Whole Story

The Official Whole Foods Market® Blog

The Truth About Farmed Salmon at Whole Foods Market

By Elizabeth Leader Smith, March 11, 2014  |  Meet the Blogger  |  More Posts by Elizabeth Leader Smith

The mild, satisfying flavor and melt-in-your mouth texture of farmed salmon is pleasing to kids and adults alike, yet unanswered questions about its origins may leave a bad taste in your mouth. Were the water conditions sanitary? Were the fish fed a nutritious diet? Did the fish have enough room? Before you pass up an opportunity for a delicious farmed-salmon dish, here are six myths about farmed salmon we’re happy to debunk.

MYTH: All fish farming is bad.

FACT: Farming seafood can provide a consistent, high-quality, year-round supply of healthy and delicious protein. And when it's done right, fish farming — also known as aquaculture — can be environmentally friendly and can be a crucial way to supplement wild-caught fish supplies. On the other hand, poor farming practices, including those that cause water pollution and the overuse of chemicals and antibiotics are indeed very bad news.

Our strict Quality Standards for Aquaculture and third-party verification process ensure that we only source farmed seafood (including salmon) from the world's leaders in environmentally responsible aquaculture. We know they’re truly invested in our standards because together with scientists and environmentalists, they helped us to develop our Quality Standards for Aquaculture, which include:

  • No use of antibiotics, added growth hormones and poultry and mammalian by-products in feed
  • Traceability that allows us to track our farmed seafood right back to where it swam
  • Requirements that producers minimize the impacts of fish farming on the environment by monitoring water quality and surrounding habitats, and sourcing feed ingredients responsibly
  • Strict protocols to prevent farmed fish from escaping into the wild and protect wildlife around the farm
  • Our farmers do not treat nets with toxic chemicals to get rid of algae and no pesticides are used
  • Genetically engineered fish are prohibited
  • Colorants only from non-synthetic sources

MYTH: There is no way to know how the farmed salmon you’re purchasing was raised.

FACT: At Whole Foods Market, 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!

Third party auditors verify traceability of all our farm products during on-site audits. In addition, our suppliers use Trace Register software to track their products through the supply chain to help us verify traceability.

MYTH: Farmed salmon are kept in crowded pens.

FACT: Our farmed salmon are raised in low-density pens where they are carefully monitored and receive nutritious feed without pesticides or land animal by-products.

MYTH: Farmed salmon sold at Whole Foods Market might be genetically engineered.

FACT: Our Quality Standards for Aquaculture prohibit cloned or genetically engineered animals.

MYTH: Farmed salmon from other countries shouldn’t be trusted.

FACT: Our Quality Standards for farm-raised salmon include strict requirements and expectations for all producers operating in all countries who supply fish to our stores. Our supplier partners in Norway, Iceland and Scotland are the leaders in environmentally friendly salmon farming. Take a look at this video on YouTube of our salmon farming partners in Norway.

Whole Foods Market Responsibly Farmed SeafoodThe Responsibly Farmed Seal
Whether you’re shopping for farmed salmon or another type of farmed fish, you’ll find our “Responsibly Farmed” seal. This means that the farm has been third-party audited annually to ensure that our Quality Standards are being met. No other grocery store or fish market has standards like ours.

Fishing for more information? Learn more about our sustainable seafood initiatives including our strict Quality Standards for Aquaculture and our standards for wild-caught seafood.

Have you already made the choice to only purchase seafood raised or caught in environmentally friendly ways? Tell us about it in the comments below.

Category: Seafood




Nancy Simpson says ...
Wow! Didn't know that. Thank you. I'll certainly buy these fish from you.
03/12/2014 2:53:23 PM CDT
kathy cole-kelly says ...
Excellent and informative article on a topic I've been wrestling about. This really is so helpful and thanks to the excellent journalism of Ms. Smith, I'll eat farm raised salmon from Whole Foods tonight!!!!
03/12/2014 4:35:46 PM CDT
Sue says ...
Very disappointed that WF sells farm-raised fish. Anytime you need to add colorants, don't care where they came from, to make a food appealing to the consumer, something is wrong with that picture. Also, what's your definition of low-density pens? Sorry, WF, not buying this propaganda, or your farm-raised fish!
03/12/2014 5:03:40 PM CDT
hjp says ...
I've read extensively that farm raised salmon does not have the omega 3 content of wild caught (a major health benefit of eating salmon) because of what they are fed. Myth or fact?
03/12/2014 5:04:45 PM CDT
Kim says ...
Thank you so much! If what you say is true, I feel safer feeding this fish to my child as Wild salmon has a funkier taste.
03/12/2014 6:53:01 PM CDT
Yvonne Colburn says ...
Thanks for the informative and interesting information. I will buy farm raised salmon / fish from Whole Foods in the future.
03/12/2014 7:00:09 PM CDT
Carol says ...
I have been advised by my naturopath to eat only wild caught salmon and to stay away from farm-raised. Also, Dr. Mercola feels that most fish today is unsafe.
03/12/2014 7:07:22 PM CDT
Mary Ann Plakas says ...
Thanks for the article! I can honestly say that I would only trust farm raised seafood from Whole Foods and would never buy it from any other grocery store.
03/12/2014 7:23:23 PM CDT
Linda Rodrigues says ...
Thank you for putting my mind at ease concerning farmed salmon.
03/12/2014 8:01:08 PM CDT
Stephanie Sterling says ...
Thanks for this! I had no idea that there were some farmed salmon that were find to eat. I would love to hear more and also hear about what Whole Foods has learned about the fish coming out of the Pacific Ocean due to the issues at Fukishima. Thanks again!
03/12/2014 9:03:47 PM CDT
Jan says ...
I still wish you did not color the salmon at all. I wish you fed them the natural feeds that would cause them to grow colorful flesh naturally. Just like the flamingos at the zoo. You can tell when they are getting enough of the special crustaceans that make their plumage pink. They do not dye the flamingos; they feed them well. Thanks1 Plus, some of us have sensitivities to natural dyes like annatto.
03/12/2014 9:25:09 PM CDT
azmi miniawi says ...
still not sure if salmon farm raised is healthy Everybody tries to claim that their farm raised salmon is different from others and healthy and protected How can we ensure that your quality is really better ?
03/13/2014 1:01:58 AM CDT
Athena Emmanouilidis says ...
You should make sure your seafood and other non-gmo produce is nongmoproject verified.This is what consumers are looking for when it comes to non-gmo food products of all types.Also please consider either expanding to Astoria NY or maybe taking phone orders and delivering to the other boroughs.Thank you
03/13/2014 2:52:10 AM CDT
Kim Pitts says ...
I have been wrestling with this very issue! I love salmon and it is a vital part of my healthy eating journey, and I have been avoiding farm raised due to all of the concerns stated in your article. I recently bought wild caught from Whole Foods and it was delicious but if I can save a few bucks per pound and get the same quality fish, then I will buy farm raised from your store, and your store only! Thanks for the article, it was definitely an eye opener and debunked so many myths.
03/13/2014 5:12:47 AM CDT
Christina says ...
Very interesting! I won't give farm raised at Whole Foods the cold shoulder any more!
03/13/2014 5:37:06 AM CDT
Angela Martini says ...
Thank you. This info will help me make smart decisions as I move forward.
03/13/2014 6:01:05 AM CDT
Sarah says ...
Thank you for this report- debunking myths I believed of farm raised salmon. It's great news! I can enjoy this again by purchasing it at Whole Foods. Thank you for your healthy high quality standards.
03/13/2014 7:03:37 AM CDT
Greer says ...
The video was great. Very informative. I can feel good about buying farm raised salmon at Whole Foods. I had only heard bad things about farm raised salmon. I didn't know there were differences in quality of farm raised. Thanks for the lesson!
03/13/2014 7:24:31 AM CDT
Cindy Armstrong says ...
Good to know! Thank you!!!!
03/13/2014 7:59:00 AM CDT
Laura Hanrahan says ...
I don't believe a word of what you're saying...everything I've read about farm raised fish and shrimp and anything from Asia totally contradicts this. I wouldn't buy a thing farm raised or from Asia. Farm raised seafood is banned in other countries for a reason.
03/13/2014 8:27:27 AM CDT
Fran says ...
The article states that WF knows what the farmed salmon was fed...and wasn't fed. What is it fed?
03/13/2014 8:32:16 AM CDT
Dgethers85 says ...
I stopped eating Farm Raised fish because I heard many... many horror stories. But I might re-visit purchasing them from you.
03/13/2014 8:44:28 AM CDT
Susan Silverstein says ...
Thank you for clarifying those myths!
03/13/2014 8:56:50 AM CDT
Marie says ...
Can you elaborate on nutritional differences (such omega 3, etc.) for farm vs. wild?
03/13/2014 9:26:59 AM CDT
Eric says ...
What about the "color added" that is labeled on your farmed salmon? Why does it need color at all? What is the color made of? It's the reason I have always avoided the farmed salmon sold at Whole Foods.
03/13/2014 10:02:47 AM CDT