Health-conscious consumers already know that wild Alaskan salmon is one of mother nature's superfoods. But unless you buy your seafood directly from a trusted source, there is a high chance your wild salmon is actually farm-raised.
After Oceana conducted DNA testing on samples of salmon collected from stores and restaurants in the United States, the ocean advocacy group discovered that a whopping 43% of seafood samples it tested were either farmed salmon marketed as wild or a completely different, misidentified and mislabeled seafood species altogether (1).
Don't be a sucker. Aside from joining a seafood membership with a trusted service and supplier, here are three easy ways to spot seafood fraud and identify real, wild Alaskan salmon.
Why is there 'Seafood Fraud'?
Mislabeled fish show up in restaurants and stores for a number of reasons. First, the seafood industry as a whole relies on a finite supply of fish from across the world. From fishing boats to sushi restaurants to grocery stores, global seafood supply chains operate best when there are cheap, readily-available products continually sold to customers. Unfortunately, this means that the red snapper, grouper, sea bass, halibut, or salmon fillets you order at a restaurant or seafood counter might actually be an entirely different species.
How to Spot Seafood Fraud
1. Check its Fat
The flesh of a farmed salmon typically has thick white stripes of fat. The fat of a wild salmon is more integrated with the muscle tissue and looks less zebra-like. Farmed salmon are generally kept in small, enclosed feedlots, unlike wild salmon that roam the open waters. It's simple. More exercise equals less fat. And a lot of times, farmed salmon are fed an unnatural diet that is intended to make the fish gain weight rapidly.
This difference in fat content isn't just something cosmetic. It poses public health risks because the fat in farmed salmon isn't the healthy kind of fat either. Because of its diet, farmed salmon packs a lot more omega-6s in relation to its omega-3s (the healthy fatty acid you want) than wild-caught salmon (2).
2. Notice the Color
Wild salmon are typically a deeper red than farmed. As migratory predators, wild salmon hunt for their food and prey on many types of smaller, wild species like shrimp and other free-floating crustaceans. These crustaceans contain carotenoids, a molecule that causes pigmentation. You might have heard of the baby who ate too many carrots and started turning orange. It's the same thing.
Farmed salmon, on the other hand, don't get to roam the ocean and hunt for their food. Instead, they are typically fed unnatural pellets that contain dye in order to acheive the color of wild-caught salmon. So, no red shrimp means no deeper red flesh for farm-raised salmon.
3. Wild Salmon Costs More, But You Get What You Pay For
Wild salmon is almost always more expensive than farmed. But you get what you pay for. Typically, the restaurant owners and fishmongers who serve wild salmon make a big deal out of it. These seafood businesses want to make sure you know it's wild to justify the price they need to charge. If they stay quiet and the price seems too good to be true, it's probably not wild-caught.
The easiest way to avoid seafood fraud is to connect directly with a trusted supplier, such as the Wild Alaskan Company, a direct-to-consumer seafood membership service that takes all the guesswork out of eating top-quality seafood products.
Wild Alaskan Company is committed to preserving and promoting generations of fishing traditions that have always been in balance with nature. We want everyone to feel a connection to the food they eat, which is why our business is built on only sourcing sustainable seafood and ensuring transparency and traceability.