There is indeed much debate surrounding salmon. Ninety per cent of salmon sold is farmed, which means the fish are bred in small pens and most have antibiotics and anti-parasitic medicine added to their feed. They are also fed pigment-fortified pellets, to improve the colour of the flesh. There are environmental concerns too – intensive farming off the West coast of Ireland is blamed for the virtual extinction of the sea trout.
All of this is worrying, but the issue is not so cut and dry. It is made more confusing by the fact that wild salmon populations are in decline and some species are endangered. While most foodies would prefer wild salmon for taste and texture, if eating it contributes to their extinction, then questions need to be raised. A balance needs to be struck, and there needs to be a concerted push to clean up salmon aquaculture. When buying farmed salmon, look out for organic fish, raised to the Soil Association Standards and fed on organic feed.
Wild salmon has a short season, which varies slightly from area to area. The tails and fins of farmed salmon are often damaged or deformed slightly, depending on the numbers in the cages. Depending on the production method, they tend to be fatter and flabbier than wild salmon. The colour of the salmon flesh is determined mostly by what the fish feeds on. The colour of farmed salmon can literally be chosen from a colour card, the feed is then made up and coloured to order.