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Wild vs. Farmed Salmon: Does it matter?

Setting nets on a mud flat

Setting nets on a mud flat

In a word––yes. Here are just three of the many reasons why wild is better than farmed when it comes to salmon.  

There is a reason wild salmon looks so pretty. Did you know that in its natural state, farmed salmon is grey? The color you see on ice at the seafood counter was chosen from a swatch and achieved by artificially adding pigment to the chow pellets fed to farmed salmon in their crowded pens. Wild salmon is vibrantly colored due to carotenoids absorbed from a seafaring diet of pink krill. That ocean journey makes wild salmon into a beautifullean filet that has more protein and half the fat of farmed salmon. 

Wild salmon doesn’t just taste better, it’s better for us. Wouldn’t the higher fat content of farmed salmon be more of a good thing? Unfortunately, farmed salmon has less beneficial Omega-3 fats, and more saturated fat. To add insult to injury, aquafarming conditions also cause higher levels of contaminants like antibiotics, pesticides and cancer-causing PCBs in farmed salmon. According to the Cleveland Clinic, wild salmon is the winner, hands down, when it comes to our health. 

Wild salmon is better for the planet. Salmon are carnivoresso to the oil, wheat, corn and soy contained in farmed salmon chow, is added other less known but often over-harvested fish. It generally takes several pounds of feeder fish to produce one pound of farmed salmon, causing feeder fish to be depleted at an unsustainable and irresponsible pace. A scientifically-managed wild fishery, on the other hand, monitors the numbers of wild salmon making it past the fisherman to spawn. For example, the Alaska Department of Fish & Game opens and closes fishing tide by tide as needed to ensure that sufficient numbers of salmon are reproducing for the future salmon population to thrive.  

The wild salmon population is thriving. 2015, 2016 and 2017 have produced record harvests of wild Alaskan sockeye in Bristol Bay, Alaska. Protecting wild habitats and species is a better way, and it is working. 


Anna Echo-Hawk Sauder is the Lancaster and Mid-Atlantic community supported fishery director of Kwee-Jack Fish Co., a brother-sister collaboration to sustainably harvest and share wild Alaskan sockeye. For more information, call 717-842-0180, email or visit 

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