Truth and Myths About Farmed Salmon

By Daniel Schmoock
Executive Chef, Mikuni Restaurant Group

Here at Mikuni, I am often asked if our salmon is farmed or wild. For the most part, we used farmed salmon from Vancouver, British Columbia.

These days, farmed salmon is receiving a lot of BAD publicity, so folks are asking: “Why does Mikuni sell FARMED salmon?”

Several years ago, Taro and I visited the salmon farms in Vancouver to learn the real truth! Here is what we learned during our trip, as well as some recent finding’s.


Myth: Farmed salmon contain less omega 3s than wild fish.

Truth: A recent study published by Environmental Science and Technology, (Vol. 39:8622) as well as reports from the USDA state that farmed salmon, on average, contain roughly two to three times more beneficial fatty acids than wild salmon, presumably because of the differences in the diet on which the fish are raised.

Antibiotics and hormones

Myth: Farmed salmon are fed huge amounts of antibiotics and hormones.

Truth: Salmon farming is the most strictly regulated agricultural industry in British Columbia. Here, the practice of using hormones in salmon farming is strictly prohibited. The widespread feeding of antibiotics to salmon is also prohibited. In fact, antibiotics are so rarely used, that any use of antibiotics must be prescribed/administered by veterinarian, and only to specific fish identified as in need. These fish are not allowed to be harvested for a period of time, and are fasted, and tested before being harvested.

PCBs (Polychlorinated biphenyls):

Myth: It is currently widely believed that farmed salmon contain higher amounts of PCBs than farmed salmon.

Truth: March 23, 2005 – A joint study by the National Health Institute of Quebec and Laval University shows both farmed salmon and farmed rainbow trout are as safe and nutritious as their wild counterparts containing levels of PCBs approximately 1-3% of recommended safe levels. In fact, according to the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans, wild Scottish salmon contains more than 3x the amount of PCBs of farmed B.C. salmon.


Myth: Farmed salmon are higher in mercury than wild salmon.

Truth: Both wild and farmed salmon are much lower in mercury than most other carnivorous ocean fish. A study by Fisheries and Oceans Canada/University of British Columbia showed that wild salmon contained levels of methyl mercury 3 xs higher than comparable farmed salmon. This study states that Canadian farmed salmon contains levels of mercury comparable to fruit, eggs, and honey.


Myth: Farmed salmon are injected with artificial color.

Truth: Wild salmon get their color via Carotenoids found naturally in food they eat such as krill. Since farmed salmon is fed a pellet based diet derived from plant and fish products, they do not naturally develop the “desired” pink/orange color. Therefore, synthetic carotenes such as canthaxanthin are supplemented in their diet, much like taking a vitamin c pill instead of eating a bunch of oranges.


Myth: Salmon farming is not “sustainable” and is irresponsible.

Truth: while salmon practices may be far from perfect, they are highly regulated and continue to improve. In contrast, wild salmon populations continue to dwindle as demand peaks. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, US demand for seafood is projected to increase by 30% to 50% this year. As evidenced by the 2008 collapse of the western US salmon fishery, I ask, “How can the wild salmon industry support this demand?”

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy wild salmon too! However, it is my opinion that supporting the responsible and sustainable farming of salmon is crucial to the future enjoyment of BOTH farmed and wild salmon for generations to come.

And as Taro recently asked me, “When was the last time anyone ate a wild chicken???”


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