In reality, there is not much difference between conventional farm-raised salmon and its organic counterpart. For instance:
- Both are raised in cages. Whereas conventional salmon cages contain up to 70,000 fish, organic cages contain up to 30,000.
- Organic fish farmers use coloring on juvenile fish (in the form of phaffia, a processed yeast that contains high levels of astaxanthin -- the same coloring used by conventional farmers).
- Organic farmers feed both natural and synthetic vitamins and minerals, along with “binders” such as wheat flour.
- Organic farmers use as many of the same chemicals as conventional farmers as they want. These include pesticide-based anti-sea lice treatments, which have been shown to adversely impact sea creatures and the marine ecosystem, veterinary medicines, and chlorine-based Chloramine-T and formalin, which are used to prevent fungal growth.
- Organic salmon are slaughtered at 2.5 years old, whereas conventional salmon are slaughtered at 2 years old. Wild salmon, however, can live for up to 16 years.
Farmed salmon typically have at least 10 times more cancer-causing persistent organic pollutants than their wild counterparts. And both the conventional and organic varieties are pumped full of antibiotics and chemicals to fend off parasites like sea lice, along with drugs and hormones to accelerate their growth and change reproductive behaviors.
All of these chemicals are necessary because farmed salmon in no way live a life similar to wild salmon. Often referred to as feedlots of the sea, farmed fish are raised in net-covered pens that are tethered offshore in the ocean. The fish are overcrowded, and fish waste and uneaten feed covers the sea floor beneath the pen (which is a disaster for other marine life).
The penned fish face many of the problems that occur in factory-farmed cattle, including rampant disease, parasites, and an over-use of pesticides and other chemicals.
Also as a result, the muscles of farmed fish do not develop in the same way as wild fish, their coloring is different because they’re not eating their natural diet (so they’re supplemented with artificial color), and they are prone to diseases and parasites because they are crammed into small pens with no room to swim around.
Wild baby salmon are also being infected with sea lice at rates almost 75 times higher than normal while passing through commercial salmon farms on their way to the ocean. Many wild populations of salmon have in fact been devastated by nearby commercial fish farms.
The health risks of farmed salmon have been known for years now, and this latest move to call some of them organic is complete deception.
You can now add organic farmed salmon to the list of organic foods that are a complete waste of your money (along with organic pasteurized milk and organic junk foods).
Why I Don’t Recommend Eating Most Wild Fish Either
The commonsense alternative to farmed fish would be to eat wild fish, but this once healthy food source is no longer safe.
Harmful toxins known as PCBs along with the neurotoxin mercury, are commonly found in wild salmon, as the water they’re swimming in is, sadly, polluted.
If you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, it is especially important that you avoid eating fish, as the toxins can be detrimental to the development of your unborn baby.
True wild salmon that is free from toxins is now a rarity. I have found one such variety of Alaskan wild red salmon that I confirmed via lab-testing to be safe. This is the only brand of salmon that I will eat, and I would encourage you to eat only wild fish that you can confirm has been lab-tested, and found to be safe.
The only other types of fish that I recommend eating are the smaller fish like sardines. Since small fish have shorter lives and are lower on the food chain, they have less time to concentrate toxins like mercury in their bodies. In fact, the smallest fish, like sardines, are often found to be mercury- and PCB- free.
Please understand that you can get the health benefits of eating fish without actually eating them if you take a high-quality krill oil. This marine oil is packed with omega-3 fats, the same ones found in salmon, but you don’t have to worry about toxins.
Krill are at the bottom of the food chain and have virtually no time to grow and acquire toxic heavy metals. Plus, they grow in some of the cleanest waters in the world, in the Antarctic.
Though I know many of you once enjoyed fish for the flavor and the health benefits, if you can’t confirm that it’s from a clean source, I believe the risks from eating it vastly outweigh the benefits.