farmed vs wild salmon
Julie Hambleton
Julie Hambleton
May 23, 2024 ·  7 min read

Farmed Vs Wild Salmon: Which is Better?

When it comes to choosing between farmed and wild salmon, the decision can be challenging due to various factors that influence the nutritional value, environmental impact, and overall quality of the fish. Both farmed and wild salmon offer health benefits such as being excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids, which play a crucial role in heart health, brain development, and overall well-being. This article aims to delve into the debate over farmed vs. wild salmon to provide insights into which option may be better for consumers.

Wild Caught vs Farmed Salmon: What Are the Differences?

A school of salmon swimming in the clear water, Australia
Source: Shutterstock

When comparing wild and farmed salmon, there are several key differences to consider. For starters, wild salmon is salmon that was born and lived in its native environment – rivers, oceans, etc. Farmed salmon, rather, is one that has been bred and lives in a controlled environment, usually in cages or tanks of some sort. This is just the tip of the iceberg of differences between the two. One significant distinction lies in their nutritional value. Wild salmon, which feed on various invertebrates, tends to have higher amounts of natural minerals such as calcium and iron compared to farmed salmon, which are fed processed fish feed. Additionally, the fat content differs between the two types, with farmed salmon containing higher levels of fat. However, it’s worth noting that farmed salmon has a higher omega-6 fatty acid content, while wild salmon has a better omega-3 to omega-6 ratio. Despite these variations, both types of salmon still offer important health benefits and can be included as part of a nutritious diet. (1)

Another aspect to consider is the potential presence of contaminants. Both wild and farmed salmon can ingest contaminants from their environment and food sources. However, Healthline reports that stricter rules on feed ingredients have reduced contaminant levels in farmed salmon in recent years. While farmed salmon may contain more contaminants than wild salmon, the health benefits of consuming salmon usually outweigh the small risks associated with these contaminants. It’s important to note that the levels of mercury and other trace metals found in both wild and farmed salmon are generally considered safe when consumed in moderation. Ultimately, the choice between wild and farmed salmon may depend on individual preferences, such as nutritional priorities and environmental concerns.

Read More: World’s First 3D-Printed Vegan Salmon Arrives in Grocery Stores – Here’s What You Should Know.

The Controversy

Aquaculture salmon farm with fish cages in calm sea, aerial view
Source: Shutterstock

As you are probably aware, the wild vs farmed salmon debate has been going on for quite some time and is rather controversial. Your stance on the controversy probably depends on a number of factors. These tend to fall into three main categories: Nutritional content, environmental concerns, and potential for contamination. Let’s take a closer look at each of these so that you can decide for yourself which is right for you. (2)

Nutritional Value

Fish farm worker holds scoop of pelleted feed for feeding rainbow trout and salmon.
Source: Shutterstock

One of the key reasons for including salmon in your diet is the high content of omega-3 fatty acids. Wild salmon obtain omega-3s from their natural diet of algae and plankton, while farmed salmon’s omega-3 content is influenced by the feed they are given, which may include plant-based ingredients and fishmeal. Despite concerns about contaminants in early studies, current research indicates that both farmed and wild salmon are safe to consume. Farmed salmon, due to their higher fat content, may contain as many omega-3 fatty acids as wild salmon.

Environmental Concerns

A return from industrial fishing on a harbour quay
Source: Shutterstock

Environmental concerns about wild vs farmed salmon also tend to fall into buckets. While overfishing is the most talked about by the general public, there are various other concerns for wild and farmed salmon.

The Potential Disease Transfer: The import of Atlantic salmon eggs for farming purposes raised concerns about potential disease transfer to wild stocks. Measures such as restrictions on egg importation, testing of broodstock fish, and disinfection aim to minimize disease transmission. The issue of disease is also closely tied to farming practices, where high stocking densities can exacerbate outbreaks.

Escapes: Another environmental concern is the potential escape of farmed Atlantic salmon into the wild, which could impact native fish populations. While escaped farmed salmon have been found in some rivers, self-reproducing populations have not been observed in Washington State waters. The interaction between escaped Atlantic salmon and native Pacific species, although minimal, remains a topic of concern.

Pollution and Sea Lice: Pollution from salmon net pens, sea lice infestations, and concerns about the impact on benthic habitats are issues associated with salmon farming. Regulations in place require monitoring of sea lice levels in farmed salmon and prompt treatment if necessary.

Overfishing: Overfishing is a concern in many parts of the world, including the Pacific Northwest. The decline of wild salmon populations has been attributed to overfishing, habitat destruction and pollution. The Pacific Salmon Commission sets limits on the number of fish that can be caught each year. The commission also sets limits on the size of fish that can be caught, which helps ensure that there are enough adults to reproduce. (3)

Read More: Keep Your Dogs Away From The Tempting Ocean This Summer. Saltwater Could Be Lethal To Them


Radioactively contaminated fish. nuclear electric power waste water container radioactive to fish.  Japan starts discharging treated water into the sea. Japan nuclear power plant into the ocean.
Source: Shutterstock

Early studies raised concerns about the presence of PCBs and other contaminants in farmed salmon compared to wild salmon. However, follow-up research indicates that both types of salmon have low levels of contaminants. Current farming practices, such as strict rules on feed ingredients and the use of new feeds with reduced fishmeal, have contributed to lower contaminant levels in farmed salmon. (4)

How To Know Your Salmon is Safe

Salmon steak on ice. Chilled fish on the counter. Ice and salmon. Salmon fillet.
Source: Shutterstock

Determining the safety of salmon, whether wild or farmed, is crucial to ensure a healthy and informed choice. While it is true that both types of salmon have been found to contain trace amounts of contaminants like mercury, it is essential to understand that these levels are usually well within safe limits for regular consumption. However, it is still important to know how to tell if your salmon is safe. The first step is to source your salmon from reputable sources, whether you’re purchasing it from a grocery store or a fish market. Look for labels or information that indicate wild or farmed origin, as well as any certifications for sustainable and responsible farming practices.

To further ensure the safety of your salmon, it is wise to vary your seafood consumption and not rely solely on salmon as your seafood choice. This approach helps reduce any potential exposure to contaminants. Additionally, following local guidelines and advisories regarding seafood safety can provide valuable information specific to your region. Lastly, when it comes to cooking your salmon, proper cooking techniques like grilling, baking, or broiling can aid in reducing any potential risks associated with contaminants. Overall, by practicing moderation, sourcing from reputable channels, and adhering to local advisories, you can enjoy the health benefits of salmon while minimizing any potential risks.

The Bottom Line

Grilled baked roasted cooked fresh fish Salmon on the plate, very delisious, juicy, macro, close-up, healthy food with omega 3. tasty dish for dinner
Source: Shutterstock

In conclusion, both farmed and wild salmon offer significant health benefits and are considered safe for consumption. While environmental concerns associated with salmon farming exist, regulatory measures are in place to mitigate potential risks. Consumers can choose between farmed and wild salmon based on personal preferences, availability, and sustainability practices.

To ensure a balanced intake of omega-3 fatty acids and minimize exposure to contaminants, it is recommended that individuals include salmon in their diet, opt for cooking methods that reduce fat content, and refer to guidelines for selecting fish with low contaminant levels.

Ultimately, whether farmed or wild salmon is better depends on individual priorities, such as environmental impact, nutritional value, and personal preferences. Regular consumption of salmon, regardless of the source, can contribute to a healthy and balanced diet. For additional information and resources on farmed versus wild salmon, readers can refer to reputable sources such as scientific studies and regulatory bodies mentioned in this article.

Perfect Parchment-Baked Salmon


Salmon is one of the perfect superfoods if you cook it just right. If you go too long, it’s no Bueno. This
recipe takes the guesswork out, so it’s a can’t-miss way to get your omega-3s.

Serves: 2
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 18 minutes


  • 2 center-cut wild salmon fillets (8 ounces each)
  • 1 teaspoon coconut oil
  • Sea salt, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon grass-fed unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh herbs (such as chives, parsley, or dill)
  • Lemon wedges, for serving


  1. Preheat the oven to 320°F.
  2. Place the salmon on a piece of parchment paper on a baking sheet. Rub the fillets with Brain Octane oil, season with sea salt, and top with the butter.
  3. Wrap the parchment around the fish, folding seams and tucking them to ensure steam does not escape.
  4. Bake until fish is medium-rare, about 18 minutes. Sprinkle with the herbs and a squeeze of lemon.
  5. Enjoy!

Read More: The Atlantic Ocean Could Be Swallowed by a Terrifying ‘Ring of Fire’


  1. What’s The Difference Between Farmed Vs Wild Caught Salmon?IFL Science. Mady Chapman. January 17, 2024
  2. Farmed Salmon vs. Wild Salmon.” DOH
  3. ABOUT SALMON FARMING.” Global Salmon Initiative
  4. An Update on the Content of Fatty Acids, Dioxins, PCBs and Heavy Metals in Farmed, Escaped and Wild Atlantic Salmon (Salmo salar L.) in Norway.” Pubmed. Ida-Johanne Jensen, Karl-Erik Eilertsen, Carina Helen Almli Otnæs, Hanne K Mæhre, Edel Oddny Elvevoll. December 2020.