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March 2004 Issue
Farmed Salmon Controversy and Honey Walnut Prawns
by Philip R. Gantt
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Welcome to Seasoned Cooking and to Phil's International Flair!

Before getting into the topic of this month's column, I want to say a few words about the recent farmed salmon controversy. Scientists distributed a report saying that farmed salmon had higher level of carcinogens (PCB's) than wild salmon and the litigation is now running rampant throughout the food industry and government. All salmon provides nutrients, like the omega-3 compounds, that are good for your health. Without going into detail, let's look at a few facts:

Farmed Salmon:

  • Most farmed salmon is imported from Chile, Canada, Scotland or some other country.
  • The US cannot control or monitor food sources for imported farmed fish.
  • Fish farming is very profitable and efficient as it takes about two pounds of feed to produce one pound of fish.
  • Farmed salmon is artificially colored pink or red for market appeal.
  • Farmed salmon is cheaper than wild salmon.
  • Salmon farming has resulted in adverse environmental effects due to high concentrations of effluent and parasites.
  • Farmed salmon that escape pose threats to natural salmon populations.

Wild Salmon:

  • Wild salmon has fewer contaminants and parasites than farmed salmon.
  • Wild salmon is naturally pink, orange or red in color.
  • Wild salmon do not adversely affect the environment and provide food for many species including man.
  • Most wild salmon in the US were born in hatcheries to mitigate the loss of spawning tributaries for native fish.
  • Wild salmon has a firmer texture than farmed salmon.
  • Wild salmon tastes better than farmed salmon.

Is farmed salmon bad for you? Probably not, unless eaten to excess. Pregnant women should probably avoid eating farmed salmon, just to be on the safe side. Others should limit their intake of farmed salmon to once or twice per month. I must say, wild salmon is far superior in flavor and texture to farmed salmon. I once smoked a piece of farmed salmon and it turned into mush. I have never had this happen with wild salmon. I personally prefer to catch my own salmon, however most people depend on their local market to provide this product. If your local market doesn't carry wild salmon, ask them to get some. But, expect to pay a slightly higher price for it. The quality will not disappoint you if the fish is reasonably fresh or fresh frozen and recently thawed.

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