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Finding omega-3 fats in fish: Farmed versus wild

December 23, 2015

About the Author

photo of Julie Corliss

Julie Corliss, Executive Editor, Harvard Heart Letter

Julie Corliss is the executive editor of the Harvard Heart Letter. Before working at Harvard, she was a medical writer and editor at HealthNews, a consumer newsletter affiliated with The New England Journal of Medicine. She … See Full Bio
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SAP APO Online Training classes
December 29, 2015

nice article

Chris Iorio R.Ph.
December 24, 2015

I work at one of the largest suppliers of oils into the North American nutritional supplement industry. We offer both Wild Alaskan Salmon Oil and have in the past offered Farm Raised Salmon Oil. We had to discontinue the farm raised material in 2014 because the total level of EPA and DHA had dropped to 4-6%, Wild Alaskan Salmon Oil is more in the range of 20-25%. Its also important to note that the level of environmental contaminants like heavy metals and organic contaminants like PCBs are significantly higher in farm raised salmon oil vs wild salmon oil, they can be about 2-3 times higher. We can purify the fish oil via treatment with activated carbon and distillation, but you can’t do that with the meat. The study says that the farm raised salmon has higher fat content vs the wild, which is one reason why a consumers will have higher exposure to all oil soluble contaminants like PCBs with farm vs wild, so not only are the levels higher in the farm material but you eat more of it. Also this likely means that you will consume more calories, saturated fat and calories per serving. The study says that the level of omega-3 is higher in the farm vs the wild salmon. Unless the fat content in the farm vs wild material is much much higher I don’t see how the levels of EPA and DHA could be higher in the farm vs the wild. One thing we did see is that the level of ALA which is a vegetable form of omega-3 found in vegetable oils like canola(rapeseed) and flax was much higher in the farmed salmon oil, it was something like 10-15%. This is most likely coming from the feed they give to farm raised fish. ALA needs to be converted to the animal form (in the body) such as EPA or DHA. So ALA is an inferior form of omega-3 fatty acids. But this might explain why the study thinks the levels are not so different, but ALA is not equal to EPA or DHA so the levels are very different. So in conclusion I’m in the fish oil industry and I have concluded that farm raised salmon is significantly inferior to wild salmon. But with that said I still think farmed salmon is an ok meat/protein source, certainly better that processed meats but from all I have seen wild is superior to farm raised salmon. But just to be clear this is mostly based on my experience testing the oils from those fish not the fish/meat.

Chris Iorio R.Ph.
Jedwards International Inc

SAP APO Online Training
December 24, 2015

Simply superb…

Chris Jones
December 23, 2015

Great article as I had wondered that myself. I always paid for the more expensive Salmon but at-least now I can start buying the farm raised one’s instead.

I see a new opportunity for the Salmon farmers to market is the grade of pellets that the fish are feed. This sounds to be a important part in determining the fish oil content.

Chris Jones
Raw Burn Diet

John Ross
December 23, 2015

Julie, please don’t eat wild Atlantic salmon! They are overfished at sea and the stocks are being badly depleted! Plus, climate change and warming rivers are also affecting salmon survival. See:

Melinda Hemmelgarn
December 23, 2015

My concerns about farm-raised salmon have to do with how they are raised and the sources of the feed in the fish pellets. My understanding is that they contain/ may contain GMO soy as well as chicken and/or feather meal. Plus, if the fish are raised in close quarters in pens, they may also receive anti-microbials to treat or prevent disease. Many issues relating to farmed fish outside nutrient content are explained here:

The FDA states that consumers can learn more about how GE farmed fish are raised by contacting the company but AquaBounty would not reveal the contents of their fish food when asked. So lack of transparency is a concern. There is still time to send comments to FDA re labeling.

Melinda Hemmelgarn, M.S., R.D.

Commenting has been closed for this post.

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