Friday, May 16, 2008

Which is Better: Wild Caught or Farm Raised Salmon

Salmon is my favorite fish. I like the pink color, rich texture, and delicious light
taste. Salmon has omega 3 fat, which is all the rage now. Omega 3 is considered an
essential fat that most Americans don't get because of the depletion of the omega 3
fats in most other foods. Salmon is also a quality protein chocked with lots of vitamins
and minerals. So, salmon is both delicious and healthy, the problem is which to choose,
wild caught or farm raised salmon.

Salmon Fillet

Recently I viewed a program on television about farm raised salmon and as a result
I switched to wild caught. The central message in this program was that farm raised
salmon are not as healthy as wild caught ocean salmon because of their diet. Their
claim was that farm raised salmon are feed pellets that have been found to contain
unsafe levels of mercury. Fish that have high mercury levels are usually found in
mercury contaminated waterways. The pellets fed to farm raised fish are said to be
made partly from contaminated fish. The wild caught salmon are caught far out in
the ocean, usually in cleaner waters in Alaska and other remote waterways.
The problem with wild caught salmon is; "When is wild caught salmon, really wild
caught salmon?" The main controversy with wild caught salmon is that some companies
lie and tell you your salmon is wild caught when it is not. Then there is the lake
salmon, the river salmon, and the Alaskan ocean salmon. I have seen each of these
labels on all types of salmon packages. Which salmon really comes from so-called,
safe non-contaminated waters? Which salmon is correctly labeled? Fish markets and
restaurants have been caught lying about the origin of their salmon, so when are
we to know.
Now, back to farm raised salmon. I spoke with my butcher who told me, simply that it
is not true what they said on the program about farm raised salmon, that show was
sensationalized and a lot of the facts were missing. Others were waiting in line,
so I did not have time to get the details from him, but he seemed to be upset that
the show was aired at all.
The next question is, "Is the mercury in salmon or any other fish really all that
harmful?" According to fish experts, most of the mercury ends up in the skin of the
fish, so provided you don't eat the skin, you should be fine.
My personal experience with mercury contamination happened many years ago. I consumed
fish almost exclusively for my protein, but I ate a wide variety of fish, and it mostly
came from eating out. I also ate a disproportionately large amount of salmon. At that
time, I did eat the skin. A few years later, after I limited my fish to twice a week
and did not eat the skin, my contamination level went way down. You are probably wondering
how I found out that I was contaminated with high levels of mercury. At that time I
belonged to a profession that was tested for mercury because we work close to it. It was
determined that the mercury I worked close to was not my source of contamination, so the
only other possibility was my frequent consumption of fish.
My conclusion is that fish, including salmon, comes from all over and as long as I don't
eat the skin, I don't need to worry about the source. But, that said, I do try to focus
on eating salmon from the ocean, with no guarantees it came from clean ocean waters.
My conclusion is that we can't trust anything we eat. If you think there may be mercury
contamination in your fish, just don't eat the skin.
Lois Center-Shabazz is the founder of the personal finance website, and the author of the award-winning book, Let's Get Financial Savvy!