Salmon is a nutritious fish that is readily available in the U.S. Its pink flesh can be smoked and served cold, but it is versatile enough to be cooked in a variety of ways. Salmon is sourced from either the Pacific (Alaskan) or the Atlantic, and the flavor and texture of the fish varies considerably depending upon where it is caught.
Why is Salmon Good for You?
Salmon is an oily fish and rich in Omega 3 fatty acids. These acids go some way toward helping prevent heart disease. The Food Standards Agency (U.K.) advises consumers that salmon also provides an excellent source of vitamins A and D, and along with most other varieties of fish provides additional minerals in the form of iodine and selenium. Salmon does not contain high levels of mercury, regardless of whether it is wild or farmed salmon, and therefore is considered safe for pregnant and breastfeeding women to eat.
What is Alaskan Salmon?
Alaskan salmon, also known as Pacific salmon, are wild fish that spawn freely in the streams of Alaska every year, very often traveling thousands of miles to return to the same stream of their birth. Once Alaskan salmon have spawned, they die–unlike their Atlantic cousins who can go on to spawn again. Their main food source is krill, a tiny pink plankton that resembles a shrimp and gives salmon its pink flesh. Alaskan salmon are harvested in summer and are net-caught by fishermen.
Pros and Cons of Alaskan Salmon
Alaskan salmon is fed on natural food sources and is not listed as endangered, but because it is farmed wild it is often more expensive than Atlantic salmon and will usually be hard to get when it is out of season. Wild Alaskan salmon is healthier than farmed salmon, according to the Environmental Defense Fund, because their feed is natural and not derived from, or treated with, man-made chemicals.
What is Atlantic Salmon?
There is only one species of Atlantic Salmon, which is known as Salmo Salar and can grow to weights of up to 32 kgs. Atlantic salmon are endangered, and as a result, store-bought Atlantic Salmon is farmed, thereby controlling numbers and ensuring their preservation. According to the Atlantic Salmon Trust, most of the commercial farms are in the north Atlantic, particularly Norway, Scotland and Ireland.
Pros and Cons of Atlantic Salmon
Atlantic salmon is mostly farmed, with only a small endangered population of Atlantic salmon remaining in the wild. The farming processes ensures that salmon is available year round and not subject to seasonality, which makes it available and relatively inexpensive, but the downside to this method is that the salmon is fed on manufactured food which, according to the Environmental Defense Fund, has pigment added to increase the pink color of the fish.
References and ResourcesFood Standards Agency: Benefits of Eating Salmon
TheFishSite.com: Health Benefits of Eating Salmon
Environmental Defense Fund: Alaskan or Atlantic Salmon?
FishEx.com: Alaskan Salmon