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What is the Story with Wild or Farmed Fish?



Often I get questions from my clients about which type of fish to buy. There are two factors to consider in your purchase, the source ( ie. where the fish were raised or caught) and the type of fish such as halibut, salmon, etc. When you venture to your market the best fish to purchase is always those that are labeled wild which means that they live in open waters and eat a natural diet. The other sources of fish that you will see available in markets are farmed fish. Farmed fish are raised in floating pens near the ocean floor. Please read the following facts about wild verses farmed fish and then you can make the best decision for yourself.

Facts About Wild Fish

  • Flavor: Wild fish is much tastier. Farmed fish do not have enough room to move around compared to the wild fish in open waters, and thus they do not develop much muscle which affects texture and taste.
  • Appearance: Wild fish like salmon is naturally bright in color due to their food of small sea creatures, while farmed fish appears gray in color and dyes are added to make the fish look appealing.
  • Nutrition: Wild fish like salmon are richer in the Omega 3’s and less contaminated than farmed fish.
  • Price:Wild fish has always been more expensive. Now Safeway has been offering various varieties of wild fish at reasonable prices. I just talked with their seafood department and recieved this latest news. So try to shop around and look for sales at Whole Foods, Lunardi’s and Safeway.

Facts About Farmed Fish

  • Contamination: Farmed fish usually contain more contaminants. They are fed processed pellets often made from processed anchovies, Sardines, and other small fish. The type of fish used to make pellets are usually caught in polluted waters close to shore and contaminated with industrial chemicals.
  • Antibiotics: Farmed fish are often subject to disease due to the chemical contaminants, which spreads throughout the entire pen. Often farmed fish are given antibiotics to prevent the entire group from becoming ill.
  • Lower Omega 3’s: The reason why we are eating cold water oily fish is for their Omega 3’s. Farmed fish contains less Omega 3’s due to it’s grain based diet.

There is discussion that the FDA limits the PCB content and mercury levels of fish, but some fish may measure just below that cutoff. The content can build up in your body over time and health problems will occur. So, I believe that the extra price is well worth the health implication here. You will find wild fish on sale if you watch the supermarket circulars that come each week.

If you have high cholesterol or a have had a heart attack you should be consuming fish at least 2-3 times per week. Remember the fish oils prevent the blood from clotting and are very low in saturated fat. The fish that are richest in Omega 3’s are cold water fatty fish such as salmon, rainbow trout, anchovies, sardines, bass, herring and tuna.

So I hope that you will begin to look in your local markets and become aware of the sources of fish and begin adding fish to your menu at least 2 times a week.