Wild fish and farmed fish are common terms, but few people know the true differences between the two. Wild fish are caught in their natural state, while farmed fish are hatched and raised at fisheries. Many people can notice the difference in taste between wild fish and farmed fish, but there is also a marked difference in the composition of the two types of fish, as well as the amount of nutritional elements that they contain. While eating farmed fish is better than not eating fish at all, numerous studies have found that wild fish is superior in taste and nutrition.The life of a wild caught fish is quite different than that of a farm raised fish. Wild fish usually migrate, possibly swimming thousands of miles across lakes, rivers, and oceans, during their lifetime, On the other hand, farm raised fish are kept in large tanks, where they undergo numerous man-made enhancements, which may make the fish farm run more efficiently, but negatively effect the nutritional profile of the fish. Unfortunately, many farm raised fish are exposed to more antibiotics and pesticides in their food, and some fish, such as farmed salmon, are given dye with their food to change the color of their flesh. Upon being eaten, these antibiotics, pesticides, and hormones are ingested by the person eating the farm raised fish.
In addition, since farm raised fish are not able to swim as freely as their wild counterparts they have a much higher fat content. A study conducted by the Food and Drug Administration found that farm raised salmon have a fat content of 30-35% by weight, which is 20% higher than the fact content of wild salmon. Fish has long been considered an excellent source of protein, but the higher fat levels in farmed fish diminishes some of the health benefits that fish are traditionally known for.
Fish is often recommended as part of a healthy diet due to the high levels of omega-3 fatty acids that it has. Omega-3s have numerous health benefits, with strong evidence that consuming high levels of omega-3s can help prevent serious health problems, such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Studies of wild and farmed fish have discovered that wild fish have substantially higher amounts of omega-3s than farmed fish. In wild coho salmon it was found that omega-3s made up 29% of the fat content in the wild fish studied, while omega-3s were only 19% of the fat content in farm raised coho.
The combination of information regarding the differences between farmed and wild fish clearly shows that wild fish is the better option. The higher level of nutrients and lower levels of contaminants in wild fish provide a healthy and delicious choice that should be eaten a few times each week for optimal health benefits. As a bonus, wild caught fish is more environmentally sustainable than farm raised fish, and does not present as many problems for aquatic environments as commercial fish farms.
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Exler, J., Nettleton, J., “Nutrients in Wild and Farmed Fish and Shellfish,” Journal of Food Science, vol. 57, no. 2, pp. 257-260, 1992.