A new study in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Research has revealed that farmed Atlantic salmon can be just as nutritious as some species of wild salmon.
The lead researcher, Stefanie Colombo, says it highlights the need for nutritional labelling on fresh seafood in Canada.
"The [research] was inspired because a lot of people would tell me that they would only eat wild salmon," said Colombo, an assistant professor of aquaculture at Dalhousie University's Agricultural Campus. "They wouldn't eat farmed salmon because wild salmon was just better for you and I didn't understand where they got that idea from.
"There's a lot of mixed messaging with regards to farmed salmon and there's not a lot of data out there to show scientifically the actual difference and if there is one nutritionally, between wild and farmed salmon."
The study, funded by the Natural Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada, examined the nutritional composition of six different types of salmon fillets: farmed Atlantic, farmed organic Atlantic, farmed organic chinook, wild chinook, wild Pacific (pink) and wild sockeye.
Initially, Colombo wanted to determine whether Atlantic salmon was more nutritious if it was wild or farmed.
Instead, she determined that the difference was in the species, not where it was raised.
"It's not really about whether it was wild or farmed, or whether it was organic or not organic, or whether it has some special certification ... it really came down to the species of salmon because they are quite different," she said.
Even within the group of wild salmon, there were huge differences in nutritional value, she said.
Colombo determined that wild Pacific salmon is the least nutrient-dense due to high water content, followed by the farmed organic chinook salmon due to its high mercury content.
Wild sockeye, wild chinook, farmed organic Atlantic and farmed Atlantic salmon were found to be the most nutritious.
However, Colombo recommends farmed Atlantic as the best option for people who often include salmon in their meals, due to its nutritional value and other factors.
"I also recommend farmed Atlantic because of the affordability and availability and low mercury [content]," she said.
Lack of nutritional information
When Colombo started her research, she realized that the misconceptions surrounding wild and farmed Atlantic salmon were likely caused by the lack of nutritional information on fresh seafood in supermarkets.
Sylvain Charlebois, a Dalhousie University professor who specializes in food distribution, says that's problematic for the consumer.
"It doesn't really empower consumers to make informed choices at retail," Charlebois said.
Charlebois said Canada's food industry, especially the seafood industry, is lacking when it comes to transparency.
"The more information you give to consumers, the more the market itself will become fragmented and the more people will identify with what they're actually buying," he said.
"If you're just labelling everything the same way, then it's very difficult to value what they're buying."
Colombo said she expects nutritional labels to one day be found on fresh products, but for now, she hopes her study becomes a guideline of nutritional value in Atlantic salmon.
"I think it's just good to have a benchmark to know what the nutritional value [is] ... so it is good to know that the products that are being produced [are] an excellent choice and maybe the best choice for consumers, especially if they consume it regularly," she said.
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