Your ‘Wild’ Salmon May Be a Lie: Here’s What That Means for Your Health

Wild salmon has fewer calories and half the fat as farmed salmon — not to mention less preservatives. (Photo: Getty Images)

Your wild salmon might not be so wild after all.

That’s the message from a new study by international nonprofit Oceana that found that up to 43 percent of salmon is often mislabeled as “wild” when it was actually raised on a farm. Especially in the winter. 

For the study, Oceana researchers collected 82 samples of salmon from a variety of restaurants and grocery stores in New York, Washington, Chicago, and Virginia in the winter of 2013-2014, when wild salmon were out of season. DNA testing found that 43 percent of the samples were mislabeled and, of those that were mislabeled, 69 percent were farmed Atlantic salmon that was being sold as wild salmon.

The deception was larger at restaurants.

Researchers discovered that 67 percent of diners were deceived, while just 20 percent of grocery store shoppers were subject to mislabeled fish.

Unfortunately, mislabeled fish isn’t a new issue. Oceana conducted a study in 2012 that found that 39 percent of seafood sold in New York City was incorrectly labeled. That study discovered that salmon was the most commonly purchased type of fish, but 20 percent of the fish was mislabeled.

Farmed salmon is less healthy and contains more calories than wild salmon.

Experts say wild salmon has a different nutritional makeup than its farm-raised cousin.

“Wild salmon has fewer calories and half the fat,” registered dietitian nutritionist Beth Warren, author of Living a Real Life With Real Food tells Yahoo Health. “Farmed salmon also contains more saturated fat.”

It doesn’t stop there: While Warren says both are good sources of inflammation-fighting omega-3 fats, wild salmon may have more calcium and iron.

Related: 8 Reasons To Be Wary About Ordering Salmon

Farm-raised salmon’s higher saturated fat and calories may be a problem for those watching their cholesterol, certified dietitian-nutritionist Lisa Moskovitz, RD, CEO of NY Nutrition Group, tells Yahoo Health. “For those with history of heart disease, and who are watching their waistlines, this can be make a big difference,” she says.

Farmed salmon may also have added chemicals and preservatives.

Warren says the farmed salmon can contain chemicals used to turn the fish pink — canthaxanthin and astaxanthin, food coloring agents that are approved for use in the U.S.

There is also a higher risk of farm-raised fish being contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), synthetic chemicals which may be in their food, Warren says. The Environmental Protection Agency labels PCBs as a “probable human carcinogen,” meaning they may cause cancer in humans.

But Moskovitz says the news shouldn’t stop you from purchasing and eating salmon. “Despite the significant differences between wild and farm-raised salmon, eating fish at all is usually a much healthier alternative at meal times,” she says. “No matter which version you choose, eating salmon is a great option compared with fatty meats, and fast food.”

Want to try to look beyond the label? 

It’s not easy to tell wild and farm-raised salmon apart, but experts says the wild kind may have more of a dark pink color and a firmer texture — it’s just not a guaranteed indicator.

And, apparently, neither is the label.

Read This Next: 4 Things You Need to Know to Choose Good Salmon