Difference between Wild and Farmed Salmon

January 14, 2017 by Editorial Team

Often, trips to the supermarket pose a dilemma between two difficult choices: products at reasonable prices and products at double the price but with organic labels on them. Should you listen to your common sense or to your wallet? Let’s take the case of wild and farmed salmon and see how this pans out.


Wild salmon (left) and farmed salmon (right)

Wild salmon is salmon born and raised in their natural environment, caught by fishermen during salmon season. This is between May and October of every year in the Atlantic and in the North Pacific waters.

The meat of wild salmon is red or pink due to its diet of krill and shellfish. It is also lean as it has to swim upstream for mating season and it wears off its fat supplies while taking this journey.

Half a fillet of wild salmon has 281 calories, 13 grams of fat, 3.4 grams of omega-3 fatty acids and 341 grams of omega-6 fatty acids.

Farmed salmon is salmon raised in aquatic farms. Everything from the birth of the fish to its growth is controlled by man and it all happens in enormous free-float open-net cages the size of several football stadiums put together. Canada and Chile are the two main salmon producers in the world.

This type of fish is sedentary, given the fact that it has limited space to swim around in. Also, its meat is naturally white or grey, but additives put in their food give them the pinkish color we all know. These additives and other chemicals make the salmon fat.

Half a fillet of farmed salmon has 412 calories, 27 grams of fat, 4.2 grams of omega-3 fatty acids and 1944 grams of omega-6 fatty acids.


Wild salmon is fished during salmon season while farmed salmon is raised especially for the purpose of being harvested and sent to grocery stores and fish markets. A salmon in the wild will live a different kind of life compared to the one at a farm. For starters, only a few of the hatchlings born in the wild survive. At the farm, however, there is great interest to see them mature, grow and bring in money, so their chances are higher. They will receive treatment with antibiotics and vaccines for various kinds of illnesses. A salt water acclimatization process precedes the salmon’s release into the general population.

The meat of wild salmon is lean. During mating season, salmon have to swim upstream to lay their eggs. The journey uses up most of their fat resources. On the other hand, farmed salmon is bigger and has fattier meat on account of smaller swimming space and of salmon farmers wanting to produce more in terms of quantity.

The meat of wild salmon is naturally pink due to its diet of krill and shellfish. The salmon in farms do not have access to this type of food, and their meat is white-grey. Their food, however, contains color additives to make them look pink like wild salmon does.

As far as consumption goes, wild salmon is a far better choice. Half a fillet of wild salmon has less calories and fat than half a fillet of farm salmon. However, the price is double for the first and more accessible for the latter. This is because wild salmon populations have decreased considerably while salmon farms provide up to 2/3 of the total of the market offer. Also, salmon farms use chemicals and antibiotics. These treatments protect the fish from contamination but they can cause antibiotic resistance in humans and can lead to medical conditions such as cancer and diabetes.

Comparison Chart

Wild SalmonFarmed Salmon
Born and raised in the wild; fished during salmon seasonBorn and raised on a farm; fished anytime
Lean, pink meatFatty, white-grey meat colored with food additives
Intense fishing has reduced wild salmon populationsProvides 2/3 of the salmon consumed in the US
Considered organic foodReceives antibiotic treatment and vaccines to prevent spreading disease among the fish population
Half a filet has 281 caloriesHalf a filet has 412 calories
Mainly fished in the Atlantic and the PacificMainly grown in Canada and Chile
Is more expensiveIs cheaper