Why You Should Avoid Farm-Raised Salmon + Garlic & Rosemary Baked Salmon
Salmon taking sun-less tanning pills and teeming with lice?? If that sounds like something out of a weird nature documentary or sci-fi magazine, I thought so too. Actually, it’s real. And you might be eating that salmon if you’re not careful about where your salmon comes from (source).
Your Average Grocery Store Salmon
Did you know over 80% of the salmon eaten in the U.S. is farm-raised? This overwhelming majority is not without consequences — for your body, the fishes’ bodies, and the environment.
Your average grocery store farmed salmon is full of contaminants. Worth mentioning are:
Dioxins: Dioxins are highly toxic compounds produced as a by-product in some manufacturing processes, notably herbicide production and paper-bleaching. They are not created intentionally, but rather, are created inadvertently by several human processes, including municipal waste incineration and burning fuels like wood and coal. While the EPA and U.S. industries have been working to reduce dioxin levels, the problem is that dioxins break down so slowly that dioxins of the past will continue releasing into the environment many years from now (source).
The fact that dioxins are so prevalent means that every person on earth today has some level of dioxins in their bodies. Frequency and amount of time exposed determines what level of effect dioxins are having on each individual’s health. One of the greatest concerns to our health as a result of dioxins is a skin condition known as chloracne. This disease presents with lesions and/or cysts on the neck, face, trunk, and even genitals. The only cause of this disease is repeated or long-term exposure to chlorinated chemicals, the most potent of which are dioxins (source).
Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs): Despite being banned from use in the U.S. in 1976, farmed salmon can contain up to 40 times more of this cancer-causing contaminant, according to the Environmental Working Group (source). Like most other contaminants, salmon are exposed to PCBs in their food.
If farmed salmon with the average PCB level found in this study were caught in the wild, EPA advice would restrict consumption to no more than one meal a month. But because farmed salmon are bought, not caught, their consumption is not restricted in any way. This is because the EPA sets health guidance levels for PCBs in wild-caught salmon, and its standards, which were updated in 1999 to reflect the most recent peer-reviewed science, are 500 times more protective than the PCB limits applied by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to commercially-sold fish. The FDA has not updated its PCB health limit for commercial seafood since it was originally issued in 1984. In the intervening two decades new scientific research has shown that the PCBs that build up in fish and people are more potent cancer-causing agents than originally believed, and that they present other health risks as well, in particular neurodevelopmental risks to unborn children from maternal consumption of PCB-contaminated fish.
How are the farmed fish exposed to these harmful chemicals? It’s in their food. The “fish meal” that farmed salmon (and other farmed fish) are fed is made of ground fish and fish oil from a small number of ocean species. These species accumulate toxins in their bodies from agricultural and industrial run-off as it flows into our seas. Farmed salmon don’t have options when it comes to what they eat. This fish meal is their only source of food, whereas wild salmon eat a varied diet (source).
Artificial Coloring: Salmon’s flesh is naturally a very dark pinkish red. This beautiful color comes from their natural diet of krill and plankton, which farmed salmon do not get. To make farmed salmon appetizing to the eye, canthaxanthin is added to their food — otherwise, their flesh would be a very unappetizing gray. This carotene has been linked to human eye defects and retinal damage (source). It is now required for stores to label any farmed salmon to which coloring has been added.
Antibiotics and Anti-parasitics: Because farmed salmon are raised in overcrowded pens, disease and sea lice among them are constant. To combat this growing problem, antibiotics and anti-parasitics are being added to their fish meal. Sadly, if you’re eating farmed salmon, you are probably also consuming any number of added drugs and chemicals since it is not required for companies to label the salmon which have had these antibiotics and anti-parasitics added to their feed (source).
Commercial fish farming has the potential to be devastating for wild fish populations. The way in which these fish are raised is unsustainable for the fish and the ocean and harmful to humans, the environment, and the wild salmon populations. Because farmed salmon aren’t raised in land-locked pens outside the ocean, it is impossible to keep the food, antibiotics, anti-parasitics, and chemicals out of the oceans — and impossible to prevent wild-caught salmon from exposure to these substances. Farmed salmon that escape their pens intermingle with the wild populations, breeding with them and tainting the populations, reducing the quality and health of the species as a whole.
There is also the danger of the FDA approving a new-fangled genetically-modified salmon. If this happens, the risks associated with the GMO fish escaping their pens is even greater. It isn’t just the fish’s DNA that changes when they are genetically modified; humans’ DNA also changes when we consume GMO products (source), which is why you should avoid eating GMO foods at all costs!
If GMO salmon begin mating with wild salmon, there is no end to the consequences. Since the U.S. won’t pass GMO labeling laws, it is unlikely that you would even know you were consuming this “transgenic” fish — the first animal of its kind under consideration to be introduced into our food supply (source).
For more information on the differences between farmed and wild salmon, as well as more concerns to our health and the environment because of salmon farming, check out this article. Several sources I found recommend limiting consumption of farmed salmon to one-half to no more than one serving PER MONTH, if at all. It’s that bad for you!
I hope you’re convinced that that cheaper, farmed, grocery store salmon actually comes with a pretty high price tag.
Check Your Source
Until more stringent regulations are placed upon salmon farms, you should be very particular about where your salmon comes from. If you’re not living in wild salmon territory, buying directly from the fisherman may not be an option for you, but that doesn’t mean you should have to go without this amazingly beneficial and sacred food.
- Avoid ordering salmon when eating out. Only smaller, very high-end, independently owned restaurants are likely to serve wild-caught fish. Chain restaurants don’t care about the source of their ingredients; they’re just trying to find a large amount of food at a low cost to yield more company profits. Even if it says “wild” or “wild-caught” on the menu, it’s probably too good to be true. If you do decide to take the risk, pay close attention to the color of your fish when your order comes out. If it’s a very pale pink, it’s not wild. Wild-caught salmon will still retain much of it’s dark pink-red coloring, even after cooking.
- Surprisingly, buy frozen wild salmon instead of the fresh fish at the supermarket fish counter. This reduces the risk of the grocer mixing up the fish as it is unloaded. And frozen salmon is much less expensive than the fresh fish at the counter.
- Look for labeling that denotes sustainability, non-GMO, and wild-caught standards, as well where the fish are from. If the label tells you the fish is from Chile, Norway, the Faroe Islands, or Scotland, there’s a good chance it’s farmed. But salmon is also extensively farmed in the United States, so again, TRUST your source.
- Additionally, read the label very closely for the fine print. It is required for farmed salmon that have been fed carotenes for color to be labeled as such. If the label says “Color Added”, it’s definitely farmed salmon.
- Don’t buy fresh salmon in the off-season — from November to March. Buy it frozen or fresh only from a trusted source, such as Vital Farms or U.S. Wellness Meats.
- Opt for canned wild salmon. This is a very economical way to get the benefits of this healthful fish. Read your labels, and find a brand that is sustainably fished.
We LOVE our salmon!
We try to eat wild-caught salmon once a week because the nutrient density of wild salmon is out of this world! When I can’t get wild frozen salmon filets, I choose canned wild salmon and make delicious grain-free salmon croquettes.
Today, I want to share one of my favorite recipes for salmon filets. You can use this recipe on fresh or frozen salmon that has been thawed. It’s also one of my go-to recipes when I need to get dinner on the table fast, as it takes less than 30 minutes from start to finish!
Here’s what you need:
- 4 (4-6 ounce) portions of skin-on, boneless, wild-caught salmon
- 4 Tablespoons melted butter or ghee
- 2 sprigs fresh rosemary, chopped
- 6 cloves garlic, minced (A garlic press makes this so easy!)
- sea salt and pepper to taste
- lemon wedges, for serving
Here’s how to do it:
- Preheat your oven to 375 degrees and grease the bottom of a glass dish with butter or ghee.
- Combine melted butter or ghee, rosemary, and garlic in a small ramekin or bowl and mix well.
- Sprinkle salmon filets with sea salt and pepper and place them in the glass dish.
- Spread the ghee/garlic/rosemary mixture over the filets, dividing equally between all the pieces of fish. Use all of this mixture — you want them to be really covered.
- Bake for 15 minutes. Serve immediately with lemon wedges on the side.