Farm Raised Salmon Vs. Wild Caught Salmon

When you buy salmon, do you consider its origins? Many people choose to eat farm raised fish — it’s less expensive, more readily available, and doesn’t contribute to overfishing. But how does farm raised salmon measure up against wild salmon when it comes to your health?

The Difference Between Farm Raised and Wild Salmon

The primary difference between farm raised and wild caught salmon is how they’re raised. Wild salmon are caught in the ocean, which means they have access to the food and conditions that they’ve evolved to need. Farm raised salmon are grown in tanks or enclosures and are fed a carefully balanced diet and supplements to ensure optimum growth.

However, the conditions that work to help farmed salmon grow quickly and produce a lot of meat aren’t necessarily the best for cultivating the things that make salmon a healthy food. There are several pros and cons when it comes to choosing one type of salmon over the other.

Protein Content

On average, farmed salmon have slightly more protein than their wild counterparts. When we say slightly, we mean slightly — A 113 gram serving of wild salmon yields about 22 grams of protein, while the same amount of farmed salmon yields 23.

This is a direct consequence of differences in diet. Since farmed salmon are fed to optimize their growth, it’s not too surprising that they’d be a little richer in protein.

The winner: Farmed salmon, but only slightly.

Fat Content

Like protein, farmed salmon tends to be richer in fat than wild salmon. For that 113 gram serving, you’re looking at 15 grams of fat for farmed salmon versus 5 grams for wild.

This, again, is largely because of their diet. The incentive in this type of aquaculture is to get the fish to reach their optimum size quickly so that they can be sold. Wild salmon must forage, so they don’t have access to large amounts of easy-to-get, calorie dense food.

The winner: Wild salmon.

Cholesterol Content

As a rule, dietary cholesterol isn’t a bad thing. For a lot of people, it doesn’t negatively impact the cholesterol in their blood. About 25% of people are sensitive to dietary cholesterol and may have to change their diets to keep their blood lipids within a healthy range.

Some cholesterol is necessary for your body to function. It’s what cell membranes are made of, so it’s particularly important for people who are still growing. Most adults, on the other hand, don’t really need to worry about cholesterol since their bodies make enough on their own. This makes farmed salmon a better choice for people trying to watch their cholesterol intake. For the same 113-gram portions, wild salmon has 99 grams of cholesterol, while farmed salmon has 60.

The winner: Farmed salmon.

Calcium Content

Calcium is an essential mineral for healthy bones, but it’s also important for heart rhythm, blood clotting, muscle contractions, and the functioning of key enzymes. It’s so important that, if you don’t eat enough of it, your body will start to cannibalize it from your own bones.

The best way to get calcium and other micronutrients is through the food that you eat. In this case, wild salmon beats farmed salmon hands (or fins) down. If you eat a 113-gram portion of wild salmon, you’ll be getting 39 milligrams of calcium, or about 4% of your daily recommended amount. The same portion of farmed salmon will only give you a quarter of that — 10 milligrams, or 1% of your daily recommended intake.

The winner: Wild salmon.

Iron Content

Iron is important for healthy blood. It’s what enables our red blood cells to transport oxygen. You can get it through supplements, but, like other micronutrients, it’s much better to get what you need from the foods that you eat.

Wild salmon has access to a wider variety of foods. On average, 113 grams of wild-caught salmon will contain about 1 milligram of iron, or 6% of the recommended daily intake. Farmed salmon only has 0.3 milligrams, or about 2%.

The winner: Wild salmon.

Omega Fatty Acids

Omega fatty acids are a huge part of the reason why salmon is so highly recommended as a healthy food. Salmon is a source of omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, but the trouble with omegas is that you need to strike the right balance. Too much omega 6 can be a contributing factor to inflammation, and people eating the typical western diet commonly consume far too much omega 6. Ideally, salmon helps maintain a good balance of fatty acids by contributing much-needed omega 3.

While farmed salmon is higher in fat than wild salmon overall, the kind of foods that they’re fed mean that this fat contains a lot of omega 6. Wild salmon might have less fat, but that fat has a much better balance of omega 3 to omega 6. That aside, both farmed and wild salmon provide healthy ratios of these fatty acids. If you’re eating like most people in the U.S., however, you might want to opt for wild caught salmon.

The winner: Wild salmon.

Is wild salmon better than farmed salmon? Overall, wild salmon has an edge over their farmed brethren. With that said, farmed salmon is generally much cheaper. If you can choose between sustainably caught wild salmon and farmed salmon, wild salmon may be a healthier choice. If you have to choose between affording farmed salmon or no salmon at all, then farmed salmon is still a good option.