Photo courtesy of Flickr user Kyle Strickland.
Many of the highest rated farmed salmon are also bred and kept in recirculating indoor tanks with wastewater treatments. A slightly coloured chum salmon may in fact be just as fresh as a silver coho salmon. The Environmental Defense Fund provides a more at-a glance solution and gives a general green, yellow, or red flag for eco-rating (green means eco friendly), mercury level (green means low mercury), and omega-3 content (green means high levels). It is also species dependent. Salmon’s synergistic combination of omega-3s, calcium, and vitamin D may also hold the key to strong bones.

A barbecued steak of king, lightly salted, peppered and drizzled with lemon juice, takes seafood lovers into epicurean heaven. However, some salmon farms are encroaching on that safe, sea-lice free zone. You’re might be thinking, “there’s no way I’m ever eating farmed salmon again!” or “wild salmon is always better.” But believe it or not, not all farmed salmon is bad and not all wild salmon is good for you or the environment. In fact, many salmon devotees consider sockeye the absolute best of all the salmon–even better than the king–however one decides to cook it. Recent studies show that they also eat comb jellies.

Photo by Alastair Bland.

Look for logos such as the Marine Stewardship Council’s Sustainable Seafood label (for wild caught fish) or the Aquaculture Stewardship Council label (for farmed fish). Salmon farms are known for spreading parasites such as sea lice, since lots of salmon live so close together in these farms.

Enroll today to join our upcoming live office hours. The backbone of the chum salmon industry has been focused on its highly prized roe (salmon caviar), as well as canned and smoked products. In those situations, diseases on fish farms can also be passed to wild fish, and those fish can also be exposed to the pesticides or antibiotics used to treat the outbreak. In places along the Pacific Northwest coast, residents may notice a putrid scent emanating from the woods in mid-summer–literally the smell of a good pink year. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020 concluded that “consumption of about 8 ounces per week of a variety of seafood, which provide an average consumption of 250 mg per day of EPA and DHA, is associated with reduced cardiac deaths” in the general population without preexisting heart disease. Depending on the type of salmon, a 3.5 oz serving of this fish contains anywhere from around 18 to 26 grams of protein, similar to the same size serving of ground beef (but it is a much leaner option). That’s why making a generalized statement that, for example, all chinook salmon are the healthiest may not be possible. Some sources suggest cooking chum salmon with a sauce to help moisten the flesh, which is dry compared to that of Chinook or Coho.

It contains other essential vitamins and minerals.

Salmon is really the whole package when it comes to providing quality macro- and micronutrients! Chum Salmon is the least expensive salmon you will find, the raw meat is firm and meat color can be orange, pink or red.

There are some health concerns linked to salmon consumption and the pollutants like dioxins and methylmercury commonly found in these fish. Opt for more healthful cooking options for salmon such as baking, poaching, sous vide, or grilling. Its lower fat content and milder flavour means chum is well suited for those who may not like the intense flavour of sockeye and for recipes that retain moisture such as curries and chowders. It is a member of the carotenoid family (like beta-carotene that is found in carrots and sweet potatoes), and has antioxidant and antiinflammatory effects. Esteemed as a fighting game fish as much as it is a food fish, the Coho is unofficially ranked as number-two in the salmon clan. The Chinook can grow to the size of a human–more than 100 pounds–and also bears the highest fat content of all the five Pacific salmon species. Sockeye flesh is brilliantly colored–almost fluorescent orange–and even when canned is sold as gourmet-grade fish. The canning process makes the bones soft and safe to eat, and many canned salmon options are wild caught. Firm, fresh and excellent: The fine flesh of the Coho salmon.

Lots of fish in a small space means concentrated waste from the fish and from uneaten food, which can lead to polluted waters if that fish farm is close to natural waters. On the surface, salmon has a stellar nutrient profile and heaps of research demonstrating a variety of health benefits. Get the best of Smithsonian magazine by email.

The quantity and types of omega-3s found in salmon are one of the main reasons that pushed this fish to its top position in the human nutrition food chain. In fact, one 3.5 oz serving of chinook salmon provides around 40% of that recommendation. The types of salmon with green ratings in all three categories are canned salmon, farmed or Atlantic salmon in indoor recirculating tanks, and all species of wild Alaskan salmon.