What Do Farmed Fish Eat?

Some people like fish. I’m one of them. Salmon, tuna, trout….you name it I’m probably going to eat it if it comes out of the water and has scales. Scallops and clams are great too but as the heading suggests, today we talk fish.

MMMMM ...salmon! I love this stuff.

MMMMM …salmon! I love this stuff.

Fishing has been a part of many cultures for a long time and in all parts of the world from the Arctic on down. Here in the Pacific Northwest we are known for salmon as well as many crustaceans. We don’t have the runs that Alaska is known for, but fresh salmon is a staple for those near the coast. It’s a little harder to get as you get over the mountains and head farther inland.

One day (I honestly don’t know when) someone had the idea to farm fish. We can farm land animals so why not aquatic animals as well? As it stands, according to the WWF, not the wrestlers but the World Wildlife Federation, farmed fish are currently about 70% of the market. That’s a lot of farming. So that begs the question….is it healthy?


So what do our farmed friends eat? According to a Costco representative,

Fish meals (herring, sardines, capelin), plant proteins (soybean meal, canola meal, wheat), fish oils (menhaden, herring or sardine), plant oils (soybean, canola, or corn), vitamins, minerals, carotenoid compound for red/orange color, binder (complex carbohydrates to hold diets together).

*GMO’s (genetically modified organisms) or steroids are never used for growth enhancements” [1]

It appears they have a steady diet of soy and canola and wheat which makes perfect sense seeing as how that is what they eat in their natural environment. Yup it’s always fun around the farms at my house when the salmon come grazing on wheat and soy. The farmers are constantly spraying for salmon because they can devastate the crops.

So not only are we being told to eat more soy but we are actually making our meat eat more soy too. And don’t forget the corn oil because that’s never been shown to be bad or processed. I’m sorry for the sarcasm here but c’mon! Why in the world are we feeding delicious salmon horrible man made garbage oils?

Salmon is also known for that oh so wonderful DHA and EPA which appear to have health benefits in the form of being essential fatty acids. We can’t make em so we have to eat em!

Do these garbage oils affect the quality of the meat? Lets take a look at the profiles.

Salmon fat







*approximately 3 ounces Data: USDA Nutrient Database [2]

Wild Atlantic Salmon will get you 27% of your fat from omega-3 from around 6.34 grams per 100 grams fish. That’s 1.7 grams omega 3. If you opt for salmon you get 17% omega 3 which turns out to be about 1.8 grams which is higher, but you also get more omega 6. The ratio isn’t quite the same as in the wild. You also eat less protein per serving according to the article.

Another issue with these fish is that they have lots of added dyes to make the meat that typical pink/orange color we are all so used to. The farmed meat is a grayish white, thus to get people to buy you have to add the coloring. Add dyes to the ingredients list of farmed fish.

Farmed salmon also have more PCB than their wild counterparts. [3] [4] It was actually recommended that you not eat more than 1-2 servings of farmed salmon/month.

Salmon from Alaska seem to be the least contaminated an also have the most nutritional bang for the buck, by a lot. [4]

To complicate things, many of the salmon labeled “wild” may have been initially raised in the farms and then released into the wild. Mark Sisson gives a great rule of thumb to help determine the real deal: Alaska wild over Washington/Oregon/California and Chinook over Sockeye.

Also of note, apparently canned salmon is 100% wild because the farmed doesn’t can as well. BUT, it doesn’t guarantee it either.

Salmon is a great meal. I don’t dispute it’s not inexpensive, but definitely a nutritious choice. If you can save up and afford the wild stuff, go for it. Be careful with the farmed stuff.






4.Hites, Ronald A., et al. “Global assessment of organic contaminants in farmed salmon.” Science 303.5655 (2004): 226-229.




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