When it come to your health, nothing is more important than what you put at the end of your fork.
The more we know about our food – what’s in it, where it’s from, and how it was grown or raised – the better. ~ Dr. Mark Hyman
Where do you stand in the wild caught versus farm raised salmon debate? If you’re not certain how to answer that question, let’s break down why it even matters. Salmon is a source of fish that supply a healthy dose of DHA to our bodies.
What is DHA? (Docosahexaenoic Acid)
DHA is an omega-3 fatty acid that’s critical for brain health. Our brains are made up of 40% water and 60% fat. 30% of that fat is made up of DHA. Unfortunately, our body cannot make this essential fat on it’s own. Essential meaning…our bodies cannot survive without it. So, we have to get omega-3 fatty acid from the food we eat or from supplements. DHA is plentiful in oily fish such as, salmon, tuna, halibut and anchovies. It’s also found in shellfish such as, lobster, shrimp, and king crab. If you are sensitive or allergic to fish, you can also get DHA from grass-fed beef and eggs. Other sources are hemp seeds, chia seeds, flax seeds, spirulina and chlorella. You can also supplement with a quality fish oil.
Science-backed health benefits of DHA
Now that you know what DHA is and why this omega-3 fatty acid is so vital to our health, let’s discuss one of the best sources to obtain this beneficial fat…SALMON!
Salmon is the third most popular seafood in the United States after shrimp and tuna
The difference between wild caught versus farm raised
You can go to nearly any grocery store and purchase salmon. However, you may also notice you have a choice between farm raised or wild caught. Which is best? What’s the difference? Let’s start with the obvious…wild caught salmon is caught in the wild and farm raised are raised on farms. The environment of the farm raised is very different than in the wild. In the wild, the fish freely roam and feed on smaller fish and krill. The krill eat algae, which is an amazing source of omega-3 fatty acids. This diversity of food sources keep the salmon healthy and makes them a great source for DHA and other essential nutrients.
Farm raised salmon are kept in contained pens or tanks. Often, these tanks are small and overcrowded so the fish have no room to swim around. They end up becoming contaminated with feces and diseased. Some farmers use antibiotics to treat these fish which then can be passed on to the consumer when eating them. Most farm raised fish eat a highly-processed diet consisting of grains, corn and ground-up fish. This type of diet is designed to fatten the fish quickly and at a low cost to the farmer. This is why farm raised fish is cheaper at your local grocery store in comparison to wild caught. Not only can you tell the difference between the two by their cost, you can also visually see the difference in their appearance.
Wild caught is deeper in color, with a reddish orange color. They get this color from eating krill while in the wild.
Farm raised have a lighter, pale pink color. Many farmers try to brighten their color by adding food dyes to their feed.
Wild caught are thinner, leaner filets. This is due to be life-long swimmers. They are free to roam therefore, tend to be leaner and healthier. The filets will have very little visible white stripes of fat.
Farm raised are thicker, fattier filets. These fish are limited to the space they have to roam therefore, tend to be fattier fish. The filets will have noticeable, thick white stripes of fat throughout.
As you can see, benefits from wild caught outweighs farm raised salmon, in my opinion. Unfortunately, farm raised salmon is less expensive and more readily available at the grocery and in most restaurants. But, I’m hoping that this information will at least get you thinking about where your food comes from and what is ultimately best for your health. Continue to do your own research and when you’re at your favorite restaurant, I encourage you to ask the staff if their salmon is wild caught or farm raised. Get the conversation started! When enough people ask, attention will be brought to the importance of clean, sustainably sourced food.
* In terms of wild caught salmon, I recommend wild Alaskan Pacific salmon. They are often a sound, sustainable choice—if you can find it in your area.
Boundless, by Ben Greenfield
What’s your favorite salmon recipe? Let me know in the comments…