Did you know salmon is sometimes dyed red? This label says this fresh salmon was “Farm-Raised” with “Color Added”. Farmed salmon is often fed a mixture of highly contaminated fish meal and fish oil mixed with corn and soy products, because it is cheap and helps fatten them up to produce more meat to be sold. This produces horrible side effects – it turns the salmon gray, because they are not eating creatures that make their flesh naturally pink. In order to fix this, salmon farmers are allowed to feed the fish supplements to help dye the salmon pink like the color of wild salmon. Corn and soy do not grow in the oceans for a reason. Wouldn’t you think the color changing would be a huge sign of a malnourishment for the fish? Farmed salmon don’t eat their typical diet of krill, shrimp and other fish, so it’s very hard for them to get the same amount of healthy Omega 3 fatty acids that are crucial to protect you from heart disease, arthritis and depression, which is a big reason to eat salmon in the first place. Look for WILD salmon when shopping to avoid these dyes and to get the most nutrients.
“Color added” on a label for salmon and salmon products means that the salmon were given a feed which contains a pigment called astaxanthin. When the feed is digested, the astaxanthin is absorbed into the fish’s flesh giving the fillets or steaks a reddish or ‘salmon’ color. Astaxanthin is pigment occurring in nature that gives flamingos their pink coloration. It also turns cooked shrimp and crabs an orange-red color. In the wild, salmon get astaxanthin through their diets, which consist of plankton and small fish. Farmed salmon get astaxanthin in their feeds as an added dietary supplement, hence the use of the phrase “color added”.
Asthaxanthin provides color to both wild and farmed salmon flesh, but it is also an important nutrient for the salmon, and for humans. In salmon, astaxanthin is important for growth and survival. It acts as a powerful anti-oxidant that protects important fats in the flesh from degrading. It also supports the immune system and cell respiration. For humans, astaxanthin is commonly sold as a nutritional supplement in health food stores for its anti-inflammatory benefits.
Natural astaxanthin can be obtained from harvesting Pacific and Antarctic krill, or by extracting it from shrimp shell waste. It can also be made synthetically from petroleum products, which eliminates the need to obtain it from wild sources. However, because people prefer natural sources of astaxanthin, food scientists increasingly use a micro algae, Haematococcus pluvialis, or a Phaffia yeast Xanthophyllomyces dendrorhous to produce natural asthaxanthin for both salmon and human dietary supplements.
Here is a quick guide on how to buy fresh salmon and make sure you aren’t eating or feeding your family something else.
Please share with your loved ones who love salmon!
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