Farm-Raised vs Wild-Caught Fish

We’re all aware that fish and other seafood should be part of a healthy diet.  Fish are high in essential fatty acids (omega-3 fatty acids), vitamins A and D, B vitamins, and are a good source of calcium (bony fish), phosphorus, copper, iron and selenium.  But lately there has been a lot of talk over which is better for you, farm-raised or wild-caught.

Let’s go over reasons for consuming each.

Pros of Farm-raised (aquacultured)

Fish have become over-fished and wild fish stocks are diminishing.  Aquaculture offers a possible solution to dwindling fish stocks.

Cheaper than wild-caught

More energy-efficient than raising cattle or other land animals

In some cases, it tastes better (many would argue that farm raised, Atlantic salmon tastes better than wild-caught)

Pros of Wild-Caught

Lower levels of PCBs compared to farm-raised.

Farm-raised typically come from China or Chile, and there are concerns over contamination.

There is an increase in farm-raised fish consuming grain-based diets, which is obviously not natural for them to consume.

Farm-raised fish may be raised using chemicals, pesticides and antibiotics. 

Fish farming can be bad for the environment (though not always).  Shrimp farms in Asia cause coastline erosion and shrimp and salmon farming can pollute water with antibiotics, chemicals, and fish excrement.

So how can you tell if your seafood is farm-raised or wild-caught?  Typically, though not always, you will see it labeled somewhere on the label.  Price can also tell you as wild-caught are usually more expensive.  However, in 2005 the New York Times found that six out of eight salmon (in NYC) labeled wild-caught were actually farm-raised. Retailers were mislabeling fish in order to charge a higher price.  [1]

Most canned salmon is wild, but if the fish is Atlantic, it is farm-raised.  Wild salmon is usually Alaskan.

Overall, what matters is that you are eating fish two to three times a week.  Most people don’t eat enough fish and may be deficient in essential fatty acids because of it.  So whether or not it is farm-raised or wild-caught, eat more fish.

[1] Wellness Letter: The Newsletter of Nutrition, Fitness, and Self-Care. University of California, Berkeley. Vol. 24, Issue 3. Dec 2008.

About Kimberly Dawson, M.S.

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