Do You Know What’s In Your Salmon?

By Dr. Christopher Ogilvie

It seems as though every time we Americans find something that is supposed to be good for us, some study comes out and tells us that it’s going to kill us. The good news is that salmon is still really good for you……. if it’s wild. Granted, there is a small amount of naturally occurring mercury in the ocean that is picked up by the fish, but as long as you don’t overdo it, there shouldn’t be a problem. So let’s move on to salmon’s farm raised brethren, the Franken-Salmon.

Whether it’s cattle, chicken, pigs, or salmon, American companies have created a formula for raising them and they are sticking to it. First, crowd as many of the species in one place as possible to maximize space. Second, feed them corn and soy along with other ingredients. Third, pump the species up with antibiotics to combat the junk diet and crowded conditions. Finally, pretend that this product is the same as if the species had been raised in natural conditions.

There are many problems with this approach as it relates to salmon but only two will be highlighted here; Petrochemical additives and PCB’s. When a salmon, swimming around the ocean, eats its normal diet of crustaceans, algae, and other sea nutrients it absorbs the naturally occurring carotenoids and omega oils from them. Carotenoids are pigments that second as potent anti-oxidants which are beneficial for the fish and anything that eats the fish. Just like in carrots and other orange and red foods, carotenoids change the color of the salmon’s muscle, making it a nice pinkish color. Farm raised salmon do not eat algae and crustaceans and do not get the carotenoids in their corn soy fish pellets which give them a greyish hue to their meat.  Regardless of the price, if the average consumer saw two salmon, one that was salmon pink, and one that was jailhouse gray, the pink one will win out most of the time. Not only are the farm raised salmon gray, but all of those omega 3’s we thought we were getting, just don’t occur in similar quantities as they do in wild salmon.

The industry’s solution to this problem was to add a color additive to the salmon to give them a pinker look. As with most food additives, the two that are principally used in salmon are derived from petroleum. Canthaxanthin and astaxanthin are the petrochemicals used to color our fish so it looks pretty and we buy it. This is nothing new, similar color additives are used on many of the fruits, vegetables, and food that we buy everyday. To be fair, the FDA says these petroleum based color additives are fine for human consumption. This author recommends the wild salmon.

Let’s move on to the bad news. It has to do with the corn and soy fish pellets that farm raised salmon are eating, but to truly understand what is going on we need to go back to the year 1929, the year that PCB’s were first produced. Polychlorinated Biphenyl or PCB’s were created by man and don’t occur naturally. They were originally used in products such as motor oil, oil based paints, electrical cables etc. and are known toxins that have been proven to lead to cancer. This fact most likely led to them being banned by the EPA in 1977. Unfortunately, these chemicals won’t go away. They are non-flammable, have a high boiling point, are fat soluble and persist in our environment, especially in the fish pellets that are fed to the salmon.

In 2003 the Environmental Working Group ( studied farm-raised salmon and found that farm raised salmon are the most PCB contaminated source of protein in the United States. Farmed salmon have 16 X the PCB’s that wild salmon do, 4 X the PCB’s that beef does, and 3.5 X the PCB’s that other seafood does.

Once again, we need to eat real food. The farther a food gets from its natural source, the worse it is for us. We can’t assume that a government agency is going to protect us. We have to be vigilant about the foods we eat and stick to the basic principle of Nature First. If you have any questions about this article, feel free to contact Dr. Ogilvie at or 703-226-9291.

Explore posts in the same categories: Naturopathy

10 Comments on “Do You Know What’s In Your Salmon?”

  1. cpettit Says:

    well said, doc!

  2. salmon buy Says:

    One of the most informative and illuminating articles on this subject I have ever read!!!

    Thank you for that.

    Burnet Hume Bennett
    Kansas City, MO

  3. OK. You are right. But what do we do?

    I’m worried about salmon. I’m worried about Omega 3. I’m worried that the loss of salmon caused by ocean acidification and global warming will bring salmon to the brink of extinction not to mention how it impacts health food supplements we’ve come to rely on like salmon fish oil and Omega 3.

    I read that salmon supplies are already diminishing at

    It says that the oceans are becoming more acidic because we are dumping so much carbon dioxide into the air and that this endangers the food that salmon feed on.

    What do you know about this?

    What can we do about it?

    What can one person do?


    • Hello Lindsey,

      Thanks for reading my article. The farther we get from nature, the more problems, like the ones you are speaking about, we will have. Regardless, adding petroleum based chemicals to farm raised salmon is doubling down on a bad idea. We can’t solve these problems one by one. We need to shift our lives to a more natural and harmonious way of life and everything will get better. At some point we won’t have a choice.

  4. Johnathan Mercer Says:

    Great article! There are so many chemicals and poisons are in things we have no idea of. For instance, I recently found out from this article that they still use asbestos in buildings. I thought that was banned years ago.

    Either way, thanks for all this information, and I plan on becoming a new follower of your blog.


  5. SK Says:

    Unfortunately majority of people are desensitized to reality. Even tough, they know about the problem, they tend not accept it. Vast majority of people, when they compare prices, it seems like, they have no choice but choose lower price version. I think, is better not to eat than eat cheaper version that it is loaded with problems.
    Very well written and concise article, I am glad author took the time to write it. For sure it validated my thinking.

  6. Joe Says:

    I love my salmon and I try to eat it 3 times a week. How do I know if I’m really buying Wild Salmon? I look online and it costs $25-$30lbs. and when I’m at my local grocery store (Fresh Market), they sell both farm and “wild” salmon. There’s a clear distinction in color. The wild is a richer type of red, but they’re only charging $16lbs. and it makes me wonder if I’m eating the real thing. How can they sell it for so cheap? Are my only choices paying $30 online or canned?

  7. Theresa Shapiro Says:

    If its cheap it’s not wild. The best way to know is to find out the seasons of the wild salmon. This way you can know it’s in season and expect to pay extremely high prices for wild salmon. The seasons are very short. What concerns me is if I take fish oil where is this coming from, wild or farmed fish.

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