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Wild vs Farmed Smoked Salmon


Wild Smoked Salmon

The ultimate in smoked salmon luxury, most connoisseurs will tell you that this the only kind of salmon they will eat. This is salmon that has been caught swimming wild in the oceans and seas of the world, as opposed to farmed and harvested in lakes and man-made pools. The only conundrum is that “fresh” wild smoked salmon is only available seasonally in certain parts of the world, during netting season so buyers have to be careful when purchasing so-called ‘wild’ smoked salmon. It is only available fresh for a very short period during the netting season. More often than not, fish labeled “wild” available out of season is has been mislabeled or prepared from fish that was frozen the summer before. Flavor wise, most people would not be able to taste the difference between wild smoked salmon and farmed smoked salmon. However, there are certain divergences. Wild smoked salmon roams the waters at will, and therefore is typically leaner (less fatty) than farmed salmon. Moreover, the fat content and texture of wild smoked salmon can vary, so the flavor can also vary depending on the fish itself. So don’t be surprised if you find wild smoked salmon that greatly differs in flavor and textures. Once the salmon starts coming in from the ocean to spawn, the fat content will start to decrease at it strains to make its way upriver. So where the fish is caught will also affect the flavor and fat content. A fish caught way upriver will have wasted its fat reserves, and therefore will be much less desirable. Farmed smoked salmon, on the other hand, will almost always have identical fat contents, which will also tend to be high as they do not need to make the strenuous journey up stream.

Farmed Smoked Salmon

Due to the convenience and depleted wild salmon populations, aquaculture has become a major world industry. Today, most smoked salmon is farmed all around the world, which provides a steady supply of fresh and smoked salmon to the market. When examining farmed smoked salmon, where the fish comes from becomes less important than, as opposed to wild smoked salmon, where origin is everything. How the fish are raised, cured, and the smoking technique used become the more determining factors on the quality and labeling of the fish. The way to make it less confusing is to think of it this way: any type of salmon species can be farmed pretty much anywhere under the right conditions; thus, you might have farmed smoked salmon from a Pacific species, farmed in Norway, and smoked using a cold-smoking technique, and labeled Norwegian smoked salmon. The more important issue is the flavor and smoking. In the case of salmon, fat is flavor. Since farmed salmon are more sedentary than their wild counterparts, farmed smoked salmon has a more buttery smooth flavor, oilier and, some will argue, more flavorful. As for the color, it tends to have a brighter red color, which is actually derived from chemically enhanced feed pellets placed at the bottom of the lake (farm-raised salmon without the use of these pellets would be very unappetizing grey color). The bottom line is that unless you go to a specialty store, and pay high prices, and it happens to be the netting season, you will more often than not be consuming farmed smoked salmon. Farmed smoked salmon has another advantage over its wild cousin: since it is given the perfect balance of protein, oils, and fats, their composition is more homogenous and balanced than the salmon found in the wild.

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