The controversy about salmon consumption has been going on for over ten years. Although
salmon farming techniques allowed scaling up fish production to meet consumer demands
at very competitive sale prices, the quality differences between farmed salmon and
its wild counterpart is the subject of debates.
You don't need sophisticated laboratory equipment to notice the sharp differences
between farmed and wild salmon. Wild salmon usually shows a beautiful dark-orange
solid meat, with few if any streaks of fat. Farmed salmon, on the other hand, is
artificially colored with carotenoids, and usually appears of a lighter color with
its muscle fibers separated by abundant layers of fat.
The reason for this decrease in quality is in the farming process. Wild salmon usually
start their life in non-salted water where eggs are deposited and hatched, and spend
most of their adult life in salted water. Fish travel for most of their adult lives,
spanning hundreds of miles, and feeding on a very diverse diet which contributes
to the dark orange color of its meat. Salmon's farmed counterpart, on the other hand,
spends most of its life confined in an overpopulated pen, a few tens of meters in
diameter, where it shares its space with tens of thousands of its similar. Its diet
consists of food pellets. Artificial coloring is used to confer the meat its characteristic
orange color, and often vaccinations and antibiotics are used to prevent the spread
of parasites through the fish stock. The final product is a meat with a much higher
Experts’ recommendations for a healthy and sustainable seafood choice
The benefit of including fish in your diet goes beyond the vast number of delicious
recipes that can be prepared with it. Many nutrients which are found in fish oils,
can be obtained almost exclusively from fish sources. Omega-3 fatty acids, which
are currently very popular, are abundant in fish. They are suggested to help control
weight by improving abdominal fat control. Omega-3 fatty acids are an essential component
of the brain, and several studies suggest supplementation may help reduce the risk
of cardiac diseases, cancer, and work as support treatment for depression. Nutritionists'
recommendations for food consumption vary. Some nutritionists recommend consuming
fish at least 2 to 3 times per week, while others consider fish so essential that
they recommend eating 5 fish-based meals per week.
Seafood, however, comes at an additional price than what you pay for it at the supermarket.
Fish and seafood in general act as a seawater filter, retaining many chemicals released
into the ocean from human pollution or natural sources. Mercury and other chemicals
eventually reach our bodies at the kitchen table or the sushi restaurant, exposing
ourselves to long-term health risks.
A fillet of wild sockeye salmon is compared with wild salmon
To make matters worse, some wild-fish harvesting techniques and some farming practices
have a proven negative impact on the environment. This problem is compounded by the
increasing worldwide demand for seafood.
Putting fish on the dining table therefore becomes a compromise between our culinary
tastes, nutritional needs, and health risks in addition to environmental impact.
Salmon, canned tuna and shrimp are the most abundantly consumed fish products in
North America. Consumption of salmon in the US has more than doubled in the fifteen
years between 1989 and 2004, reaching the astonishing amount of 300,000 metric tons
per year. The environmental consequences for some salmon populations have been disastrous.
The population of North Atlantic salmon for example, known as Salmon salar, has been
reduced almost to extinction.
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