Food \ Healthy Skeptic

Wild Versus Farmed Fish: Which Is Healthier?

"I've heard farm-raised fish has contaminants so i try not to buy it."

"I always get wild salmon because I think it's just more wholesome and nutritious than the farm-raised kind."

It's an issue that has lots of people fishing for answers. On the one hand, we're told to eat fish for good health. On the other, we hear that fish may contain harmful contaminants.

Wild-caught fish‚—which can be pricey—is often touted as a safer, healthier option. But there are some facts you should know before getting reeled in.

A large study in 2004 found farm-raised salmon to have higher levels of chemicals such as PCBs, dioxins and pesticides than the wild-caught kind.

The reason is the fish's diet: Farmed salmon are fed fish meal and oil that can be tainted.

But experts disagree on whether the levels of chemicals pose a health risk to humans.

Plus, these levels may be declining because farms have begun to improve their fish food and some use environmentally-friendly farming methods.

Still, concerns remain about other farms because they can spread waste and disease into the ocean around them.

On the plus side, farmed salmon, like the wild kind, is relatively low in mercury. As for other types of farmed seafood‚ some, like catfish, clams, trout and tilapia from the U.S., tend to be relatively low in contaminants.

If you're looking to go wild, know that labels can lie. One survey found that most salmon samples marked "wild" from high-end markets were actually farmed.

So, what's a concerned consumer supposed to do? Well, for starters, eat a variety of fish, emphasizing smaller types, which tend to be less contaminated. Remove the skin before cooking to reduce contaminants.

And don't be afraid to grill your seller about where the fish is from.

Above all, don't let the controversies over farming scare you away from fish. Whether it's farmed or wild, the benefits of eating a couple of servings a week outweigh any risks for most of us. And that's no fish story.

This entry last modified on: January 31, 2013 5:25 PM

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About the Video

Is wild salmon better for you than farm-raised fish? Our Healthy Skeptic separates facts from fears about salmon and other farmed seafood.


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