I have never been a huge fan of fish. The smell, the taste, the bones....Don't even get me started on the stuff at the grocery store with the skin still on and eyes still in. If I want it that fresh, I'll go sit on a boat myself and catch it. Even in that scenario you'd never find me filleting it out myself. There is only so far I will go for food, especially fish. Enter Wild Run Salmon. I discovered amazing company six years ago, toward the beginning of my Real Food Journey. Matt, the owner, was sampling his fish at an event, and I hesitantly tried it. If you have never tried truly wild salmon from Alaska, you are missing out. This fish had a delicate and rich flavor, highlighted by sea salt and lemon. No weird fishy taste or smell at all. Of course, being the meat hoarder I am (more on that later), I promptly bought 25#.
If you aren't aware, I know I wasn't, there aren't any universal labeling regulations for seafood, and even within the regulations that do exist, there aren't stiff penalties for non compliance. This means a lot of things for the consumer; most importantly that you might not be getting what you pay for. In 2006, Consumer Reports conducted tests on various salmon filets from a variety of grocery stores. They found that although most of the salmon labeled as Wild Caught was accurate during the summer when salmon season is at its height, during the winter months, more than half of the salmon samples labeled as Wild Caught, were actually farm raised. Did you know that farm raised salmon is grey unless coloring agents are added? It's true, and it has everything to do with diet. Wild salmon eat shrimp and and other crustaceans which give them their pink color. Ok, so we now have salmon that is grey if left uncolored, but what else makes farmed salmon so bad? Not unlike other mass produced meat, farmed salmon must be given antibiotics for different diseases that result from their crowded and unnatural living conditions. Their meat also testes higher in PCBs and dioxins. How about the nutrition? Unfortunately, there is no good news there either.
As you can see, there is a significant difference in the nutritional profile between the two fish. If you know me at all, you know that I'm a real fat lover. Wow, that did not come out the way I wanted it to but it's the truth. Around our house, we love butter, coconut oil, lard, tallow, ghee, egg yolks, bacon...ok I'll stop now; I'm getting hungry. As we can see above, farmed salmon has more than twice the amount of fat (and therefore more calories) than wild salmon. Look further down and you'll notice that the higher fat content is coming from Omega 6's that are six times the amount as the wild salmon. A proper ratio of Omega 6 to Omega 3 is debatable, with some studies suggesting that our ancestors thrived on a 1:1 ratio. When vegetable oils became mass produced, that ratio was significantly changed. Cris Kresser does a great job in explaining the roles of Omega 6 and Omega 3 fats if you want to delve deeper.
So what are we to do? Consumer Reports has a few good tips, but the best thing you can do is to try and get connected with the person who does the fishing. Local Catch offers some tips on how to find a fisherman in your area. As with sourcing anything else, this one degree of separation allows for both communication, transparency, and education. For our family, it has been a blessing to connect with Matt and Wild Run Salmon. My children love the salmon roe that Matt brings back, and after he showed my how to properly cook cod, I couldn't keep my freezer stocked! While all of this knowledge and the personal connection has certainly changed my appreciation of fish (I even ordered a filet at a restaurant that still had both the head and skin on it), I still have trouble taking live fish off the hook when we are out fishing. I guess that's just a different issue altogether. Nothing fishy about that.