Research & Education

A Farm-Raised Tale About Farm-Raised Salmon


A few factoids on essential fatty acids found in fish: we don't get enough of them. Seriously. We all know that but did you know that a full 90% of us are deficient? And heart patients those who are among the most in need of it get maybe 2% of the American Heart Association's recommendation of 7 ounces per week? (We're not talking a lot here!)

But let's say we all got our minimal requirement of 7 ounces. Or even better we all started eating a more healthful 20 ounces per week

Unless major changes are enacted now the timetable predicted is for the global collapse of all taxa currently fished by the mid-21st century to 100% in the year 2048. Worm B et al. Impacts of biodiversity loss on ocean ecosystem services. Science. 2006; 314:787-790.

That's right. Unless we change our fishing habits we'll RUN OUT OF FISH in 35 years. Heartbreaking.  We of course think about sustainable fishing. But what about healthy farm-raised fish? Frankly it's gotta be possible. Read on below:

I was at Whole Foods Market (WFM) last night. It was the grand-opening day. Kind of embarrassing to admit such a thing would get me going but it did. Finally one opened in Connecticut near enough to me where it might actually be a realistic shopping option.

I do support our local stores of course but I WISH they had sustainable/organic fish and meat! East Coast health food stores seem to have been started by vegetarians in the '60s and '70s. (I know this because my first job was at the amazing but meat-free Willimantic Food Coop when I was 14. My mom paid me to work our allotted time. I ate a lotta carob pecan crunch during our allotted time that's what I remember of it anyway.

Anyhow I was at the Whole Foods Market. My Mom joining me on this grand-opening day brought me a yummy little piece of salmon teriyaki. ""Mom"" I asked ""is it wild-caught?"" She didn't know. It's a big issue for me for us for everyone eating fish. Why? Because farm-raised salmon (aka Atlantic salmon) is ONE OF THE WORLD'S MOST TOXIC FOODS! Ouch!

As I approached the fish market at the WFM I noticed that it was indeed farm-raised. Ugh. And then I noticed that the farm-raised salmon farmer was standing there. ""Did you know that farm-raised salmon is not so good?"" I asked.

My Mom said ""You just told me it's the world's most toxic food!""

""OK."" I said to him. ""It's bad. In fact I consult for a laboratory that measure toxins in humans including PCBs which are horribly elevated in farmed salmon. The CEO had high PCB levels higher than anyone else in the lab. The culprit seemed to be the morning farm-raised salmon bagel habit he'd developed.""

 ""Hmmmmm. Can I get back to you on that?"" the farm-raised salmon farmer asked.

 ""Yes. Please do.""

And to his credit he did promptly. He emailed me a detailed 23-page document ""WFM Seafood Quality Standards for Farm Raised Salmon.""

Here are a couple of points I found interesting:

  • Antibiotics parasiticides hormones and genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are prohibited in feed.

  • Stringent water and food quality guidelines.

  • All farmed salmon must contain at least 1820 mg of combined EPA and DHA per eight ounce piece of uncooked salmon.

  • Maximum allowable contaminant levels (including PCBs and mercury) are set by WHO--2.16pg/g TEQ (toxic equivalent). The above figure shows suggests some farm-raised salmon clocks in up to 55pg/g.

While I still prefer wild-caught salmon appropriately farm-raised salmon may actually be a viable and necessary option. We'll call it green salmon.

by Dr. Kara Fitzgerald



Dr. Fitzgerald received her doctorate of naturopathic medicine from National College of Natural Medicine in Portland Oregon. She completed the first CNME-accredited post-doctorate position in nutritional biochemistry and laboratory science at Metametrix Clinical Laboratory under the direction of Richard Lord Ph.D. Her residency was completed at Progressive Medical Center a large integrative medical practice in Atlanta Georgia. Dr. Fitzgerald is lead author and editor with J. Alexander Bralley Ph.D. of The Metametrix Institute's Case Studies in Integrative and Functional Medicine. She is a contributing author to Laboratory Evaluations for Integrative and Functional Medicine and the Institute for Functional Medicine's updated Textbook for Functional Medicine. She has also published in a number of peer reviewed journals. Dr. Fitzgerald is on faculty and a Curriculum Advisory Committee member at Institute for Functional Medicine. She is an adjunct faculty member at University of Bridgeport in the school of Human Nutrition and a member of The Institute for Therapeutic Discovery. Dr. Fitzgerald regularly lectures internationally for several organizations. Formerly at Advanced Diagnostic Pain Treatment Center at Yale-New Haven she is now in private practice in Sandy Hook Connecticut. She may be reached at or