The news this week that farmed salmon packs a toxic load has sent omega-3 junkies into nutritional shock. Don't despair, though - there's still good eating in that luscious pink flesh, if only the feds and retailers would respect consumers and learn to label
Tonnes of farmed salmon produced yearly in Canada: 60,000 (50,000 in British Columbia, 10,000 in the Maritimes)
Total annual value of salmon farming industry in Canada: $700 million
Percentage of salmon produced in Canada that's farmed: 85
Percentage that's wild: About 10 to 12
Percentage that's "organic": About 3
Where Canada ranks in farmed salmon production worldwide: Fourth
What the new study in Science magazine says
Farmed salmon contains PCBs, dioxin and DDT levels up to 10 times higher than wild salmon
Farmed salmon contains two to five times the PCBs found in beef, pork and dairy products
Number of servings of salmon the study suggests we should be eating: Less than half a serving a month
Number the Canadian Food Guide suggests: Two to three every week
Telltale signs that salmon is farmed
Any salmon labelled "Atlantic"
Salmon labelled "fresh" but available out of season (before May and after September) is more than likely farmed
Salmon that's a fixed menu item
Salmon that's greyer in colour, but this isn't always visible since chemical dyes are usually administered to farm salmon to give their flesh a more appealing pink colour
Price: anything around $5 a pound wholesale; wild usually wholesales for two or three times as much
Sockeye, chum and pink varieties of Pacific salmon
Some varieties of salmon pâté, usually those most exorbitantly priced
Most brands of canned salmon, since the mushy consistency of farmed salmon makes it hard to can
Difficult to tell, since there are no government-approved standards, but the term usually refers to farmed fish fed with organic soy and given a little more room (usually three times that found in other salmon farms) to roam in net cages - free-range fish, if you will.
What the Canadian Food Inspection Agency says about the labelling of salmon
None required. (While labelling requirements for other "organic" products have been in the works for 15 years, new regs expected imminently do not include aquaculture.)
Why eco-activists say we shouldn't eat farmed salmon
They contain higher levels of unhealthy saturated fats - 70 per cent more fat, where cancer-causing contaminants are stored, than wild Atlantic salmon, because of the high fat content in their feed - and lower levels of beneficial omega-3 fatty acids; farmed Atlantic salmon contain 200 per cent more fat than wild Pacific pink or chum salmon
They're loaded with unregulated antibiotics, unapproved pesticides and fungicides used to fight disease - more per kilo, in fact, than any other "livestock"
Levels considered acceptable for PCBs, dioxins and other contaminants in Canada are several times higher than U.S., European Union and World Health Organization standards.
What the salmon farm industry says
Although fish may contain higher levels of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) than dairy or meat products, the health benefits of fish far outweigh the risks.
Eating farmed salmon reduces the risk of heart disease, Alzheimer's and childhood asthma, among other diseases.
Fact or myth?
The industry claims: Salmon farming helps to conserve threatened and endangered wild salmon stocks.
The other side of the story: Parasites and disease like sea lice in farmed salmon are escaping into wild salmon populations and destroying them.
The industry claims: Farmed salmon helps to feed the world.
The other side of the story: Farmed salmon represents a net loss of protein worldwide, since 3 to 5 kilograms of other fish is used to produce 1 kilogram of farmed salmon.
The eco fallout
Every day, BC's aquaculture dumps raw sewage into the ocean equivalent to that of a city of half a million people.
Escapes of farmed Atlantic salmon into BC waters have been linked to humpback and other deformities in wild stocks.