Whole Story

The Official Whole Foods Market® Blog

The Truth About Farmed Salmon at Whole Foods Market

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.

Leave a reply

To provide feedback or ask a question about our company, a store or a product, please visit our Customer Service page.

For more information about posting comments to our blog, please see our Comment Posting Guidelines.

211 comments

Comments

Nancy Simpson says …

Wow! Didn't know that. Thank you. I'll certainly buy these fish from you.

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!!!!

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!

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?

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.

Yvonne Colburn says …

Thanks for the informative and interesting information. I will buy farm raised salmon / fish from Whole Foods in the future.

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.

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.

Linda Rodrigues says …

Thank you for putting my mind at ease concerning farmed salmon.

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!

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.

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 ?

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

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.

Christina says …

Very interesting! I won't give farm raised at Whole Foods the cold shoulder any more!

Angela Martini says …

Thank you. This info will help me make smart decisions as I move forward.

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.

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!

Cindy Armstrong says …

Good to know! Thank you!!!!

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.

Fran says …

The article states that WF knows what the farmed salmon was fed...and wasn't fed. What is it fed?

Dgethers85 says …

I stopped eating Farm Raised fish because I heard many... many horror stories. But I might re-visit purchasing them from you.

Susan Silverstein says …

Thank you for clarifying those myths!

Marie says …

Can you elaborate on nutritional differences (such omega 3, etc.) for farm vs. wild?

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.

Lori says …

Thank you for this clarification. I had read about wild-caught versus farmed fish and would not buy farmed fish. Buying wild-caught is expensive and doesn't allow me to buy fish as often as I would like. I do trust Whole Foods and it is close to my home, so this makes all the difference in the way that I will shop more often at Whole Foods for fish! I will definitely be looking for that seal of approval. Thank you!!

samc says …

nothing mentioned about the nutrients provided by farmed vs. wild salmon. why is that?

Linda Poindexter says …

This is a very helpful article and gives me a good alternative especially when our Alaskan favorites are unavailable. Thanks as always for giving us healthy and delicious AND affordable good foods!

Terry Butcher says …

My main concern about farmed salmon is that their diet, and therefore the nutrition they provide us, is not the same as that of wild fish. The artificial coloring masks the fact that these fish are not eating shrimp and krill.

Gail Clough says …

This was really informative. I was wondering how it was raised as we buy your salmon often as it is so delicious. Thank you!

Barbara Usher says …

Non-sense. Farm fish are nasty. Farm Salmon is nasty. I'm surprise Whole Foods repeats what so called third party investigations say. Go look for yourself. I have. Look at the documentaries on the subject. It will absolutely make you sick to watch. They are now trying to feed Salmon the same garbage fed to cows, chickens, pigs. I don't eat meat and I stopped eating Salmon and all fish. Now I wonder if Whole Foods aren't selling foods that are GE or GMO such as potatoes, corn, tomatoes, soy, wheat, etc.

Henie Jamerson says …

Hopefully someday these practices will be the norm. Until then, you are leading the way. Keep up the excellent work Whole Foods. We totally appreciate it!

judylaviolette says …

This is good information. Please have your fish mongers read and understand this so they can relay accurate information to your customers. The last time I asked about your farmed salmon at the counter (and did not buy it) everyone seemed confused about WF policy and requirements for farmed fish. Now when I see the Blue Label, I will buy farmed fish with confidence.

Mike Greenfield says …

What is in the feed? This determines how nutritious the salmon are. Are they fed corn or fish pellets? Thank you. Mike

cw says …

Is any of the farm raised seafood fed soy?

Catherine says …

Very informative article. Is any of the farm raised seafood fed soy?

Sam Monsour says …

I would like to know the name, or names of the Aquaculture farms the salmon comes from?

Catherine O'Brien says …

Thank you for this! The bad farmers give farmed salmon a bad wrap. It has been challenging to educate people about the sustainability benefits, as well as quality control of properly farmed salmon. Thank you for helping shed the light!

Lidia says …

This is good info! I was under the impression that all farmed fish was toxic. Ill give it a try but only at Whole Foods and with your seal. Thanks!!

Barb Hobe says …

Thank you so very much for this article, Elizabeth. You have answered my questions. I will not hestiate to purchase salmon or any other fish/sea food from Whole Foods, unlike one much larger chain that can never answer my questions. Once again WF is my go-to store for so many products.

Peter Burton says …

The big question is how nutritious are farm-raised salmon. Does their diet resemble the diverse, nutrient-rich one that wild salmon enjoy or, like most farmed animals, is it some sort of grain-based, narrow-spectrum, generic diet? Organic, grain-fed salmon, chickens and beef may sound healthy, but these creatures are not meant to eat grain. More importantly, the composition of their meat is different, and much less healthy, than that of their counterparts that consume a natural diet. Beef raised on diverse plant grazing and foraging is relatively high in healthy Omega 3s and low in unhealthy Omega 6s. Flip those ratios for beef raised on grain. So, what's the deal for farm raised salmon?

K. says …

Is your farmed salmon fed natural astaxanthin or artificial astaxanthin (to make it pink?)

EDIE MA says …

Chickens, pigs, cows, turkeys and any other edible animal are now raised in concentration camp type conditions because it is highly profitable for Big Business and because they can get away with it as they own the politicians who write they laws and control the Government. Fish farming is no different. I like the creatively written comments on "safe" farming, but without detailed facts to support the article it remains somewhat of a fantasy article to me.

Peggy says …

This is the first positive article I've read on farm raised salmon. Thanks for the info

Joe says …

I will never buy farm raised seafood. I know people that have had fish farms. Based on knowing the water quality and the quality of what they are fed keep me only eating wild caught! I hope you don't cut back on my ability to get wild caught seafood from you!

Don Duncan says …

Thank you WFM. Now I can save a little on salmon. I had boycotted farmed fish.

Michelle says …

I would like to know what qualifies as a "Low Density" pen? How much room do the salmon actually get? Do salmon in low density pens still develop sea lice and/or cataracts and go blind due to stress?

Samo says …

From what I've read, this doesn't discuss directly the main reasons for Monterey Bay Aquarium's "Avoid" rating for farmed salmon: === "One of the biggest concerns is the amount of food required to raise farmed salmon. It generally takes three pounds of wild fish to grow one pound of farmed salmon. The environmental impact of salmon farming is still increasing as global production continues to rise. "Most salmon are farmed in open pens and cages in coastal waters. Waste from these farms is released directly into the ocean. Parasites and diseases from farmed salmon can spread to wild fish swimming near the farms and escaping farmed salmon can harm wild populations. As a result, most salmon farmed in ocean net pens get an "Avoid" rating." === I, for one, will be continuing to avoid farmed salmon until I see green from Monterey Bay Aquarium.

Mary Johnston says …

What is the mercury content of these fish?

Barbara says …

I would like to know how often you verify these conditons. An annual audit, one day, doesn't seem adequate to make sure that they are in compliance all year. I'd appreciate your response. The inspections for many products seem inadequate Someone else mentioned there concern about what they feed upon. Wild is so much darker and why is that so? You pitched us well to sell your product but our concerns are very real and that is how we like our Salmon- Real and Wild!

Pages