Spring salmon runs have started in the Pacific Northwest, and that's certainly cause for celebration. Yes, wild salmon is available year-round, thanks to improved technology for freezing fish at sea, eating it fresh is such a treat. It's also a good time to reflect on long-simmering issue about eating wild versus farm-raised salmon. For many, it comes down to a question of price. Wild salmon is more expensive. But I'm going to argue that the controversy runs deeper, hitting on environmental and social issues. Here are a few reasons I will only eat wild salmon.
1. Wild Salmon Tastes Better
This fish truly is what it eats, so the question begs: Would you rather eat pellets made with a mash-up of proteins, or little fish, swimming in the sea? The pellets fed to farm-raised salmon make for a fish that's got decent levels of the good Omega-3s, but also some saturated fat. The flesh of wild salmon is often described as buttery, due to the high amount of straight-up good Omega-3 fatty acids. That translates into a rich, satisfying mouth feel and a luxurious flavor. (If it tastes fishy, that means it hasn't been stored, or cooked properly.)
2. Farmed Salmon Are Tough on the Ocean
It takes a whole lot of little fish hauled out of the sea to make the feed pellets fed to the farm-raised fish, a process that upsets the delicate balance of the ocean. Plus, the waste generated from the pens where the fish are held while growing to processing weight produce a considerable amount of waste, and expose wild fish to diseases such as sea lice.
3. Farmed Salmon are Fed Dye
The pellets fed to farm-raised salmon don't contain the nutrients that naturally turns salmon's flesh pink or ruby red, so artificial dye is added to the diet. Check a farm-raised fish side-by-side with the wild version and the difference in the color is striking.
4. Wild Salmon Supports Fishing Communities
Fishing for wild salmon is a tradition that dates back hundreds of years, even farther in the past for Native Americans. While it's hard work, and definitely dangerous, it's also an industry that encourages the independent spirit of a small business person. Yes, there have been advances in the approach to farm-raising salmon, but those operations employ a handful of people, as opposed to the thousands who fish in small boats for a living.
5. Not All Wild Salmon is Expensive
OK, so the price of the first of the season fish is off-the-hook, ranging up to $50 a pound for Copper River salmon from Alaska, there's an easy work around. All you need is a can opener. Yes, canned "red" salmon is loaded with the flavor and nutrients found in its fresh counterpart, but at a fraction of the cost. It's awesome in salmon cakes, salmon salad, salmon pasta casserole.