In 2013, salmon surpassed tuna as America’s most popular fish. To keep up with demand, grocery stores stock salmon—both wild and farmed—sourced from all over the planet.
When it comes to flavor, wild salmon is where it’s at. It also packs less saturated fat than farmed. While some fisheries, like those in Alaska, are managed to ensure the plentiful return of wild fish in the future, in other places like the Pacific Northwest, wild salmon populations are often at risk. It’s not always possible to tell what waters salmon were fished from, so look for the blue sticker from the Marine Stewardship Council, which certifies that the fish was caught sustainably.
Most of the salmon consumed in the United States is farmed Atlantic salmon, a fast-growing species. These commonly live in small pens and are fed pellets containing fish oil, fish meal, plants, essential nutrients, and sometimes carotenoids, which give them the pink flesh that wild salmon acquire by eating krill. After many years of poor environmental practices, new aquaculture systems are being established by the Aquaculture Stewardship Council. Its labeling system ensures that farms adhere to specific requirements for feed, clean sea beds, and minimal impact to the environment and native salmon. Some grocers, such as Whole Foods, also offer a “responsibly farmed” third-party rating system that guarantees that farmed salmon was raised in low-density pens, using natural pigments and no antibiotics or growth hormones.