Difference Between Wild-Caught and Farm-Raised Salmon

fresh salmon

As fish consumption increases around the world, so does fish production, and today more and more fish are raised and farmed on farms. We now have the option of buying fish that has been raised on farms or fish that has been raised in the wild. This brings us to the good question: is one option better than the other?

The truth is that each one has its pros and cons.


Both wild and ranched fish have the potential to be contaminated. For example, a report published in 2005 found that fish raised on farms in certain areas were exposed to more unsafe contaminants than wild fish. However, not all wild-caught fish are necessarily cleaner than farm-raised fish as many wild fish are at risk of being exposed to certain pollutants and metals in the ocean, although farmed fish are more likely to be contaminated. It really just depends on where the fish comes from.


In the past, wild fish had more fat because their diet consisted of other smaller omega-3 fish, but today the fish farming industry is catching up, and many farms have started providing fish with the type of algae that helps them gain weight. Although there may be small differences in omega-3s found in farm fish relative to wild fish, for the most part, healthy fatty acids can be found in both farm and wild fish.


A final question that is repeatedly raised, and rightly so, is whether either practice is more sustainable in the long term. Fish farms in urban settings can farm fish and plants at the same time, for example. But they can also hurt surrounding ecosystems and create large amounts of waste that can pollute surrounding water sources. However, catching wild fish has its own environmental problems. It affects the fish’s natural environment and the general supply of fish in a given area, and the carbon footprint associated with fishing ‘in the wild’ is quite large.

Nutritional comparison

Take the popular Atlantic salmon, for example. A serving of salmon is about 3 ounces. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, a serving of wild Atlantic salmon contains 16.86 g of protein, 2,158 g of polyunsaturated fat, and 121 calories. A serving of farmed Atlantic salmon, on the other hand, contains 17.36 g of protein, 3.303 g of polyunsaturated fat, and 177 calories.

Unfortunately, farmed salmon is much richer in omega-6 fatty acids than wild salmon. Consuming too much omega-6 fatty acids relative to omega-3s is a big problem and can lead to serious side effects like hypertension. Wild salmon is also richer in minerals like iron and potassium.

grilled salmon on a wooden plate

Who is the winner?

Although wild-caught fish may be healthier than farmed fish in general, that doesn’t mean that farmed fish is a bad choice. If you have access to wild fish at a reasonable price, go for them! On the other hand, if all you have in your area is farmed fish, or if the price of wild fish is too high to eat routinely, then farmed fish is also a great bet.

Personally, I love to eat Salmon for all the above reasons and I prefer to cook it out on the grill on a so-called plank. I will probably write about my way of cooking later and share my recipes.

Peter Burrell

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