Nutrition Articles

Wild or Farmed Fish: What's Better?

The Pros and Cons for Your Health and the Planet

383SHARES

Farmed Fish
Fish farming, or aquaculture, means that the fish are raised in floating net pens near the ocean shore. Another name for this method is “ocean raised.”

Pros of Farmed Fish
  • Price: Farmed fish are often cheaper and more readily available than wild fish.
  • Controlled diet: Some farmed fish can have higher levels of Omega-3 fatty acids than wild fish. This is because fish farmers can better control the diets of the fish they raise—making sure that their fish eat more feed that is converted into Omega-3s than a fish might normally eat in the wild. However, there is really no way for consumers to gauge the amount of Omega-3's in one piece of fish versus another.
  • Ecology: When fish are farmed, there is a lower danger of overfishing (or depleting) the population of wild fish.
Cons of Farmed Fish
  • Contamination: Farmed fish usually contain more contaminants. Farmed fish are fed processed pellets, often made from processed anchovies, sardines and other small fish. Unfortunately, the types of fish used to make the pellets are usually caught in the polluted waters closer to shore and are often contaminated with industrial chemicals. As a result, farmed fish tends to have much higher levels of chemical contaminants that may cause cancer, memory problems, and neurobehavioral changes in children. Farmed salmon, for example, has been found to contain seven times more PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls), dioxins and pesticides than wild salmon. Consumers can reduce the amount of contaminants in farmed salmon by almost half by grilling or broiling it so that the juices drip off, cooking it until the internal temperature reaches 175 degrees Fahrenheit and removing the skin before eating.
  • Antibiotics: Besides being prone to industrial contamination, farmed fish are more subject to disease, which spreads quickly throughout the entire pen. Sick fish can escape into surrounding open water and spread disease to wild fish populations. To control disease, farmed fish are often given antibiotics to prevent the whole group from becoming ill. Research has shown that farmed salmon, for example, are administered more antibiotics by weight than any other type of livestock.
  • Lower Omega-3's: While farmed fish can be fed an enhanced diet to increase its Omega-3's, there is no way for consumers to know whether one piece of fish contains more healthy fats than another. According to research in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, farmed salmon contains two or three times fewer Omega-3's even though it contains more overall fat than wild salmon due to its grain-based diet. The same is is true for other popular farmed fish, such as catfish and tilapia.
Wild-Caught fish
Wild fish, in contrast to farmed, live in open waters and eat a natural diet. Fishermen catch wild fish on open waters, their natural habitat.

Pros of Wild Fish
  • Flavor: Many people prefer the taste of wild fish. Farmed fish do not have as much room to move as their wild counterparts, which reduces the amount of muscle they can develop and affects texture and taste.
  • Appearance: Wild salmon is naturally bright in color due to its food source (krill and other small sea creatures), while farmed salmon is grayish in color and dyes must be added to bring the flesh to an appealing shade.
  • Nutrition: Wild fish are usually healthier (higher in Omega-3s) and less contaminated than farmed fish. Continued ›
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383SHARES

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About The Author

Liza Barnes Liza Barnes
Liza has two bachelor's degrees: one in health promotion and education and a second in nursing. A registered nurse and mother, regular exercise and cooking are top priorities for her. See all of Liza's articles.

Member Comments

  • I would NEVER eat farmed salmon. It is just farmed Atlantic salmon . I'm not big on eating something that is covered in sea lice and swimming in its own excrement. I'm a Sockeye girl. Pacific salmon, caught in my own backyard and cooked on a cedar plank. The only way to eat it. - 10/1/2014 8:50:27 PM
  • Very informative article and I appreciate your comments also. - 9/18/2014 9:25:01 AM
  • I will only eat wild salmon. If you have ever been around a fish farm you would not eat the fish. It smells and the sea bed is dead under the farmed fish. Sorry you won't get me eating farmed salmon. - 5/10/2014 10:11:34 PM
  • I enjoyed the article. It was very informative. I buy wild salmon instead of farmed. I didn't know, until I read the article, that tilapia and catfish are lean fish. We eat both of those every chance we get. I usually stick to one slice of tilapia and catfish but now that I know that they are lean, I think I'll enjoy that "extra" piece. I love to cook it in olive oil with different herbs. - 5/8/2014 2:26:10 AM
  • I love to eat my fish. I can have fish every day. But what a great article. - 12/21/2013 8:28:57 AM
  • Great article. When I buy fish, I only spend my money on wild-caught. Fish is a bit more expensive than some other forms of protein, but it's good for us, and I don't mind spending a little more to avoid getting healthier fish are aren't loaded up with antibiotics, etc. - 12/14/2013 5:06:17 PM
  • Thanks so much for the very informative "Fish" article!! That was really worth the read.

    Great write up!! Thanks again,
    gmondello - 2/21/2013 1:19:36 PM
  • Thank you for the great information. When I started SP, I also began reading all the labels on all the food I purchase. For fish, I was shocked to find that so much of the fish in our markets is farmed and raised in China, Vietnam and New Zealand. I personally want to enjoy fish caught closer to home, so I go for wild pacific or none at all. I have a new love for fish, wish I could have my own fish farm! - 5/26/2012 11:15:01 AM
  • I go 100% by price. I know fish is good for me, and tuna is a good fish. So I buy tuna canned in water (5 oz cans) when they are seriously on sale (55 to 70 cents) When I have enough food, I eat a whole can, otherwise I make it into two meals. Whiting and Swai fish are often on sale - and one fish is dinner for two of us, Each fish always comes to under a dollar when it's on sale. I wish I could think about other considerations - like what's good for the ecology - but I have to worry daily about getting something to eat. So price is all that really matters to me. I only get salmon when I'm not paying for it. (RARE) - 5/24/2012 1:45:07 PM
  • Thank you so much for clarifing this issue to the readers. I agree with the article. I live in So. Cal. It is easier than most places to get wild caught. However, I wonder about the quality of fish that is "flash frozen" at sea. Also, the article did not address wild caught fish in different countries. I often wonder do they adhere to the same scrutiny we have here in the States. Canada seems ok but what about fish in Vietnam or Brazil?? - 3/11/2011 10:11:37 AM
  • I have made it a habit to eat only wild and organic meats. I work in foodservice and have no problem watching what I eat. - 2/11/2011 5:33:42 PM
  • If you're buying salmon, please buy wild. The farmed salmon spreads disease to the wild population, and buying it supports the market! Since the farm salmon are given antibiotics, they can survive, but their wild counterparts are not so lucky. - 2/11/2011 4:12:31 PM
  • I had some farmed salmon once, and I won't knowingly ever buy it again. It was soft, mushy, and had an unusual color.
    Luckily, since I live in Alaska, the salmon I buy does not have to "travel thousands of miles" making them an expensive alternative.
    I like salmon so much and it's so healthy, I even used canned salmon instead of tuna for my "tuna" sandwiches. - 4/24/2010 10:20:06 PM
  • the only fish we usually eat is what we have cought our selves. yes we know the risks but we like the taste better. fresh salmon cought at the local creek tastes better than any frozen or "fresh" we could buy in the market. - 4/20/2010 9:06:20 AM
  • I just grilled some salmon and had some grilled shrimp a few days ago for dinner. They were delicious! I'm enjoying my toaster oven and all its features! - 3/16/2010 9:38:54 AM

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