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Think You’re Getting Wild-Caught Salmon? There's a Catch

Wild-caught salmon has been hailed for being more ethical, sustainable and nutritious than farmed salmon – but despite what the labels say, you might not be getting the real deal. Here’s what you need to know.

While farmed salmon are confined to small, crowded spaces with their feed controlled by humans, wild-caught salmon are free to move around, and they eat according to their own habits and choices. We also know that farmed fish have been found to suffer severe depression in recent research – yep, turns out living in captivity is not so fun for our fishy friends – making wild-caught salmon a more ethical choice.

Nutrition-wise, wild salmon tend to be lighter in calories, while packing more protein than their farmed counterparts. You may be interested to hear that farmed fish have higher levels of vitamin A and D – but wild salmon wins the prize for omega 3 DHA content, this is the stuff that boosts our brain health. Omega fatty acids also help with the following:

  • Heart health
  • Reduction of inflammation
  • Mental clarity
  • Mood regulation
  • Hunger regulation

Wild salmon also have a higher amount of an antioxidant known as astaxanthin, which is better for the health of the fish – it wards off inflammation and infection. This is because, unlike farmed salmon, these guys tend to eat more krill and shrimp, which contain a lot of these antioxidants – in fact, the processing of astaxanthin is why you'll notice a lot of wild-caught salmon are white in colour.

The issue with wild-caught salmon

Here’s where the problem lies: that so-called wild-caught salmon you bought might not actually have been wild at all. Occasionally, farmed salmon may escape their confines and mingle with wild salmon – they may also introduce parasites into the wild salmon schools. But that’s not the only issue, a report by Oceana found that over 40% of salmon at shops had been mislabelled as wild. Here’s how to ensure you aren’t getting duped.

How to make sure you’re actually getting wild-caught salmon

Even if the labels fail you, there are a few signs which indicate whether your salmon is really wild-caught or not.

  • Wild-caught salmon have less fat than farmed salmon, so if you notice visible fat and a rounder shape, it’s likely you’re looking at farmed salmon.
  • Wild-caught salmon tend to be seasonal, so if it’s winter, you’re probably buying farmed fish.
  • Wild-caught salmon have a greater variety of colours, depending on their diet, as we mentioned many of them are white. But they can be pink, too.
  • Make sure you buy from a reputable source which attends to sustainability and ethics, this way you’re more likely to get the real deal. Targona Zoo recommends seeking out the blue MSC label (Marine Stewardship Council) on the packaging, as this indicates the fisheries practice sustainable management, with their impact on the ecosystem independently tested.

Food safety and sustainability

Though the research varies depending upon location and the diet of the salmon, one study found that wild-caught salmon contained up to 10 times less of a contaminant known as polychlorinated biphenyl than their farmed counterparts.

When it comes to sustainability, Australian wild-caught salmon are caught in coastal waters, and they happen to be one of the most sustainable types of fish to consume. This is because the seines used to catch the salmon cause less ecological damage and have a low bycatch rate – meaning other fish and sea creatures don’t get unintentionally caught up in the fishing nets. They’re even listed as a “better choice” in Australia’s Sustainable Seafood Guide. 

So, it’s a comparatively sustainable choice of seafood. Of course, the fish might not agree! If you’re looking for vegetarian omega 3 alternatives that don’t involve chowing down on our underwater friends, the following sources pack a good punch:

  • Algae oil
  • Walnuts
  • Flax, chia and hemp seeds
  • Eggs – remember organic has more omega 3!

Keen for more nutrition tips and tricks? That’s what we’re here for. With the 8-Week Program, you’ll have the tools to navigate the confusing worlds of nutrition, sustainability and overall health. With a team of experts rallying behind you, our program is one of the easiest ways to make sure your health goals become a reality; with ongoing support and exclusive access to recipes, meal plans and exciting content, there’s no better way to get your health back on track.

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