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Investigation Finds Farm-Raised Atlantic Salmon Mislabeled as “Wild”

Coastal Conservation Association

An investigation finds farm-raised Atlantic Salmon commonly mislabeled as “wild-caught.”

The debate of farm-raised versus wild caught is something dear and near to all sportsmen. An investigative study by the ocean protection group Oceana reveals mislabeling practices of salmon.

43 percent of 82 salmon samples collected from restaurants and grocery stores were mislabeled. DNA testing confirmed that 69 percent of mislabeling consisted of farmed Atlantic salmon being sold as “wild-caught.”

Oceana consistently found mislabeled salmon everywhere tests were conducted, including 48 percent of samples in Virginia (includes Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Newport News, Williamsburg, Richmond and Fredericksburg), 45 percent in Washington, D.C., 38 percent in Chicago, and 37 percent in New York.

Salmon samples were considered to be mislabeled if they were described as being “wild,” “Alaskan” or “Pacific,” but DNA testing revealed them to be farmed Atlantic salmon. Also included in the criteria of mislabeling were samples labeled as a specific type of salmon, but tests revealed them to be different species of lower-valued fish.


The samples were collected during winter of 2013-2014, when wild salmon were not in season, showing a mislabeling rate of 43 percent, which differed greatly from Oceana’s nationwide survey in 2013, which found only seven percent of mislabeled salmon collected primarily in grocery stores at the peak of the 2012 commercial wild-salmon fishing season.

Restaurants were also found to be more likely to deceive consumers than grocery stores, with a mislabeling rate of 67 percent as opposed to 20 percent.

Wild-caught salmon is arguably superior to its farmed counterparts. The nutritional value of wild caught versus farmed salmon correlates the increased levels of omega-6 fatty acids, in spite of the fact that a common selling point is that the farm raised fish have higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids.

The trade-off for the insignificant increase of omega 3 versus nearly four to five times the amount of omega-6, twice the calories from fat and three to four times the saturated fat makes wild-caught the obviously more nutritious option, not to mention that it is higher in minerals like potassium, zinc and iron.

Authority Nutrition

Along with diet, there are concerns about contaminants that have been found in farm-raised fish. Polychlorinated biphenyls, dioxins, pesticides and toxic chemicals found in pvc-like dibutylin are among the list of contaminants found in “very controlled conditions.”

While fish farms claim that their systems reduce the number of environmental pollutants, the systems in which the fish are being raised are contaminated with these toxins as part of the controlled environment. This is true not only for salmon, but tilapia, mussels, shrimp and virtually all aquaculture farming.

Beyond the science, the ethics of factory farming have long been criticized. Outdoor enthusiasts who are fortunate enough to know the health benefits of venison versus beef and boar versus pork also know that there is a connection to the food web that exists from wild-harvesting.

A free-range environment of our food sources allows for them to move about, burn fat and consume a diverse, truly complete diet. Taking a life to nourish your own is something that most humans seem to have forgotten while filling their carts at the grocery store with the flesh of other creatures or browsing a restaurant menu.


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Investigation Finds Farm-Raised Atlantic Salmon Mislabeled as “Wild”