Salmon: A Fish Story Article -
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Salmon: A Fish Story

Salmon's a heart-healthy, flavorful favorite whose firm, meaty flesh rewards simple preparations.

The Wild Life

Wild salmon are amazing creatures. Born in the gravel of freshwater streams and rivers, they gradually make their way to saltwater oceans, undergoing along the way certain physical changes that help them adapt; then, at the end of their lives, they return to their birthplace to spawn. And the cycle continues.

Unfortunately, pollution, dams and overfishing have severely threatened this cycle of life. The Atlantic salmon, which once migrated up such mighty rivers as the Hudson, Thames, Seine and Rhine, are now severely depleted. In 2004, the discovery of a salmon swimming in the Seine made big news; it had been a century since the last salmon sighting. If you live near the Atlantic Ocean and its tributaries, you are most likely eating farmed salmon.

On the Pacific side of the United States, the situation is better for wild salmon, although they face the same threats and obstacles as in other parts of the world. Wild Pacific salmon continue to run throughout the coastal Pacific Northwest, from Alaska down to northern California. Among the Pacific salmon still putting up a fight are the Chinook (king), coho (silver), and sockeye (red). These can be found in markets from spring through fall.

Farmed Salmon: A Ranch in the Water

With wild salmon in decline, aquaculture has emerged as an attractive alternative. Farmed salmon has three advantages over wild salmon: it's available year round, it's less expensive, and the supply is plentiful.

However, there is a downside to a large-scale industrial system that packs fish into cramped saltwater pens like feedlots of the sea. Farmed salmon are given pesticides and antibiotics to protect them against the diseases that come from living in such close quarters. But salmon sometimes slip their confines, escaping into the ocean to mingle with wild salmon, corrupting the gene pool and introducing wild salmon to vigorous strains of diseases with which their immune systems cannot cope. Waste and feed problems can also lead to fish and water contamination.

Of course, not all aquaculture systems are alike, and there are many producers who impose strict standards to ensure that they are raising salmon in a way that protects salmon, environment and consumer alike. Ask your grocer for information about the fish-farming practices of the salmon available in your market.

What to Look For

Fresh salmon should never smell fishy. The flesh should be bright and moist and not discolored along the edges. If you're buying a whole salmon, its eyes should be bright and clear; the skin, silvery and shiny, and resilient to the touch.

    Keeping Salmon Fresh

    Salmon is best when eaten the same day you buy it. But it will stay for a day or two tightly wrapped in plastic and stored in the coldest part of the fridge. You can freeze salmon for up to 6 months. To thaw, take it from freezer to fridge the night before you intend to eat it. Or if time is an issue, submerge fillets in cool water; frozen fillets should be completely thawed in about an hour or two. Never thaw salmon at room temperature because bacteria can build up in the thawed outer portions even as the center remains frozen.

      How to Prepare It

      Salmon is a very versatile fish. It's delicious baked, broiled or tossed on the grill; smoked, poached, or cast into stews; fashioned into fish cakes, added to salads, or whipped up into dips and spreads.

      Salmon and Health

      Salmon isn't only tasty and easy to prepare, it's also good for you. Salmon contains heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, plenty of protein, and an abundance of vitamins, including B vitamins, and the antioxidant, vitamin E. The American Heart Association suggests eating two fish dinners a week, particularly fish like salmon that are high in omega-3 fatty acids.

        Oct. 6, 2009 1:17 pm
        most farmed salmon also have color added to them.
        jp sherman 
        May 15, 2010 12:46 pm
        I am looking for a recipe for smoked salmon or steelhead trout filets for an electric smoker so it will come out like Nova sold in the delicatessens. Every recipe I find has all kinds of marinades and brines so please offer something simple with cooking times. Thanks
        Jun. 15, 2010 3:49 pm
        Another negative to farmed salmon is the poor feed conversion. It can take up to 5kg of wild fish feed to raise 1 kg of salmon. Some operations are experimenting with feed to lower the amount of wild fish, like using feather meal and other like alternatives but there is still more wild fish being used than farmed fish raised, so overfishing is a real concern. Another aspect of the feed issue is that much of the wild fish caught for feed is from the poorer Southern Hemisphere and then used in the richer North where most (not all) of the salmon farms are. These fish caught for feed could be used for human consumption instead of used to raise a luxury fish for rich Northerners. This website covers the problems with salmon farms in detail:
        Jun. 25, 2010 11:44 am
        Hi David, That's absolutely untrue. Norway, the world's top supplier of very high quality farmed salmon, has very efficient feed to conversion ratio. Today it takes 1.15 kg of feed to produce 1 kg of Norwegian Salmon. By comparison, wild salmon consume about 10 kg of food to grow 1 kg. In addition, salmon eat feed consisting of marine raw materials and fish oil. Lastly, the marine species used in salmon feed is not in demand for human consumption. Thanks.
        Aug. 12, 2010 9:31 am
        I have no clue about the safety of farmed salmon in Norway , but there are dozens of reports from very reputable sources that the farmed salmon available in the US is very unsafe and very unhealthy . I think it is so typical that we would allow a very healthy food product to be ' farmed ' and raised in a manner that turns the healthy food into a very bad food , typical of the US food industry .
        Oct. 18, 2010 6:11 am
        Has anyone heard of "squaw candy" that people make in Alaska. It is so delicious.
        Oct. 20, 2010 11:36 am
        i was always curious about how a wild fish from the ocean was farmed now that i have checked out the site i can see we need to put a better system into place or we will lose a source of food from the ocean by our pollution of the waters
        Apr. 14, 2011 5:01 pm
        how can i tell the diffrence between wild salmon to farm rasied solmand?
        May 13, 2011 10:54 am
        The farmed fish from Canada is raised under VERY strict guidelines to insure the safety of the wild fish and the environment. They do not have color added to them. Most of the propaganda you read/hear about farmed salmon is either out of date or exaggerated.
        Jul. 19, 2011 4:35 pm
        Whatever fish or meat is popular will always be overpriced and/or over processed. "Wild-caught" has that Madison Avenue shine that suckers like to fall for. "Heart-healthy" is another myth that growers like to indoctrinate people with. Buyer beware!
        Jul. 27, 2011 6:54 am
        Come on people, if you like salmon, eat salmon. If you listen to everything your read or hear, then you won't eat anything. Starvation will kill you a lot quicker than eating farm raised salmon (or hot dogs for that matter). I for one, love salmon and eat it regularly.
        Mar. 10, 2012 12:58 am
        I live in Canada now and there are lots of good sources for salmon here. I don't think I'll need to ask when I buy it if it's "caught in Alaska" as I can source ethically farmed Salmon or Wild Salmon *My preference* that is not necessarily from Alaska only. Canada has excellent sources of salmon too!
        Apr. 11, 2012 11:43 am
        I agree with TLARbb! Just eat it!!!
        Apr. 11, 2012 4:48 pm
        my caned salmon says wild Alaska pink salmon can I believe that ?
        Aug. 2, 2012 6:42 pm
        Our Fall Run salmon season just started yesterday, we brought home two beautiful fish and we will be going back for more. I'm greatful we have the opportunity in Northern California to fish and eat traditional meals.
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