I have a friend who is a homeopathic. She told me that I should stop eating pen-raised salmon because they are fed a lot of antibiotics. I was very disappointed because I thought I was eating a safe product.

I don’t know how to get more info about this, but if you guys know anything about it, I’m sure a lot of us would appreciate it.


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Dearest Claudia,

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I’ve got some good news and some bad news. The good news is that your question is quite au courant — the talk of the seafood counter — so there’s no shortage of resources to help you deal with the bad news. The bad news is that shopping for a healthy and environmentally friendly fish dinner requires carrying an elaborate chart in your wallet. The dish on fish? Antibiotics are just the tip of the wave.

Farmed fish are like the consumptive children of an aristocratic Victorian family: coddled, spoiled, inbred, genetically weak, servants catering to their every whim. Living in crowded net cages, farmed fishies are more prone to pests and diseases; to counteract the problem, they are indeed fed antibiotic-laced food. Dyes can be added to the food as well, to give the fishies’ flesh a pinkish, wild-salmon-y hue. And they are fed as much as they will eat, which is a lot; it takes two or three pounds of wild caught fish to raise one pound of farmed salmon. The math does not bode well for wild fish runs.

What goes in must come out: A salmon farm with 200,000 fish produces the same amount of poop as a town of 62,000 people. Thanks to the sewage system, aka the tide, most of the antibiotic-laden excrement wafts slowly to the sea floor, where it suffocates all living beings.

Then there’s the problem of fish escaping from farms. Despite their delicate Victorian constitutions, escapee salmon may thrive in the wild, raising fears that they will disrupt the natural gene pool and alter centuries-old wild fish customs. To top it all off, wild fish have little resistance to the diseases and pests that are prevalent in fish farms, so AWOL fishies can transmit dangerous illnesses. Concerned fish observers are seeing unprecedented levels of disease in salmon runs near fish farms.

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The bottom line? For your own health, and for the health of ecosystems worldwide, it is best to eat sustainably harvested wild fish. Actually, for your own health it’s probably best not to eat fish at all, since antibiotic-rich fish poop isn’t the only thing contaminating our waters. But if you must eat fish, Environmental Defense and the National Audubon Society can help you make an educated decision about which fish to choose.

Enjoy your dinner,
Umbra Fisk

P.S. I think your friend might be a homeopath, not a homeopathic, just as Jesse Helms is a psychopath, not a psychopathic.