do I get sockeye fish? Should I reach for Pacific salmon? On TV, I heard that chef use Atlantic… Was it farm-raised or wild? How on earth (or in water!) do you even farm a fish? Why are some salmon steaks different colours? What do I get?
Wild-caught vs Farm-Raised Salmon
Papa Earth here, back on another mission to help you buy informed and know where your food comes from. This time we’re tackling a Canadian favourite: the delicious, versatile and nutritious salmon.
Salmon is a popular choice at the seafood counter. It’s an easy superfood to cook loaded with omega-3 fatty acids that many of lack from our diets. Not only do they help maintain your heart, eyes, brain and immune system to name a few crucial things, every cell in your body has a membrane that surrounds it that requires these fatty acids for strength. We must consume omega-3s through fish, nuts, seeds, oils, fortified foods and supplements, since our bodies can’t produce these types of fats themselves. Here’s how to know what salmon packs the best punch and what to avoid, if you can.
First: spot the difference.
Farmed salmon is typically a lighter, more peach or orange colour than wild-caught salmon. If you do not have two pieces of salmon side-by-side for comparison, a good indicator that the salmon in your hand is farmed are visible lines of white fat. Wild salmon is leaner and therefore you will see very few, if any, white lines through the fish and the overall colour is darker and more red. So which is better?
The short answer is wild-caught salmon is better for you, the environment and aquatic life.
Wild-caught salmon has less calories and less saturated fat than farmed salmon. Wild salmon is caught in its natural environments like lakes, rivers and oceans. These are fish that are eating what they should by nature and swimming enough per day to be healthy animals; this is tough to recreate when you are aqua farming fish in large quantities and have to keep them enclosed. Half the salmon available worldwide is raised by aquaculture.
Farmed fish are fed a processed, high-fat and high-protein feed that produces larger fish in shorter times and in greater numbers than would be caught in the wild. High populations in smaller spaces make farmed fish more susceptible to disease and infection than their wild-caught counterparts. They could have also been administered antibiotics and are more likely to have ingested harmful contaminants that are passed on to you. One contaminant in particular, PCB, has been linked to cancer and is up to 800% more likely to be present in farmed salmon than wild salmon. To be fair, many still advise that the great benefits of consuming omega-3s from salmon tend to be more significant than the direct risk of contaminants and more and more aquaculture practices are becoming regulated and heavily scrutinized. This relieves some of the stress of your decision but what your food eats, you reap. Wouldn’t you prefer the meat of a healthy and properly fed fish? Most would, if given the choice and available options.
Farmed salmon is however increasingly finding its way to our tables and we know why. Aquaculture has become more common and is a response to the rapid decline in the world’s fish stocks. It’s a way to keep the supply of fish available to meet a heavy demand. Certain fish populations have been halved in just the last few decades due to overfishing, waste, pollution, warming of the waters and human interference in fish migration routes. What’s worse is that the decline is a continuing trend that could become irreversible if we aren’t careful.
In our opinion, wild-caught salmon – especially when done sustainably and mindfully of the environmental impact of the fishing practices and tools – is worth the higher ticket price.
Though overall farmed salmon is still healthy and meets guidelines and regulatory, wild-caught salmon is healthier, especially for pregnant women and children who may not want to increase their risk of contact with contaminants. It also tends to taste more flavourful, have less of a fishy smell and retains its size when cooked as there isn’t as much excess fat that melts away when heated.
Fatty fish is recommended 1-2 times per week in a healthy diet, if it is your main source of omega-3 fatty acids.
Papa Earth Wild Caught Salmon
At Papa Earth we only offer 1 type of salmon: Wild Caught Pacific Sockeye Salmon. We sell it in fillets and in salmon burgers. The sockeye salmon, also called red salmon, found in the Northern Pacific Ocean and rivers that feed into it. This species is a Pacific salmon that is primarily red in hue during spawning, which is the releasing of its eggs. Sockeye salmon are an anadromous fish, meaning they migrate from the sea to fresh water to spawn. The name sockeye originates from a poor translation of the word ‘suk-kegh’ which it was names in British Columbia’s native Coast Salish language. ‘Suk-kegh’ means red fish.