HIGHER FAT CONTENT
Farmed salmon has much higher fat content than wild salmon, because they are fed a high-fat diet designed to make them gain weight as fast as possible. This graph shows some of the data on fat in farmed vs wild salmon. Data is from the USDA. HERE
Wild and farmed salmon are very different in many ways, their lives, the content of their flesh, the risks to you and the environment.
In the picture below you can see the fat in farmed salmon. White stripes like this only occur in farmed salmon. This farmed Atlantic salmon was born in a tray, vaccinated and transferred to an ocean net pen. It swam in circles eating food pellets. It was likely treated for sea lice at least once during its life with a neurotoxin called Slice soaked into its food pellets. The pellets were made of crushed fish from global fisheries. Grains were added to the pellets to supplement the diminishing availability of wild fish ingredients. After 18 months in a net pen in the ocean, it was killed and shipped fresh to this sushi restaurant. While most fish has to be frozen before being served raw, farmed salmon is not one of these. They are exempt from this precaution. So this piece of sashimi came straight to the Vancouver sushi house I visited from a fish farm where 600,000 farmed salmon swam in circles through each other's waste. See CFIA Document 4.2.4
The wild sockeye salmon sashimi below has no white layers of fat. There is fat in this fish, but not enough to build up into white layers. This salmon was born in the gravel of a river and spent a year or more in a lake. It then swam 1,000s of km out to sea chasing fish and shrimp-type food all along the way, growing as it travelled. It escaped whales, sea lions and sharks, then swam back to the coast, where it was caught by a fisherman contributing to the BC economy. This is food of the highest quality.
NORWEGIAN PEDIATRICIAN WARNS US
In June 2013, a Norwegian pediatrician studying how nutrients pass from mothers to babies, risked her career to go public warning women they should avoid farmed salmon if they want healthy babies, because farmed salmon is so high in PCBs and dioxins.
Her concern is that the toxins in farmed salmon, as well as being carcinogenic, are so high they could interfere with the development of babies' brains.
Autism, smaller brains and nervous system disorders are associated with PCBs and dioxins.
What is so worrisome about this situation is that a woman begins accumulating these chemicals when she is just a little girl. Everytime she eats food high in PBCs and dioxins these chemicals stay in her body. Then up to 94% flush out while pregnant and nursing her first baby. This means the chain of events starts long before prenancy and can affect the next generation.
PCBs and dioxins are a global problem. They exist throughout the foodchain and when they enter a body they bind to the fat. The more fat, the more storage capacity for these toxins. When we eat foods with PCBs and dioxins in them, the toxins transfer to the fat in our bodies where they accumulate. They are carcinogenic, hormone disruptors, and reduce our immune system function. If you want to know more Google "PCB dioxin health"
When Dr. Monsen blew the whistle on farmed salmon, the Norwegian media began printing stories on the issue.
You can read online translations of these articles here: Norwegian Articles The majority of farmed salmon around the world are produced by Norwegian companies. Norwegian farmed salmon is grown in many regions of the world including British Columbia, Canada and Chile.
According to the leading newspapers in Norway, the Norwegian government apparently knew farmed salmon was a health risk, because another woman scientist, Claudette Bethune, told them in 2005. Hired by the Norwegian government as a seafood toxicologist, Claudette was alarmed by the high toxin levels she detected in farmed salmon feed. When government did not warn the public, she tried. She was called a traitor to Norway and fired. More reading on this.
The graph below reveals the extent of the problem with toxins in farmed salmon. The European Union permits exceptional levels of toxins in farmed salmon. 41.6 picograms of toxins per gram of fat allowed in farmed salmon is 7 - 32 times more than allowed in other comparable foods. When we eat chicken, pork or beef, the serving-size is similar to a meal of salmon. It is not that we only eat a teaspoon of salmon per meal. Graphs like this illustrate the importance of educating ourselves about the foods we buy in restaurants and markets, so we can decide on the risks we want to take. We do this increasingly as we look for organic and non-GMO foods for our families.
Please note the source data for salmon is provided in pg/g wet weight, while the other values were provided in pg/g fat. NIFES reports farmed salmon is 15.6% fat and so the conversion to pg/g fat = 41.6
Why is farmed salmon so contaminated? Two reasons.
- PCBs and dioxins exist throughout the foodchain. Farmed salmon eat pellets made of fish meal and grains that are soaked in fish oils. Since these toxins bind to fat, the oils in farmed salmon feed can contribute considerable toxin loads. Wild salmon do not eat rendered fish oils and so do not get this extra exposure.
- The second source of toxins in farmed salmon is the grain used to replace fish meal which is becoming too expensive as it becomes scarce. Endosulfan is a pesticide that many countries stopped using when the Stockholm Convention recommended a worldwide ban in 2010 due to its nasty impact on human health. Farm salmon feed companies, however, can buy grains from countries that are ignoring this ban. Perhaps this grain is cheaper. While Norway is a forward-thinking nation in some ways, in 2013 they actually lobbied the European Union to allow 10 times more endosulfan in farmed salmon feed. It appears from the EU decision document that this was done to make farmed salmon feed cheaper and salmon farming more profitable. (See section 6). Kind of shocking, what about the babies of moms eating this?
Here is a list of scientific papers and popular articles on the toxins in farmed salmon: Download
MARKETING VS SCIENCE - OPPOSITE STATEMENTS
The NORGE website used by Norway to promote their seafood shows a little girl feeding seafood to a man with the caption "Fish helps to better connect your brain cells." The scientific paper on the right says the opposite, warning that the PCBs, that we know are high in farmed salmon, "scramble" developing brains.
This is serious. If our children's brains don't develop normally, their memories, intelligence and abilities to function are impaired. The Norge website is promoting farmed salmon. The picture to the right shows an Atlantic salmon with a flattened tail - which only farmed salmon have. I cannot find anywhere on this site warnings are passed on to women.
The BC Salmon Farmers also use pictures of children to sell farmed salmon. The salmon farming industry in BC is 98% Norwegian-owned.
COLOR-ADDED SO IT LOOKS LIKE SALMON
Color additives are fed to farmed salmon to turn the flesh any shade of pink/orange desired by the company. Without this additive farmed salmon flesh is grey. The SalmoFan, is used like paint swatches. FYI farmed salmon is increasingly orange - not sure why.
Wild salmon turn pink and red naturally from the food they catch in the ocean.
BUT DON'T WE NEED SALMON FARMS TO FEED THE WORLD?
No. If we were serious about feeding the world, we would eat lower down on the foodchain which requires less fish and would protect us from harmful toxin loads. Catching wild fish, processing them into pellets, transporting them to salmon farms, throwing the pellets into the water, and then pulling out less fish and processing them is not helping feed the world. See the National Geographic Seafood Decision Guide images below.
Farmed salmon are rated "AVOID" by National Geographic because they are a "Top Predator," like feeding chickens to wolves and eating the wolves - which would not make sense either. Aquaculture may well have an important role in feeding us, but not by farming salmon. Shellfish, fish that eat plants, and algae are more viable forms of aquaculture.
A short film on where farmed salmon feed comes from.
WILD SALMON ARE VANISHING EVERYWHERE THERE ARE SALMON FARMS
Many people seem to think they are protecting wild salmon by eating farmed salmon. There is even an ad by the industry attempting to convince people to think they are doing something good for the environment by eating farmed salmon. However, the weight of scientific evidence does not support this claim.
Wild salmon have gone into exceptional decline wherever there are salmon farms. Salmon farms break the natural laws that used to keep disease under control. Holding schools of up to 1 million salmon stationary allows viruses, bacteria and parasites to mutate, multiply and pour out into the ocean at levels wild salmon have never experienced. These are feedots where no one shovels the manure, it all falls through the nets into wild salmon habitat. Tons per day, per farm. Salmon farms belong in quarantine, just like chicken farms.
The black line tracks wild salmon populations that have to swim through salmon farm effluent to get to sea. They are in steep decline. The green line represents wild salmon that never see a salmon farm. They are doing fine. The red line is the global growth of salmon farming.
This relationship is disturbing. Are salmon farms harming wild salmon? If so their contribution to feeding the world is even smaller, using up small fish to make feed and harming wild salmon fisheries? A Canadian government scientist testified that a salmon farm can release 65 billion infectious viral particles per hour (Dr. Kyle Garver, Cohen Commission 2011 into decline of Fraser sockeye). Wild have never experienced disease on this level. It would be like sending your child through a tuberculosis ward on her way to school. BAD idea! It is not surprising the wild salmon swimming through farmed salmon waste are declining.
The evidence is similar for Canada's biggest wild salmon run, the Fraser sockeye.
WHALES NEED WILD SALMON
Wild salmon feed over 100 species in British Columbia, Canada. They are critical to whales, they support the towns and people of the coast, they built the rich soil of the river valleys, they feed the trees that make the oxygen we breath.
I hope this guide to safe salmon has provided you with useful information to you and your family. You can find me on Facebook, where we can continue this conversation.
Here are a few of the many sites warning us about the risks of eating farmed salmon: