Grabbing the Gusto

Deirdre Reid – Freelance Writer & Home Cook

I dragged you along with me recently as I learned the bad news about canned tuna. I don’t always make the right food choices, I compromise. I split the grocery bills with my guy and he and I don’t see eye-to-eye on these issues. However, I’m going to avoid buying canned tuna, since he doesn’t eat it anyway, until I can find more sustainable, and affordable, choices than the brands in my supermarket. For now, I’ll stick to canned salmon. That’s not really a hardship for me — I love salmon.

Another bonus: canned salmon is high in heart-healthy Omega-3 fatty acids — four times higher than the amount in canned light tuna. You’re still not buying the canned salmon argument? Let me guess, you’ve been grossed out in the past by the skin and bones in canned salmon. I must have a higher ‘ick’ tolerance because the skin never freaks me out, but that could be because I eat it when I cook salmon. The bones are soft and edible; they can be smooched into whatever you’re preparing, plus they’re rich in calcium and magnesium.

Still not convinced? No worries. You can now buy skinless boneless canned salmon instead of the ‘traditional’ type. Trader Joe’s stocks cans of skinless boneless wild Alaskan pink salmon.

canned salmon salad recipe farmed wild

pink salmon, from NOAA’s Historic Fisheries Collection

Wild vs. Farmed Salmon

Wild salmon is better than farmed. If the label says Atlantic salmon, don’t buy it. All Atlantic salmon are now farmed. The wild population, except for some lonely survivors in the rivers of Maine, is extinct. Chinook and coho salmon are both wild and farmed, so check the label on those too.

Why avoid farmed salmon? First, they don’t have as high of a percentage of Omega-3s as wild salmon because, in addition to fish meal, they are fattened with grain, just like factory cows.

Farmed salmon also contain high levels of pesticides and antibiotics that are introduced into the stock by the farmer to prevent disease and other outbreaks in the closely packed pens. Until recently it was thought that the level of PCBs in farmed salmon was much higher than in wild salmon. However, the trade association for salmon farmers released a study showing that wild and farmed have the same amount of PCBs on average. Whom should we believe?

According to the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seawatch program, farmed salmon also pose environmental threats. Their parasites and diseases spread to nearby wild fish populations. If they escape, they threaten other fish stocks by competing with them for food. Farm waste is dumped directly into the ocean. The ‘fish cost’ to feed them is high: it takes three pounds of fish to grow one pound of farmed salmon.

But the most compelling reason to choose wild over farmed salmon is simply this. Wild tastes better. When I managed a McCormick & Schmick’s restaurant, I held many blind tastings of wild and farmed salmon for new wait staff so they could taste the difference. The wild salmon was always emphatically chosen over the farmed.

Why Alaskan wild salmon?

Alaska’s fisheries management program is one of the best in the world. Their wild salmon stocks are plentiful and healthy. However, in the Pacific Northwest, particularly Oregon and California, wild salmon populations are threatened by overfishing and loss of habitat due to dam construction, deforestation and urban development.

According to Seafood Watch, wild coho, chum, keta, king, pink, red, silver and sockeye salmon from Alaska are rated the ‘Best Choice’ for purchase. Wild salmon from Washington is rated a ‘Good Alternative.’

Now that you’ve had your salmon lesson for the day, let’s talk salad. Just like tuna salad, there are many variations of salmon salad, but this is how I’ve been making mine lately.

Salmon Salad

  • 6-oz can of wild Alaskan salmon, drained
  • 1 Tbsp celery, finely diced
  • 1 Tbsp cucumber, finely diced
  • 1 Tbsp green onion, finely diced
  • 1/4 tsp grated lemon zest
  • 1/4 tsp dried dill or 1 tsp fresh dill, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp horseradish, or you could add a bit of wasabi powder instead
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup low-fat mayonnaise, or mix of mayo and drained plain yogurt
  • Optional – red bell pepper (finely diced), carrot (finely diced), capers, red onion (finely diced), Italian parsley (chopped), walnuts (finely diced)

Use your discretion on the ingredient amounts. Combine all the ingredients in a small bowl and serve.

Serving ideas:

  • On top of a green salad
  • Cold sandwich with whole wheat or pumpernickel bread
  • Salmon melt sandwich with cheese
  • Stuffed into a hollowed-out tomato, avocado or cucumber
    farmed wild salmon canned salad recipe

    t-shirt I bought in Girdwood, Alaska


3 thoughts on “Salmon Salad

  1. Donna McKay says:

    I can appreciate that you have an opinion on taste (although it’s more based on the species of salmon, rather than farmed vs wild).
    But you facts on Omega 3, antibiotics is plain wrong.
    Omega 3 are actually higher in Atlantic salmon (which happens to be the common species farmed). Salmon are not sold in stores with antibiotic residue (all farmed products are held for a period after any treatments to ensure this). Plus, wild salmon (from hatcheries) may have also been treated with medicine, so perhaps that should be kept in context.

    If you “feel” that you like Alaska salmon better, then just say so, but don’t justify this by making things up about a very healthy alternative to removing the last wild salmon from our oceans.


    1. deirdrereid says:

      I didn’t make things up, Donna, I wrote about (and linked to) what I read on the Monterey Aquarium site and elsewhere, and gave my opinion on my preference. I have no motive to make anything up.

      I know there are many differing opinions on farmed vs wild; it’s hard to know what’s accepted as fact since some of those doing the arguing often have financial motives to do so. I appreciate you letting me know about the Omega 3 and antibiotic issues. I’ll have to read further on that so thanks for giving me the heads up.

      In the end I make my purchasing decision of a healthy stock fish based on taste. I do think wild salmon tastes better. That opinion is based on blind tastings many years ago of farmed Atlantic vs a few different species of wild as they came into season and into our restaurant. I haven’t had the budget to buy wild salmon in season lately, and so I rely on previously frozen, but I do still prefer it over the farmed I’ve had at luncheons. I taste a difference that I enjoy — it’s a personal thing. I prefer strongly flavored fish, not all people do.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment here and adding to the discussion, I appreciate it.

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