October 15, 2007

Numbers Game: Answer

A 2004 New York Times investigation (led by renowned food writer Marian Burros) of eight high-end New York City food specialty stores revealed that six of them were labeling farm-raised salmon as "wild".

This is a very troubling statistic, particularly because there are important reasons for choosing wild -- rather than farmed -- salmon whenever possible.

Salmon is touted as one of the best sources of Omega-3 fatty acids because it contains top quality ones known as EPA and DHA in high amounts.

Sea creatures aren’t just naturally born with lots of Omega-3 fatty acids.

Instead, they eat sea plants that produce this fat. Once consumed, fish store it in their fat tissue (which, PS, is why you do not get Omega 3's from a salmon skin sushi roll).

In the case of larger fish, they achieve this by eating smaller species that eat sea plants.

Here is the problem. There are different types of salmon.

On the one hand, you have the wild kind, caught in the ocean, where these salmon produce Omega 3’s in their bodies by eating the plant life under the sea.

You also have farmed salmon, wherein hundreds of these fish are crowded into aquatic feedlots.

Guess what? They aren’t being given sea plants to eat. Rather, they are fed grain (to fatten them up) and antibiotics (they are in such close quarters that they are very likely to get sick, so farmers throw antibiotics in the water as ‘insurance’).

Hence, the amount of Omega-3's they offer is lower than that of wild salmon's.

Additionally, the perfect ratio of Omega 3 to Omega 6's (another fat our body can not produce, and thus we need to get from the diet) found in wild salmon is unbalanced in the farmed counterparts.

Although Omega 6 fats are necessary, the United States diet is extremely high in them, and too low in Omega 3's. The ideal ratio should be 1:3 (Omega 3:Omega 6); we're currently at a 1:20 - 1:25 ratio!

It gets worse, I’m afraid. Wild salmon gets its beautiful pink hue from its diet. Farmed salmon? From pellets!

There is actually a patented chart called a “salmo fan” (pictured up top), which displays several shades of pink. The salmon farmer chooses the specific shade he wants his fish to have, drops some pellets into the water and, voila, wish becomes reality!

Essentially, farmed salmon are fed dye.

Don’t get me wrong – salmon is still a great source of protein, potassium, phosphorus, selenium, and vitamin B12 whether it’s farmed or not.

However, when it comes to the impressive Omega 3 profile of salmon (and other seafood), you can forget about it if your dinner is coming from a feedlot and not the ocean itself.

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