Farmed catfish. Farmed salmon. Farmed shrimp. Farmed oysters. These are all pervasive in the market, but what's the difference between our farm-raised seafood and what's available elsewhere? You can be sure that the species we sell were farmed responsibly!

We know exactly where our farmed seafood comes from. We know where it swam and we know what it was fed...and more importantly, what it wasn't fed.

We also know that we can trust our farmer partners because, like us, they're committed to producing the most environmentally friendly farmed seafood. Together with scientists and environmentalists, they helped us to develop our strict Quality Standards for Aquaculture. And with our industry leading traceability requirements, we can track our farmed seafood from farm to store.

What's so Great about Aquaculture?

Farming seafood (aquaculture) can provide a consistent, high-quality, year-round supply of healthy and delicious protein. When it's done right, aquaculture can be environmentally friendly and can be a crucial way to supplement wild-caught fish supplies. On the other hand, poor farming practices like the overuse of chemicals and antibiotics and those that cause water pollution and other negative impacts on the environment are bad news. Our strict Quality Standards and third-party verification process ensures that we only source farmed seafood from the world's leaders in environmentally responsible aquaculture.

Our Quality Standards are This Big!

Pardon our pride, but we really do have incredibly strong and thorough buying standards for farmed seafood—feel free to compare us to other markets! We are committed to only sourcing according to these high standards.

Highlights of Farm Standards for Finfish and Shrimp

These standards cover shrimp as well as fish like salmon, trout, tilapia, char, catfish and several other species of farmed finfish. We require:

  • No use of antibiotics, added growth hormones and poultry and mammalian products in feed.
  • No genetically modified or cloned seafood.
  • Minimizing the impacts of fish farming on the environment by protecting sensitive habitats such as mangrove forests and wetlands, monitoring water quality to prevent pollution and sourcing feed ingredients responsibly.
  • No added preservatives such as sodium bisulfite, sodium tri-polyphosphate (STP) and sodium metabisulfite.
  • Traceability from farm to store.
  • Third-party audits.

Detailed Farm Standards for Finfish and Shrimp (PDF)

Highlights of Farm Standards for Mollusks

These standards cover bivalve mollusks, specifically oysters, mussels, clams, and scallops. We require:

  • Monitoring sediments on the seafloor to evaluate the health of ecosystems under the farms (a.k.a. benthic impacts).
  • No pesticide use allowed.
  • No genetically modified or cloned seafood.
  • Protection of the coastal environment.
  • Rigorous water quality monitoring.
  • Traceability from farm to store.
  • Third-party audits.

Detailed Farm Standards for Mollusks (PDF)

Here are some specific standards for popular farm-raised species you'll find at Whole Foods Market.

Farm-Raised Shrimp

Our standards prohibit conversion of sensitive ecosystems such as mangrove forests into shrimp farms, and we track the shrimp from pond to store to ensure the standards are met. Shortly after harvest, they're flash frozen to maintain that "good shrimp" flavor and texture. And, unlike what you'll often find at other markets, our standards prohibit treating shrimp with preservatives.

Farm-Raised Salmon

Our salmon are raised in carefully monitored, low-density pens and tanks without antibiotics, pesticides or added growth hormones. Detailed protocols prevent escape of the salmon into the wild, and harmful and lethal methods are never used on predator birds and marine mammals. And pigments used for colorant are from non-synthetic sources.

Farm-Raised Rainbow Trout

Our trout are raised in systems that mimic a rushing stream with no antibiotics and no land-animal products in the feed.

Farm-Raised Tilapia

Our tilapia is raised to our strict standards which prohibit antibiotics and preservatives. Nor do we allow the industry-standard use of hormones for sex reversal. In addition, our tilapia feed contains fish processing trimmings instead of wild fish caught just for feed.

Farm-Raised Arctic Char

This cousin to salmon has a gorgeous reddish pink color and a very likable, full but not fishy flavor. Located among the black volcanic boulders of Iceland's southwest coastline, our farmer partners raise Arctic char in cold-water, land-based tanks. This system offers excellent control over water quality, prevents escape of fish into the wild and helps protect the char from predators.

Farm-Raised Catfish

Our catfish are fed a mostly vegetarian diet with no antibiotics or hormones added. And synthetic herbicides are never used in their ponds. Our partner in North Carolina has been working with us for years to hone their process for the finest catfish farm in the U.S. To maintain high standards—theirs and ours—they own it all, the farm, and the feed and processing plants.

Farm-Raised Mollusks

In addition to prohibiting pesticide use and requiring water quality monitoring and protection of the coastal environment, our standards for farmed oysters, clams, mussels and scallops require evaluating the health of sediments on the seafloor to help protect bottom-dwelling animals and the ecosystem beneath the farms. Excessive organic loading can create sulfides, which are toxic to animals that live in the sediments — so we make sure our farm-raised mollusks are friendly to their downstairs neighbors.

What about Mercury?

Fortunately, most farmed fish are low in mercury. They live for a relatively short time so they do not accumulate as much mercury as some species of wild fish. And if they are fed fish, it is usually types low in mercury. Learn more about methylmercury in seafood

Frequently Asked Questions about Aquaculture

How did we create our Aquaculture (farmed seafood) standards?
For each of our aquaculture categories—farmed finfish/shrimp and farmed mollusks—we spent two full years conducting extensive research on the aquaculture industry, including reviewing all the best available science, consulting with the top environmental organizations, and visiting the most innovative farms worldwide to learn and consult with the farmers. We analyzed the issues associated with farmed seafood production in great depth, including the use of marine resources in feed, impacts on predator populations and risks associated with escaped fish, pollution, and disease. From there, we used all this research and stakeholder input to create standards that only the very best farms can meet.

How do we know that the standards are being met?
Our supplier partners must pass independent third-party audits to ensure that our standards are being met. Only farms that pass their audits may sell their farmed seafood to Whole Foods Market.

Why sell farmed salmon when we’ve heard about problems with salmon farms?
Instead of ignoring the problems in the industry, we decided that we would work to create an incentive for improvement by developing an extensive set of strict standards for farmed salmon production and by providing a market for producers who work hard to meet them. All of our farmed salmon must meet our Quality Standards and carry the “Responsibly Farmed” logo in order to be sold in our stores.

What does the Responsibly Farmed™ logo stand for?
The Whole Foods Market® “Responsibly Farmed” logo means that the product meets our strict Whole Foods Market Quality Standards for finfish and shrimp. No other grocery store or fish market has standards like ours for keeping farmed seafood healthy and for protecting the environment. The logo also means that the farm has been third-party audited to verify that our standards are being met.

Is our farm-raised seafood organic?
In our U.S. stores we have chosen not to sell “organic” farmed fish until the United States establishes organic standards for aquaculture and there is a “USDA Organic” label in place for organic farmed fish. This is our way of maintaining the integrity of the organic label. We’ve contributed to the policy-setting process for national organic standards for farm-raised seafood in an effort to encourage the strongest organic standards possible.