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Farmed vs. Wild

September 6, 2012

I’m not much of a fish eater.  I eat fish, but I don’t love it.  I recently bought a big piece of trout… I was at Costco, in a hurry as usual,  and failed to notice that it was farm-raised until I was home.  Okay, this trout was the most delicious fish I’ve ever tasted.  Seriously.  Not just the best fish we’ve ever made at home, but the BEST FISH I’ve ever tasted.

Bummer.  I really try avoid eating farm-raised fish, for both nutritional and environmental reasons.  But then I started wondering, “What exactly are the nutritional differences between farm-raised and wild trout?”  I couldn’t help myself… it was that good.

Omega-3 fatty acids, the kind found in fish, may decrease triglycerides, lower blood pressure, reduce blood clotting, reduce inflammation, boost immunity, and reduce the risk of heart disease.  Those are six really good reasons to eat fish.  Ironically, even though farmed-raised fish has a higher fat content than its wild counterpart, it contains fewer Omega-3s.  Omega-6s and omega-3s compete for the same receptors in our bodies, which means the “net” omega-3 gain will be even less in farm-raised.  Some studies have shown that farmed salmon can be as high as 27% fat and contain 15% less protein.  Let's see... more calories from fat, fewer grams of protein, and fewer Omega-3s?  In which universe does that make sense?!

Pure Salmon Campaign published an easy-to-understand chart that compares the fat content of some popular wild versus farmed fish varieties, including my trout.  I was really surprised to learn the different varieties of fish vary so greatly.

Although the fat content difference between farmed and wild trout is fairly minimal, there's still the problem of the farmed "extras", things like dioxins, PCBs, fire retardants, pesticides (for sea lice - gross!), antibiotics, copper sulfate, and last but not least, canthaxanthin, the "pink" dye linked to human eye defects and retinal damage.

On second thought, the farm-raised trout was good, but it wasn't that good!

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