Farmed vs wild salmon. Which is better for you? Is farmed salmon really as bad as people think? Does it ultimately make a difference in the end? These are just some of the questions floating through people's heads when they're trying to buy the best salmon. With so many things to worry about, how is anyone supposed to possibly make this decision without reading up on some crucial information first? Don't give it a second thought because we're here to break down everything you ought to know before heading to the store.

Nutritional Value

a woman seasoning salmon pieces

Some vitamin levels and nutritional benefits are on par with one another but farmed and wild salmon differ greatly in important areas.

Farmed Salmon

  • Has more fat and saturated fat than wild salmon
  • Contains more sodium than wild salmon
  • Has less calcium than wild salmon

100g of farmed salmon has more calories and fat than wild salmon would. When compared against one serving, the USDA lists farmed salmon as having almost double the fat content, less calcium, less potassium, and a bit more sodium. Farmed salmon also has way more saturated fat than wild salmon does.

When it comes to vitamins, there's more niacin, vitamin C, and vitamin A in farmed salmon when compared to wild. When it comes right down to it, farmed salmon also has more vitamin D than the wild stuff. For the most part, though, the vitamins are on par with one another.

Wild Salmon

  • Has more potassium than farmed salmon
  • Contains less protein than farmed salmon
  • Is on par with farmed salmon regarding vitamin levels

The USDA says 100g of wild salmon is much better for you in the long run. The protein levels are slightly lower than farmed salmon, but the fat content is way lower. The fat in wild salmon is about 6g per serving whereas farmed salmon has about 13g. Wild salmon also has no grams of sodium whereas one serving of farmed salmon has nearly 60g. There is way more potassium in wild salmon as well, with 490g per serving versus farmed, which only has 363g.

Aside from the ones listed above, wild and farmed salmon share similar amounts of remaining vitamins. For example, the two only differ slightly regarding riboflavin, folate, and thiamin.

Present Contaminants

a person holding a salmon in water

We could probably have reached the conclusion on our own that farmed salmon would have more pollutants than wild salmon would, but fish, in general, will pick up some nasty stuff merely from being in their environment. Let's break things down.

Farmed Salmon

  • Contains more contaminants than wild salmon
  • Has more PCBs than wild salmon
  • Has more PBDEs than wild salmon

A 2003 study published from the Environmental Working Group discovered that farmed salmon contained a dangerous contaminant called polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). They wrote, "nine of 10 farmed salmon tested from five countries of origin failed EPA's health-based limits for weekly consumption (6000 parts per trillion), exceeding the standard by an average of 4.5 times." They also published results from an additional study highlighting how farmed Canadian salmon contained ten times the PCB's of wild Canadian salmon.

Additional studies have found that farmed salmon also contains higher amounts of contaminants like polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), which have been linked to neurological differences in mice and cancer in adult humans.

Wild Salmon

  • Contains more organic pollutants than farmed salmon
  • Has more mercury than farmed salmon
  • Has more copper and metals than farmed salmon

While farmed salmon contains more pollutants, wild salmon isn't off the hook. Studies have discovered that wild salmon has more organic pollutants like metals and mercury than farmed salmon.

Additional studies discovered that wild salmon had more cobalt, copper, and cadmium than farmed salmon. They did, however, specify that the levels didn't exceed federal standards.

The key thing to remember about these results is that more studies need to be conducted regarding various types of salmon from different regions. Farmed salmon might have more contaminants and wild more organic pollutants, but until more research is conducted about the official amounts in various types, it will be hard to know everything.

Choosing The Healthier Option

salmon fillets next to asparagus on a cookie sheet

Regardless of which one you choose to go with, salmon is a superfood that should be included in your diet. They're both a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, which have been linked to helping regulate your arteries. Seafood in general is also known to contribute to healthier lifestyles, with salmon in particular being the seafood of choice based on its benefits.

It isn't just the salmon itself that will help you eat better. The salmon skin should be ingested due to its protein and omega-3 fatty acids. However, as we previously mentioned, you should be wary of PCBs in salmon, even its skin. Though, this is more common in farmed salmon so you should be more than fine with wild salmon skin.

If you're worried about the contaminants in farmed salmon you can always check where your salmon came from or ask those in the market. The thing to remember about farmed salmon is that it's still healthy, just not as healthy as the wild stuff.

Whichever one you choose will give you great benefits, but it's up to you and your tastes regarding which one you want to go for. As we said, there are always people to answer questions about salmon in stores if you want to know more about a particular kind.

Final Notes

salmon on a cutting board next to lemon slices and asparagus

Wild salmon does have its fair share of pollutants, but none of them in tested samples surpassed regulations. Farmed salmon, on the other hand, has far more contaminants and a higher level of fat.

Because of this, wild salmon is the healthier option, but that doesn't mean farmed salmon won't give you health benefits as well. Either way, it's better to get salmon in your diet than to ignore it entirely. Check with those in the market to learn more about the salmon you're looking to buy so you can get the best option possible.

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