Posted by Niki Adamkova for Miller's Organic Farm on 2/21/2023 to Food
Farmed vs. WILD
In this newsletter, we would like to share with you some valuable information regarding wild-caught vs. farmed fish and seafood and how to recognize it.
Fish has always been the best source of the animal-based omega-3 fats EPA and DHA, but as levels of pollution have increased, this treasure of food has become less and less viable as a primary source of healthful fats. However, there are still exceptions, and the key is to understand which types of fish are the least contaminated.
Remember, fish farms are the aquatic version of a confined animal feeding operation (CAFO), and just like land-based cattle and chicken farms, fish farms breed disease due to crowding too many fish together in a small space. They also produce toxic waste and fish of inferior quality. These fish are further contaminated by drugs and genetically engineered corn and soy meal feed, and in the case of salmon, synthetic astaxanthin (otherwise a powerful antioxidant in its natural form), which is made from petrochemicals that are not approved for human consumption.
What Else is Lurking in Farm-Raised Fish?
If the environmental concerns alone aren’t enough to make you want to steer clear of farm-raised fish, perhaps the health concerns will be.
Studies have consistently found levels of PCBs, dioxins, toxaphene, and dieldrin, as well as mercury, to be higher in farm-raised fish than wild fish. Further, farm-raised fish, like factory-farmed meat, is pumped full of antibiotics, hormones, and even chemicals to change their color (such as to make salmon appear pink).
Research suggests that eating oily fish once or twice a week may increase your lifespan by more than two years, and reduce your risk of dying from cardiovascular disease by 35 percent.
If you want to maximize health benefits from fish, steer clear of farmed fish, particularly farmed salmon, and even more specifically genetically engineered farmed salmon, which may end up being approved within the next two years—especially if you’re seeking to improve your omega-3 to omega-6 ratio.
The ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fat in wild salmon is far superior to farmed. Whereas farmed salmon has a 1-1 ratio of omega-3s and omega-6s (due to its “junk food” diet), the ratio for wild sockeye salmon is between 6 and 9 to 1, which is a more ideal ratio.
Avoid Atlantic salmon, as salmon labeled "Atlantic Salmon" typically comes from fish farms. Look for “Alaskan salmon,” and “sockeye salmon,” as Alaskan sockeye is not allowed to be farmed and is therefore bound to be wild.
There’s still the issue of environmental pollution and contamination, which was not addressed in this study. Do the benefits of eating fish really outweigh the risks of contamination?
Dr. Mercola believes that the benefits CAN outweigh the risks, provided you make really wise choices. There are few uncontaminated fish available these days so you need to know what to look for.
Needless to say, toxins like mercury and PCB will not do your health any favors.
Beware, as Media Tries to Mislead You About Healthful Fish Choices
According to lead author Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, an associate professor of medicine at Harvard, the reason we need omega-3 is that 95 percent of your cells’ membranes are made of fat. Without fats such as omega-3, your cells cannot function properly. He recommends eating one or two servings of fatty fish per week to optimize your blood levels of omega-3.
How to Identify Wild Salmon from Farm-Raised
Unfortunately, salmon are often mislabeled (and genetically engineered foods don’t require any labeling at all as of yet). Studies have shown that as much as 70 to 80 percent of the fish marked "wild" are actually farmed. This includes restaurants, where 90-95 percent of salmon is farmed, yet may be mis-listed on the menu as "wild."
So how can you tell whether a salmon is wild or farm-raised? Easy!!! The flesh of wild sockeye salmon is bright red, courtesy of its natural astaxanthin content. It’s also very lean, so the fat marks, those white stripes you see in the meat, are very thin. If the fish is pale pink with wide fat marks, the salmon is farmed. Avoid Atlantic salmon, as typically salmon labeled "Atlantic Salmon" currently comes from fish farms.
The two designations you want to look for are: “Alaskan salmon,” and “sockeye salmon,” as Alaskan sockeye is not allowed to be farmed. So canned salmon labeled "Alaskan Salmon" is a good bet, and if you find sockeye salmon, it's bound to be wild. Again, you can tell sockeye salmon from other salmon by its color; its flesh is bright red opposed to pink, courtesy of its superior astaxanthin content. Sockeye salmon actually has one of the highest concentrations of astaxanthin in any food.
Why Farmed Salmon is an Inferior Choice
Nutritional content – Wild salmon swim around in the wild, eating what nature programmed them to eat. Therefore, their nutritional profile is more complete, with micronutrients, fats, minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants like astaxanthin (which gives salmon its pink, or in the case of sockeye, red-colored, flesh.)
Farmed salmon, on the other hand, are fed an artificial diet consisting of grain products like corn and soy (most of which is genetically modified), along with chicken and feather meal, artificial coloring, and synthetic astaxanthin, which is not approved for human consumption, but is permitted to be used in fish feed.
Mother Nature never intended fish to eat these things, and as a consequence of this radically unnatural diet, the nutritional content of their flesh is also altered, and not for the better. Farmed salmon taste different than wild-caught, and much of it has to do with the altered fat ratio, which is dramatically different. Farmed salmon contains far more omega-6, courtesy of their grain-based diet.
The ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fat in wild salmon is far superior to farmed. Wild salmon typically has 600 to 1,000 percent more omega-3s compared to omega-6s. So whereas farmed salmon has a 1 to 1 ratio of omega-3s and omega-6s – again due to its “junk food” diet – the ratio for wild sockeye salmon is between 6 and 9 to 1. This is important because if you’re trying to improve your omega-3 to omega-6 balance, you simply will not accomplish it with farmed salmon.
Fish Health – Wild salmon return to their native spawning grounds each year, without you having to do anything, while farmed salmon are kept in pens. Naturally, fish swimming in the wild get more exercise, and this alone makes wild fish healthier than their incarcerated counterparts. As explained by Tony Farrell5 with the University of British Columbia Zoology department, fish kept in constrained environments become the aquatic version of “couch potatoes,” with similar health consequences as humans face when we don’t exercise enough.
Environment – Nearly 99 percent of farmed salmon are raised in net pens in the open ocean. All the excess food that is dropped in ends up going out in the environment – the genetically engineered ingredients, the pesticides, the antibiotics and chemical additives. Anything the fish do not consume, along with all their now unnatural waste products, end up contaminating the environment. To learn more about the many hazards of fish farming, check out www.FarmedAndDangerous.org
Wild sockeye salmon are the vegetarians of the salmon world. Their diet consists of krill, plankton, and algae, and they are caught at the very end of their life cycle. By the time they enter the fishing grounds, they’ve lived 95 percent of their natural life in the wild. At the end of their life, they fight their way upriver to spawn, after which they die a natural death – unless they’re caught by fishermen or get eaten by some other predator.
The Best and Worst Fish to Eat in Terms of Environmental Toxins
Interestingly enough, and fortunately for us, the types of fish that tend to suffer the least amount of toxic contamination also happen to be some of the best sources of fat and antioxidants. So, by choosing wisely, the benefits of a diet high in fish can still outweigh the risks.
Most major waterways in the world are contaminated with mercury, heavy metals, and chemicals like dioxins, PCBs, and other agricultural chemicals that wind up in the environment. However, the risk of authentic wild-caught Alaskan sockeye salmon accumulating high amounts of mercury and other toxins is reduced because of its short life cycle, which is only about three years. Additionally, bioaccumulation of toxins is also reduced by the fact that it doesn’t feed on other, already contaminated, fish.
Other fish with short lifecycles also tend to be better alternatives in terms of fat content, so it’s a win-win situation – lower contamination risk and higher nutritional value. A general guideline is that the closer to the bottom of the food chain the fish is, the less contamination it will have accumulated. This includes:
If you still want to take precautions, eat it with chlorella tablets. The chlorella is a potent mercury binder and if taken with fish will help bind the mercury before your body can absorb it, so it can be safely excreted in your stool.