Salmon is one of the most consumed fish in the world. It contains beneficial nutrients that makes it good for your health. But this will largely depend on the type of salmon at hand – wild or farmed.

Salmon is rich in heart-healthy fats – omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fats have been shown to reduce inflammatory responses, regulate the nervous system, and promote cellular functions, among other health benefits. However, the nutrition value of salmon may vary as they are not made equal. The type of salmon that floods markets today are not wild caught but bred on fish farms. This article explains the difference between wild-caught and farmed salmon and appropriateness of either of them on your health.

Wild Caught Salmon vs. Farmed Salmon

Wild salmon is harvested in their natural habitats such as lakes, rivers, and oceans. That being said, 50 percent of commercial salmon in the world today is harvested from fish farms. They are bred for human consumption using a method known as aquaculture. According to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization, fish farms will provide up to 70 percent of the world’s fish consumption, by the year 2030. Farmed salmon are larger because they are fed with foods high in protein and fat, than wild salmon which feeds only on organisms coexisting with them.

Difference In Nutritional Value

Farmed salmon are given high-protein high-fat processed fish feed, while wild salmon survives only on various invertebrates found in their natural environment. For this reason, wild and farmed salmon have great difference in their nutritional value. The difference is more noticeable in their fat content. For example, 113 grams of wild-caught salmon contains 22 g of protein, 5 g of fat which is equivalent to 8 percent of the Recommended Daily Value (RDV), 39 mg of calcium equivalent to 4 percent of the RDV, 1 mg of iron equivalent to 6 percent of the RDV, and 99 mg of cholesterol which is equivalent to 33 percent of the RDV. On the other hand, 113 grams of farmed salmon contains 23 g of protein, 15 g of fat equivalent to 19 percent of the RDV, 10 mg of calcium equivalent to 1 percent of the RDV, 0.3 mg of iron equivalent to 2 percent of the RDV, and 60 mg of cholesterol equivalent to 20 percent of the RDV. As you can see, wild salmon appears to be higher in natural minerals, like calcium and iron.

Content of The Polyunsaturated Fat

Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are the main types of polyunsaturated fats. Both of them have unique and important functions in your body. In fact, they are called essential fatty acids (EFAs) as they are highly needed in your diet. That said, they should be consumed in the right balance. Unfortunately, most people consume too much of omega-6 fats, which interferes with the balance between these two fatty acids. Research has shown that this can trigger increased inflammation and may play a role in the development of certain chronic conditions, like heart disease. Farmed salmon contain more fat than wild-caught salmon, of which a large portion is sourced from omega-6 fatty acids. The omega-3 to omega-6 ratio is higher salmon bred in farms than that caught in the wild. All in all, the both types of salmon have a healthy and well-balanced ratio of omega-3 to omega-6, which is enough to increase the levels of omega-3 in most people.

Contaminants In Farmed Salmon

Both types of salmon are contaminated with what they feed on and the water they swim in. Some studies have shown that farmed salmon contain higher amounts of contaminants than wild salmon. However, both wild and farmed salmon still contain dioxins and PCBs. These are synthetic compounds that had been used at one point for industrial and commercial purposes. It is true that both PCBs and dioxins may increase your risk of cancer, but the array of health benefits that both types of salmon provide are heavier than risks associated with small amounts of PCBs and dioxins. What’s more, the levels of contaminants in farmed have drastically dropped in recent years due to the strict regulations set by the Washington State Department of Health.

Mercury and Other Trace Minerals

Mercury is a heavy metal that has been linked to a number of adverse health conditions, both in young and old. Probably, you’ve heard about the connection between this metal and fish. One study found that the levels of mercury in salmon is lower than that of larger predators such as shark and swordfish. In fact, the Food and Drug Administration rates salmon as best in its list of lower-mercury seafoods. Other trace minerals such as arsenic is higher in farmed salmon than in wild salmon, which contain higher levels of cadmium, copper, and cobalt. Interestingly, these minerals are in very low levels that they are unlikely to raised health concerns. Noteworthy, if you are pregnant or breastfeeding and mercury intake worries you, talk with your doctor about the right amount of salmon and other seafood suitable for you.

Antibiotics In Wild Salmon

Farms used to breed salmon are often highly populated, which increases the risk of fish infection and disease. To keep them safe, farmers usually use antibiotics to fish feeds. There are only a few bodies of aquaculture that regulates antibiotic use, resulting to injudicious and irresponsible use – a problem that has been common in the aquaculture industry. Antibiotics are not fully absorbed or excreted by fish and their traces can be found in fish meat. Ingestion of trace antibiotics for a long time can lead to antibiotic resistance and hypersensitivity, as well as disrupting gut bacteria. Importantly, Canada and Norway, which are the world’s largest salmon producers are have effective regulatory bodies that have helped reduce their antibiotic use.


Salmon is one of the most nutritious and consumed fish in the world. Wild-caught salmon tends to have lower levels of contaminants, while farmed salmon may contain trace antibiotics. However, both wild and farmed salmon have the right ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids that may help reduce the risk of many chronic diseases.

Julia Davis

Mental health expert
MS, University of Latvia

I am deeply convinced that each patient needs a unique, individual approach. Therefore, I use different psychotherapy methods in my work. During my studies, I discovered an in-depth interest in people as a whole and the belief in the inseparability of mind and body, and the importance of emotional health in physical health. In my spare time, I enjoy reading (a big fan of thrillers) and going on hikes.

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