Wild-Caught vs Farmed Fish
By Guest Author, Jennifer Landis
Adding fish to your family’s diet is a great way to incorporate lean, healthy proteins into your diet but when you head to your local grocery store, you will often find yourself faced with a choice — wild-caught or farmed fish? What is the difference between the two and what are the health benefits of feeding your family wild fish?
Farm-raised fish are often crowded into small ponds or lakes. The population density in these farms is much higher than it would be in the wild, which is why these fish are often at higher risk for developing diseases. These diseases, in turn, are treated with antibiotics or other chemicals that can remain in the fish through its life.
If you buy and eat a filet from that fish, you could be consuming the antibiotics that kept it healthy. Wild-caught fish don’t have that problem. We can’t say that there are no antibiotics in the oceans or rivers because some do appear in stormwater runoff, but it’s not nearly at the level that is found in farm-raised fish.
Farm-raised fish are fed a perfectly balanced diet that ensures that they grow as large as possible before they’re harvested. It’s enough to make sure they are healthy — or as healthy as possible — throughout their lives, but it is lacking the trace minerals that wild fish have in their diets.
Wild-caught fish, on the other hand, enjoy a varied diet throughout their lives and are packed with trace minerals that are necessary for a healthy diet.
More Vitamin D
While your body needs sunlight to process Vitamin D, you get some of this necessary vitamin from the food that you eat as well. The recommended daily value for this vitamin is 800IU or 20 mcg. One study found that wild-caught salmon contain more than a full day’s worth of Vitamin D — 988 IU — in a 3.5 oz serving. Farmed salmon, on the other hand, only contains about 25% of that amount.
If you don’t get a lot of sunlight — either because of your location, the weather, or whatever reason, including wild fish in your diet can help to supplement this important vitamin.
While both wild and farmed fish are safe to consume, farmed fish have been found to contain more contaminants than their wild counterparts. These include PCBs — polychlorinated biphenyls — which when consumed can cause liver damage and other health problems, according to the CDC. These chemical contaminants end up in fish ponds because of stormwater runoff and can negatively affect your health if consumed on a regular basis.
Is Farm-Raised Bad?
With all of the health benefits of wild-caught fish, you might be asking yourself if farm-raised fish are bad for you. The answer is not at all. Farm-raised fish might have higher fat content and lack the trace nutrients that you find in wild-caught filets, but they are still rich in lean protein and Omega-3 fatty acids that are important for heart health. They can also be more cost-effective for those trying to eat healthy on a budget, and easier to get when the wild fish might not be in season.
When you’re choosing fish to feed your family, make sure you’re looking for sustainably caught or farmed fish. Some species, such as tuna, swordfish, and shark, can’t be farmed but because they are large and long-lived, they tend to have the highest amount of mercury in their flesh and should be avoided by pregnant women.
Making The Right Choice
If you’re adding fish to your diet, be smart about what kind of fish you’re buying as well as where they’re harvested from. Farmed fish can be more cost-effective if you’re worried about the cost of this lean protein, but in most cases, wild-caught fish is going to provide the most health benefits, from higher levels of Vitamin D to increase protein and fewer contaminants.
As to whether or not it tastes better, that is entirely up to your personal preferences. If you’re buying wild fish and not catching it yourself, make sure that you’re opting for fish that has been sustainably harvested. Fish is a great lean protein, but not at the expense of ecosystems around the planet, so always choose sustainable sources whenever possible.