Food quality and Health
Industrially-farmed Atlantic salmon is marketed as a so-called super food, but it is not good for you. We know that 200g of farmed salmon contains more fats than a Big Mac and medium fries. Factors of greatest concern include:
- Ethoxyquin (banned in Europe) added to fish food to control combustion in transport
- Use of antibiotics to manage disease in high-density pens
- High levels of omega 6 fatty acids compared with wild-caught salmon
- Use of astaxanthin to colour the salmon flesh orange
For more information on this, and the impact of salmon farming on stocks of Antarctic Krill, see our Salmon Farming Methods page.
There are ethical alternatives – read on!
What is Ethoxyquin? Why do they use it?
- A fish feed additive banned in the European Union out of concerns for health impacts in animals and humans has been found in Tasmanian salmon at concerning levels, say experts who are calling for tighter regulations.
- The compound, a synthetic antioxidant, was developed by Monsanto in the 1950s. It has been used to prevent fish meal from spontaneously combusting while being transported at sea.
What about antibiotics? How do the fish farms control diseases?
- Fish farms sometimes give the salmon antibiotics and animal drugs.
- Tasmanian companies Tassal and Huon Aquaculture used more than a tonne of antibiotics in 2022 disease outbreaks. Wild fish scavenged antibiotic-laced pellets below the salmon cages. Flathead caught 2km from a lease, near areas of recreational use, had antibiotics in their flesh above the mandatory reporting threshold, however monitoring reports were not made public until months after the disease outbreak, and then were published very obscurely.
- Since 2016, the Tasmanian salmon industry has used more than four tonnes of antibiotics to counter disease outbreaks. The CSIRO has reported serious concerns about the over-use of these drugs, as this increases human antibiotic resistance. There is evidence that Tassal tried to suppress publication of their reports to the EPA.
What about fatty acids?
- Typically, wild salmon have fewer calories, saturated fat and vitamins A and D than farmed salmon, but contain more protein.
- Wild salmon meat has an approximately equal amount of omega 6 to omega 3 fatty acid content. In farmed salmon, however, the fatty acid ratio is skewed, with omega 6 much higher than omega 3 fatty acid levels. Omega 6 fatty acid is already overabundant in western diets, especially high in processed foods, and considered by some nutritionists to be unhealthy for humans.
Is it true that farmed salmon are fed artificial dyes to improve their colour?
- Wild salmon eat a lot of shellfish high in a carotenoid called astaxanthin, which gives them their orange colour. Farmed fish food, as well as wild fish meal, contains increasing proportions of meat, chicken and blood meal, poultry oil, vegetables, vitamins and minerals, which turns the salmon flesh grey. So salmon companies include synthetic astaxanthin in fish feed to produce the orange colour salmon eaters expect.