IFT Food Facts

What exactly are the differences between fish that is wild caught versus fish that is farm raised? A Q&A with Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) President Mary Ellen Camire, PhD, CFS sheds some light on this topic.

Q: What is the difference between wild-caught and farm-raised fish?
A: Wild-caught means the fish were caught using nets, hand-lines, divers, or traps.  Farm-raised fish are raised in tanks or enclosures specifically for food.

Q: How much of what we eat is farm-raised versus wild-caught?
A: Depending on where you live, the percentage of farm-raised and wild-caught fish can vary greatly.

Q: What are the most common farmed fish?
A: In the U.S., the top fish that are farmed are catfish and trout. In the rest of the world, shrimp and salmon are the biggest crops.

Q: Are farm-raised fish genetically modified?
A: There are some genetically modified salmon varieties available; but most fish grown for agriculture are produced by traditional breeding methods and are very similar to wild-caught fish. Some farmed fish are just wild fish that are caught and then raised in pens.

Q: Is there a taste difference between wild-caught and farm-raised fish?
A: There is not much of a taste difference, but some people notice a difference in texture because farm-raised fish are often fed a slightly different diet.

Q: Are farm-raised fish as nutritious as wild-caught fish?
A: Yes. In the wild, fish get Omega-3 fatty acids (the main nutrient in fish) from eating algae, either by eating smaller fish who eat algae or by eating it directly. In farm-raised fish, algae is added directly as a part of their feed.

Mary Ellen Camire, PhD, CFS, University of Maine

NOAA Fisheries


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