Farm Raised Vs Wild Caught Fish

Just about everybody who listens to anything health related these days is focused on fish. They talk about all of the omega fatty acids and all of the benefits of fish like salmon. In fact, there is a lot of focus on the idea of wild salmon, because of all of the harmful chemicals found in farm raised fish. There are plenty of complaints about mercury supposedly, especially from celebrities such as Jeremy Piven it would seem. Yes, I heard that he claimed he got mercury poisoning from eating too much fish, just as he claimed to have grown moobs after eating too much tofu.

It’s not a bad idea to eat more fish. Certain fish contain more omega fatty acids as well as other good fats and nutrients without all of the bad fat you might find in some meats. There’s still that decision though. Do you have to have wild caught fish, or can you eat farm raised fish? It’s the growing argument of the organic market.

Many just assume that wild caught must be the way to go, but simplicity breeds stupidity as they say. There are plenty of environmental issues, oil spills, sustainability issues, and of course cost. There are quite a few more things to consider. They say the same thing about certain types of eggs, but then again, we have yet to see a major study on some of these eggs (that wasn’t produced by the company selling them) that shows any extra nutritional value. That’s with chickens who are fed special diets. We don’t know what fish are eating in the wild.

Is wild caught fish more nutritious?

In today’s market, that would be a resounding no. Farmed Atlantic salmon actually has more healthy omega 3 fatty acids than wild caught salmon. Beyond that though, there aren’t that many nutritional differences between the two. They are identical for rainbow trout in calories, protein, and in general other nutrients. There are negligible differences that you may see, such as wild trout having more calcium and iron. On the other hand, farmed trout have more vitamin A and selenium.

So are farm raised fish more poisonous and full of chemicals?

You would think supporters would have some kind of evidence to support this idea. There was a study that was published across the market in 2004 that found that farm raised fish had higher levels of PCBs, which are a potentially carcinogenic chemical. It was 10X higher in farmed fish! However, there have been other studies since that have shown that wild and farmed fish pretty much have the same levels of PCB.

Let’s not forget about mercury though. That is the big one that we are always talking about when it comes to salmon. Those fish that have the highest levels of mercury (swordfish, king mackarel, tilefish, shark, and tuna) are wild caught. On the other hand, those that are commonly farm raised such as catfish, tilapia, and salmon, have measurably low mercury levels.

Should we think about antibiotics in fish?

Again, you would think this would be a given. After all, we could give farm raised fish antibiotics to avoid outbreaks of disease versus how would that really happen with wild fish? US regulations actually prohibit the use of hormones or antibiotics in farm raised fish. They cannot use those to increase size or for that matter reproduction. Could fish farmers still get those chemicals in the water? You would think. However, according to Linda O’Dierno, an Outreach Specialist for the National Aquaculture Association, US regulations actually keep this under control in the US. This may be different in other countries.

Finally, are farm raised fish genetically modified?

We have gone down the list so far, and the things that you would think would be obvious really aren’t. There are some fish that have been rumored to be genetically modified. For example, striped bass with a zig zag in their stripes (which do exist). However, they are not actually genetically modified, unless you consider evolution to be genetic modification. They are a cross between striped bass and white bass created the old fashioned way.

In the US, there are no genetically modified fish for sale. If you want genetically modified fish in your fish tank (to glow), you can get them with genes from iridescent coral. These are not for food though.

Lastly, some think about the environmental impact of farmed fish.

Frankly, I’m more concerned about oil spills and the impact of the environment there. Apparently, I might be alone on that one, at least when it comes to people who are concerned over farmed fish. These issues come up just as much with wild fish as farmed fish. The boats and other tools used to catch wild fish do just as much (if not more) damage to the environment as fish farms. It does collateral damage across the board. On the other hand, fish farming can also be polluting and harm local flora and fauna, in part by introducing fish where they may not necessarily be natural. It depends partly on the farmer.

There are regulations in the US that require that water going out of fish farms be cleaner than it came in. It would depend on the area that you’re farming though in regards to those regulations.

Should you buy farm fish or wild fish?

It’s a toss up. For me, wild caught fish cost more, and there’s a lot of hype surrounding them. For those who believe the wild caught hype though, it may be worth it to pay more as something as a feel good function. Personally, I choose not to pay to feel like I’m getting healthier. I like proof, but again, that may just be me.


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