Wild salmon versus farmed salmon: Which is healthier?

While both wild and farmed salmon are generally healthy options, the determining factor lies in how you want to prepare your salmon.
While both wild and farmed salmon are generally healthy options, the determining factor lies in how you want to prepare your salmon.PHOTO: THE NEW PAPER FILE

(SHAPE) - It is often assumed that wild seafood is healthier because it comes from natural sources, while farmed seafood contains parasites and genetically modified organisms (GMOs). But that is not the case, according to Mr Jon Erik Steenslid, regional director of the Norwegian Seafood Council of Southeast Asia. We speak to the seafood expert to reveal some surprising facts about farmed salmon. 

1. Farmed salmon contains fewer parasites than wild salmon.

Contrary to popular belief, wild salmon actually contains more contaminants than farmed salmon. This is largely due to its diet, says Mr Steenslid, as wild salmon can easily contract parasites from its prey. On the other hand, parasites can be kept to a minimum among farmed salmon as breeders are in control of what goes into its diet. For instance, farmed Norwegian salmon is fed with only manufactured feed that does not contain traces of parasites.

2. Farmed salmon is fresher than wild salmon.

Yes, farmed salmon is fresher as it is available all year around. According to Mr Steenslid, the availability and quality of wild salmon are seasonal, which is why it is often supplied to the market as frozen products.

On the other hand, farmed salmon is available fresh and the quality can be controlled. In fact, most of the fresh salmon sold in Singapore supermarkets and restaurants are farmed, he says. 

3. Farmed salmon does not always contain GMOs.

If you are worried about genetically modified organisms in farmed salmon, opt for Norwegian salmon. GMOs are not allowed in Norway, so even the feed for the salmon is not genetically modified, says Mr Steenslid. If you are unsure about where the salmon is from, you can check with the counter staff or look for the “Seafood From Norway” logo.

4. Farmed salmon is usually bred in clean and controlled conditions.

According to Mr Steenslid, farmed salmon is given feed with clean ingredients. But there is no control over these factors when it comes to wild salmon. According to a study published in the journal Environmental Research, contaminant levels of dioxins, mercury and other substances were higher in wild salmon than in farmed salmon.

5. Farmed salmon is mostly raised in spacious environments.

Not all farmed salmon are raised in overcrowded environments. The Norwegian regulations state that water should take up 97.5 per cent of space in a 200m by 50m fish pen, so that the salmon have ample room to swim.

The verdict? While both wild and farmed salmon are generally healthy options, the determining factor lies in how you want to prepare your salmon.

Mr Steenslid recommends opting for farmed salmon if you plan to have it raw, as farmed salmon contains fewer parasites than wild salmon. Furthermore, farmed salmon is generally juicer compared with wild salmon due to its higher healthy fat content.