20 Dec Salmon: Are You Buying Toxic Fish?
Salmon are some of the most sought-after table fare when it comes to fish. This is due to their rich taste, their versatility in different dishes and how healthy they are with high omega 3 fat content. All of these benefits can be overshadowed by how they are raised. Due to high demand for salmon, much of what you see in the grocery store is farmed fish. So, how do you know what to pick so that it tastes great but is also raised in a healthy way? We’re here to help!
Some background on salmon
Peak salmon harvesting is from May to October. This is when the fish are migrating up the coast and into rivers to spawn. This is the best time to buy fresh salmon at the grocery store. However, with the rise of vacuum-packing frozen salmon keeps very well until the next season’s harvest. Be mindful that different types of salmon also freeze better than others.
You do NOT want farm raised or GMO salmon. Farm raised salmon are much more susceptible to diseases, are fed food that is manufactured and are also treated with medications to ensure their survival. Some various rules about salmon and how to decipher the packaging in the store:
-ALL Atlantic salmon is farmed. The wild populations are endangered and therefore not allowed to be harvested. DO NOT BUY!
-MOST Pacific salmon is “ranched” meaning it was raised to a certain age in tanks and then released into the wild. It then matures and attempts to return to its birth river where it is then caught. This is what most of the “wild” salmon is that we see in the store.
-“Alaskan” salmon is always “wild” because it is illegal to farm salmon in Alaska. Hence the “ranching” that is done.
Know your fish
There is a wide variety of salmon species to choose from but we recommend three: King, Sockeye and Coho. These are common enough that most grocery stores will have at least two of them in stock. The King salmon is the best overall but you certainly pay for it. It has great flavor, dark red coloring and is the largest salmon. The Sockeye comes next with its dark red flesh and mild taste. It will typically have a good amount of fat as well since it has to travel to distant glacial streams to spawn. Coho are very good as well and available in the Midwest in Lake Michigan (Kings are there as well). The Cohos are great for cedar plank cooking since they are smaller and lend themselves to higher heat cooking with the smaller fillets. The Coho also freeze better so they are a better option for late winter or early spring purchasing when fresh salmon has run out.
Use your senses
If you are buying fresh salmon (especially out of the display) it is important to use all of your senses. The fish should not smell “fishy”. It will obviously have some scent but it should not be anything obnoxious. Next, look at the fillet closely. Does it look moist? Is there any change in skin color? Is all of the flesh a consistent color? Is there any separation of the flakes of muscle? Is the flesh dark red/orange or is it a light pink? Last, if possible, is touch. Is the flesh firm and cold? Or softer and warm? All of these cues let us know roughly how fresh the fish is. We want a moist fillet that is dark colored with cold, firm consistency without any smell (think sushi).
As you can see, you MUST be an educated consumer when shopping for the most nutritious food possible. The education is necessary due to the wide latitude companies are given in labeling their product. Hopefully this guide has you picking out the best salmon in your next trip to the grocery store!