Whatever your preconceptions may be around seafood in a can, disregard them now. Yep, throw ‘em overboard…and then go find that can opener. Because you’re about to try seafood in a can again, for the first time. No canned Chicken of the Sea here, this is the freshest, most voluptuous, deep and rich and and wild, nutritionally power-packed vital food...from a can. So no factory farmed food here—just the clean, free-range kind of salmon. If there were a perfect food on this planet, this could be it. Drenched in clean, rich protein, divined in omega-3’s, and baked full of Vitamin D, this little can can! Meaty, moist, tender, rich, umami, flaky, oily goodness — in other words, it’s the anti-canned tunafish. Sorry, Charlie! ~
For thousands of years, salmon have defined the culture and livelihoods of the Pacific Northwest's native peoples, and they similarly fuel us at Barefoot today. (It’s hard not to get swept up in salmonmania when you reside in the great northwest, and with one Seattle office, Barefoot is deep in the salmon!) We grill it, smoke it, poach it, fry it, and jerk it, but we leave the canning of it to our expert commercial fisher neighbors to the north, Vital Choice, the Platinum standard for quality seafood. We share a mutual understanding and appreciation for the wild Pacific variety of salmon, which are higher in the Omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D, and conversely, lower in omega-6 and saturated fats, which makes them extraordinarily healthful, sustainably produced sources of protein. I’m tempted to say that if you eat just a can of this a week, you’ll live to a hundred and change, but I don’t think we can:-)
When we don’t have the time to cook it fresh from the boat, we’ll eat it “grab-and-go” style in the next best fashion: one of these convenient 7.5 oz tins. We like to crumble it over a salad with some good vinegar or a Meyer lemon and oil, or even just “naked”, right out of the can for the full primal. The creamy, intensely rich umami flavor is in a can class of its own, and just above and beyond any other canned seafood out there. The Vital Choice canned Sockeye salmon really captures the true flavors of wild fresh caught salmon, with a balance in flavor complexity, as well as texture, somehow delivering on both flakiness and creaminess at the same time. The deep and rich layers of flavor separate this product from any others on the market, and we’ve tasted our way through most. This product is the closest thing to eating actual fresh salmon.
Beyond the solely gastronomic enjoyment of eating wild-caught, canned Sockeye salmon, this foodstuff serves key nutritional needs for us.
We all know by now that our bodies do extremely well with lots of polyunsaturated Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids in our diet. These help with everything from the structure and function of our cells, to brain function, metabolism, and immune-system health. Since our bodies can’t make these healthy fats ourselves, we need to find foods that do the work. Most Americans actually get too much of the Omega-6s from the vegetable oils used when we cook at home, and in almost all restaurant, take-out, prepared, and packaged foods. So where we mostly need help is with our levels of Omega-3’s.
Omega-3s come in two basic forms, with distinctly different health impacts: short-chain omega-3 ALA from plant foods, and long-chain omega-3s (EPA and DHA) from seafood and fish oil. The body only needs EPA and DHA, which it can make from plant-source ALA … but only in small amounts. Of the three omega-3s, DHA is by far the most important one to get from foods or supplements. Omega-3 EPA and DHA are essential to life itself, and a very large body of evidence indicates that diets rich in both promote optimal health. Fish, shellfish, zooplankton (e.g., krill), algae, and certain aquatic plants (e.g., seaweed) are the only food sources of EPA and DHA. This explains why EPA and DHA are sometimes called "marine" omega-3s. Among marine foods, fatty fish like salmon, tuna, sardines, mackerel, herring, anchovies, and sablefish are the richest sources of EPA and DHA, by far.
More details on the health, and science of this product from Vital Choice:
Long-chain omega-3s: Truly essential to life and health
Here's why long-chain omega-3s EPA and DHA are essential to human life and to optimal health:
Omega-3 EPA is found in the membranes of most cells in the body
- EPA appears to support and promote healthy mood and good mental health
- The body uses EPA to make ephemeral, hormone-like compounds called eicosanoids (eye-koss-uh-noyds) – e.g., prostaglandins, leukotrienes, and thromboxanes – which play key roles in the regulation of inflammation
- The body uses EPA to make critical inflammation- and oxidation-regulating chemicals called E-resolvins
- EPA also used to regulate the creation of eicosanoids derived from omega-6 fatty acids (arachidonic acid)
Omega-3 DHA is also found in most cell membranes, and unlike EPA, it plays essential structural and functional roles in the brain, nervous system and eyes.
- DHA is especially abundant in, and important to, the synapses that connect brain cells and the eye's light receptors.
- DHA is essential to the human brain and nervous system. The brain is 60 percent fatty acids by weight, and DHA constitutes about 15 percent of the brain's fatty acids.
Omega-3 EPA and DHA: Key heart-health allies
The U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) is the lead Federal agency charged with supporting research designed to improve the quality of health care, reduce its cost, address patient safety and medical errors, and broaden access to essential services.
In 2003, AHRQ commissioned a group of leading academic researchers to examine the available evidence concerning the impacts of omega-3s from fish (EPA and DHA) and plant foods (ALA) on cardiovascular disease (CVD).
The resulting 2004 AHRQ report – "Effects of Omega-3 Fatty Acids on Cardiovascular Disease" – found ample high-quality evidence for the cardiovascular-health and death-prevention benefits of fish and fish oil, but much less evidence concerning omega-3 ALA in plant foods:
"Overall, a number of studies offer evidence to support the hypothesis that fish, fish oil, or ALA supplement consumption reduces all-cause mortality and various CVD outcomes, although the evidence is strongest for fish or fish oil."
This finding was echoed in a 2004 ruling by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), in which the agencyapproved the following qualified health claim for fish and fish oil supplements: "Supportive but not conclusive research shows that consumption of EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease."
The American Heart Association (AHA) agrees with these Federal findings, and says that the long-chain omega-3s from fish fat (EPA and DHA) reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, thanks to the following effects:
- Moderate blood pressure.
- Promote healthy artery function.
- Lower triglyceride (blood fat) levels.
- Reduce blood stickiness (platelet aggregation).
- Optimize the ratio of HDL to non-HDL cholesterol.
- Help stabilize arterial plaque and inhibit its accumulation.
- Reduce the risk of arrhythmias that can lead to sudden cardiac death.
Omega-3s do not lower total or LDL cholesterol levels, and can in fact raise LDL levels slightly.
However, omega-3s also reduce the oxidation of LDL cholesterol and improve the ratio of HDL ("good") cholesterol to non-HDL cholesterol. These two measures are considered more accurate predictors of cardiovascular health risk, compared with total or LDL cholesterol levels.
The AHA makes these recommendations with regard to omega-3s, fish and heart health:
- People without documented coronary heart disease: Enjoy two servings of fish per week.
- Patients with diagnosed coronary heart disease: Consume 1,000 mg (1 gm) of omega-3s daily, preferably from fatty fish or fish oil supplements.
- Patients who need to lower triglycerides: Take 2 to 4 grams (2000 to 4000mg) of omega-3s daily.
- Patients taking more than 3 grams (3000mg) of omega-3s per day from fish oil capsules should do so only under a physician's guidance.
We would add this caution: Persons diagnosed with heart disease – especially those using implanted cardiac defibrillators or taking blood thinning drugs – should consult a physician before taking supplemental omega-3s or any other dietary supplement. For more information, see "Safety considerations: doses and contraindications", below.
- DHA regulates the expression of dozens of "working" genes in the brain. It also stimulates and enables growth of the branching structures (dendrites and axons) that extend from and connect brain cells (neurons).
- DHA is essential to brain development. The brain accumulates DHA rapidly in the womb and during the first year of life, from umbilical blood, breast milk (or DHA-fortified formula) and food.
- DHA is essential to eye structure and functions and to infants' eye development.
- DHA is the dominant fatty acid in sperm, and is critical to sperm functioning and male reproductive health.
- The body uses DHA to make critical inflammation- and oxidation-regulating chemicals called D-resolvins and protectins.
- Neuroprotectin D-1 produced in the body from DHA protects brain and retina cells. NP-D1 prevents formation of the amyloid-beta proteins associated with Alzheimer's disease, and the damaging inflammation induced by amyloid-beta proteins. (As yet, there is no clinical evidence that dietary DHA prevents or treats any form of dementia.) NP D-1 plays similar roles with regard to retinal pigment epithelial (RPE) cells.
- DHA moderates the creation of pro-inflammatory eicosanoids derived from omega-6 fatty acids (arachidonic acid).
Salmon in the wild ... and in industrial fish farms
After hatching in small streams, salmon migrate to the sea to mature, living there for one to six years before they return to spawn in the same streams where they were hatched. Salmon return to the exact spot where they were born and this homing behavior depends on olfactory (smells) memory.
Even small changes in the mineral, silt, or metal content of streams can keep salmon from finding their way home to spawn. Mining and logging operations that alter the content and "smell" of salmon rivers even slightly has destroyed their salmon populations.
This is why – in addition to banning salmon farms – Alaska's state constitution prohibits contamination of salmon rivers.
The fat content of salmon is linked to the length of their migration upstream, because salmon generally do not eat after they start upstream. Some – such as Yukon River king salmon – must swim hundreds of miles upriver to spawn where they hatched.
Atlantic salmon are industrially farm-raised in many parts of the world, and farm-raising of king and coho salmon in New Zealand and British Columbia is on the rise … though on a much small scale, so far.
A considerable body of research shows that salmon farms can harm wild salmon by acting as concentrated sources of disease and sea lice that spread to wild salmon migrating past the aquaculture pens.
Atlantic salmon were brought to the edge of extinction by contamination from salmon farms in Norway, Ireland, and Scotland, and remain scarce in the wild. Chilean salmon farms have been plagued by ongoing problems with disease.
Marine scientists and wild salmon advocates in British Columbia have been fighting to force large salmon farming corporations to remove their pens from the province's salmon migration routes.
Why we love Vital Choice, in their own words:
A Letter from Randy Hartnell, Founder, President, Vital Choice
I’m Randy Hartnell, founder of Vital Choice Seafood. My relationship with wild salmon first began more than 30 years ago when I went to Alaska and landed a summer job on a fishing boat to finance my way through UC Berkeley.
By the time I finished school several years later, these summer sojourns had become much more than a job. Fishing in Alaska had become a part of me.
Rather than continuing on to grad school as planned, I bought a boat and spent the next 20 summers riding 20-foot tides, while becoming intimately familiar with wild sockeye salmon.
Every season on the water was a deeply satisfying immersion in nature accompanied by long days, hard work, close friends, plentiful salmon, and fruitful wages for the labor of harvesting them.
But in the late 1990s things began to change. Large scale industrial salmon farming began to carve its way into the traditional markets for our fish, with devastating results. Thousands of independent fishermen, who had for decades relied upon the annual salmon harvest to support their families, were unable to carry on.
Alaskan salmon were (and remain) an abundant renewable resource and one of the finest natural foods left on earth, yet markets for our wild fish crashed and the value of boats and other related assets followed. A healthy, productive, and cherished way of life for thousands was decimated.
Out of desperation, coastal fishing communities, stripped of their revenue base, began courting the tourism, oil and mining industries for economic relief.
The tragedy of it all is that the primary culprit was a nutritionally inferior, environmentally destructive imposter: factory-farmed Atlantic salmon.
From the start, I've been educating consumers about the differences between wild and farmed salmon.
During those dark days I came to realize that the best hope for resurrecting our industry was in educating consumers about the profound differences between wild salmon and its distant farmed-raised cousin.
In 2000, after returning from Alaska with empty pockets, I was invited to join a proactive fisherman friend on his trips to grocery stores around the country, promoting the many virtues of wild Alsakan salmon.
Over the following months, in places like Nashville, Boulder and Kalamazoo we served our Alaskan sockeye salmon and told our story to any who would listen.
We told them of the far-reaching consequences of their choice in salmon—to their own well being, to the environment, to the wild salmon resource and to the dying industry that had been its strongest political advocate.
We were delighted to find an extremely receptive audience. It was during this time that Vital Choice Seafood was conceived.
Because wild salmon is such a fundamentally good food, the Vital Choice formula is simple: bring benefits to our producers and customers by procuring the very best fish and delivering them in prime condition at a fair price.
My close relationships with fishers and processors allow us to procure the best fish for you.
As a result of my many years in the Alaskan salmon industry and the many close relationships I continue to enjoy with fishers and processors, I know when, where, how and from whom to procure the best fish.
I’m confident you will find no purveyor more passionate about his product or more committed to your satisfaction.
And I hope you will come to view me as your reliable connection to one of the healthiest, naturally organic foods remaining on earth. (Strangely, U.S. law does not allow retailers to label wild fish “organic”.)
When you choose sustainably harvested wild salmon, you are choosing much more than just a fine meal.
You are promoting your health, the health of coastal fishing communities, the environment, and the precious wild salmon it sustains.
In short, you really are making a vital choice!
Randy Hartnell, Founder, President, former Alaskan fisherman
Check out the impressive and convincing video from VC:
About Vital Choice
Vital Choice is a trusted source for the world's finest wild seafood and organic fare, harvested from healthy, well-managed wild fisheries and farms.
Leading health and wellness experts endorse Vital Choice as a leading source of pure, healthful, sustainable foods of exceptional quality.
We capture the fresh-caught quality of fine, sustainably harvested Alaskan salmon and other Alaskan and northwest Pacific seafood by cleaning and flash-freezing it within hours of harvest.
The fisheries that supply most of our seafood are certified sustainable by MSC (look for their blue logo) or the State of Alaska, or are widely considered sustainable.
The Vital Choice Advantage
Our overriding mission is to provide the highest quality, sustainably produced foods, and thereby promote our customers' health and well-being. To understand why Vital Choice is favored and trusted among many seafood aficianados, you need to add this advantage: "start with fish harvested at just the right times and places for optimal culinary quality."
You'll enjoy several advantages when you choose Vital Choice seafood:
- Certified Purity: By nature, our wild fish and shellfish are free of hazardous levels of contaminants, as you can see in our revealing mercury chart. Also see our Purity page.
- Top Quality: Our seafood will always be the very best quality available … a promise supported by our many testimonials, and backed by our 100% Satisfaction Guarantee.
- Stellar Nutrition: In addition to ample protein, our fish are rich in two vital nutrients scarce in modern diets: omega-3s and vitamin D.
- Sustainable Sustenance: All of our seafood comes from well-managed, sustainable wild fisheries, certified as such by the State of Alaska, the Marine Stewardship Council, and independent organizations like the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch program, which advises consumers to avoid farmed Salmon.
Why Trust Vital Choice?
Finding high quality Salmon can be difficult and confusing. Is it wild or farmed? Where was it caught? How has it been handled?
Few seafood retailers know the answers, and those that do may not be eager to provide them. Investigations by The New York Times and a leading product-testing consumer magazine revealed that much of the salmon sold as "wild" is actually farmed fish.
This common fraud is perpetrated to raise sellers' profits at the expense of consumers who lack the expertise to see (or taste) through it.
Before founding Vital Choice, Washington State native Randy Hartnell spent more than 20 years fishing wild, pristine Alaskan waters for salmon, herring, and other regional species.
And among them, three members of the small Vital Choice executive staff — Randy, his brother Terry Hartnell, and COO Dave Hamburg — possess more than 50 years' experience fishing Alaskan and Northwest waters for salmon, herring, halibut, and other regional species.
Today, we bring our rare experience to bear by providing Vital Choice customers the very best wild seafood. Few retailers seek — or are able to identify — the best wild Alaskan salmon, less than 1% of which meet strict Vital Choice standards.
As a result, we know where to get the best, most carefully handled wild salmon and seafood, at the best price possible.
And Vital Choice is proud to have earned the endorsement of nutrition-savvy physicians like Andrew Weil, M.D., Nicholas Perricone M.D., Christiane Northrup, M.D., William Sears, M.D. (AKA "America's Pediatrician"), Frank Lipman, M.D., and Joseph Mercola, D.O.
High Quality + Fair Prices = Good Value
Our wild seafood arrives at your door on dry ice, imbued with the fresh-caught flavor, texture, and nutritional benefits that premium quality fish and shellfish should provide.
Professional chefs agree with Jane Brody, longtime food/nutrition columnist for The New York Times, who once wrote, "The freshest seafood is that which has been frozen shortly after harvest and remains that way until cooked."
Our prices won't be as low as some retailers selling wild salmon ... and that's what shoppers who seek high quailty and real value will expect. We earn about the same profit as most retail markets, but you enjoy seafood of much higher initial and delivered quality, at a perfectly fair price.
We seek to support our customers' well being, so Vital Choice will offer only the purest wild seafood possible: fish and shellfish that grow in the wild environment to which they are so superbly adapted, free of the antibiotics, pesticides, synthetic coloring agents, and genetically modified organisms (GMOs) used commonly in fish farms.
Our seafood is tested regularly by independent labs, and the results show that it is free of harmful levels of mercury and other industrial contaminants. Longer-lived predator species such as Halibut and Tuna accumulate mercury over time, so we select only the smallest of the catch to ensure optimum purity.
Superior Salmon, Naturally
Vital Choice wild Alaskan salmon spend several years feeding on the sea's natural foods and straining against the strong, cold currents of the North Pacific before migrating thousands of miles to the headwaters of their birth rivers.
Of the millions of young Pacific salmon that begin this demanding ocean odyssey every year, only the strongest, healthiest fish will reach harvest age. This is why wild salmon offer flavor, texture and nutritional profile far superior to any farm-raised fish.
Their superior culinary quality stands in stark contrast to flaccid-fleshed farmed salmon raised in pens and fed grains (and various antibiotics and pesticides), which are almost always Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar). Very small amounts of king and chum salmon are farm-raised in the Pacific Northwest and New Zealand.
All Vital Choice salmon fillets and canned products come from the one percent of sustainably harvested wild salmon that meet our strict quality standards.
Our silver salmon (coho salmon; Oncorhynchus kisutch) and king salmon (Chinook salmon; Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) are typically troll (hook and line) caught.
Vital Choice sockeye salmon (red salmon; Oncorhynchus nerka) are harvested with nets, because sockeye eat primarily plankton and krill, so tend not to strike a lure (baited hook). The two primary fishing methods for net-harvesting sockeye salmon are purse seining and gill netting.
Once brought aboard the particular vessels, our silver, sockeye, and king salmon are chilled in slush ice or refrigerated sea water and transported to shore-side processing plants, where they are transformed into the various canned and frozen products.
The type of gear used to land wild salmon has a much lower impact on quality than other factors, including harvest timing, harvest region, onboard handling, and the time from harvest to flash-freezing.
Wild Salmon vs. Farmed: Environmental & Purity Issues
Aquaculture is an increasingly important source of seafood, and we do not oppose fish-farming when it is practiced sustainably.
But the environmental sustainability of current salmon farming operations is doubtful, and the nutritional profiles of their products appear inferior. (For more information, click on Aquaculture under Sustainability in the topic list on the right side of our Newsletter Archive.)
Vital Choice fresh-frozen wild Alaska Salmon live their entire lives free to roam the open ocean, and are only harvested as they approach the end of their four-year life cycle. We guarantee that all our fish come from carefully managed, sustainable fisheries.
Alaska Salmon are endorsed as a "Best Seafood Choice" by leading environmental organizations, including the Marine Stewardship Council, Environmental Defense, the Blue Ocean Institute, the Monterey Bay Aquarium and many others. In contrast, farmed Salmon are typically rated "Avoid."
All fish and animal foods contain at least some traces of the industrial contaminants found everywhere in today's environment, but farmed Salmon contain levels of PCBs and dioxins far higher than any other fish or animal food tested. (While even these comparatively high levels of PCBs and dioxins are vanishingly small, it only makes sense to minimize intake.
Wild Salmon vs. Farmed: Nutritional Distinctions
The nutritional drawbacks of farmed Salmon receive far less attention than their environmental disadvantages.
The "Omega Ratio" advantage of wild Salmon Wild and farmed Salmon contain comparable amounts of the omega-3 fatty acids that make fish such healthful food. In fact, farmed Salmon may contain somewhat higher levels of omega-3s.
Unfortunately, the omega-3s in farmed Salmon come from feeding them fish meal or fish oil derived from mass harvesting of small fish nearer the bottom of the marine food chain: a practice with alarming implications for the future of the marine ecosystem.
And, compared with wild Salmon, typical farmed Salmon contain much higher levels of omega-6 fatty acids, which already occur in extreme excess in typical Western diets: most Americans consume 20 to 30 times more omega-6 fatty acids than omega-3s. Experts recommend consuming no more than four parts omega-6s to omega-3s: that is, an intake ratio of 4:1 or lower, instead of the typical 30:1 ratio.
When consumed in such excessive amounts, omega-6 fatty acids blunt the benefits of omega-3s to a very substantial extent and can promote chronic, "silent" inflammation and the diseases associated with it, including heart disease, diabetes, senility, and cancer.
In fact, the intriguing results of a Norwegian study suggest that consuming standard farmed Salmon, raised on diets high in omega-6 fatty acids, raises people's blood levels of the inflammatory chemicals linked to increased risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, Alzheimer's and cancer (Seierstad SL et al 2005).
Salmon farmers claim they're striving to reduce the omega-6 content of farmed salmon feed, but tests conducted in 2005 show that average wild salmon offer a desirable omega-3/omega-6 ratio of 10:1, while farmed salmon have an average ratio of 4:1 or less (Hamilton M et al 2005).
But to the extent that Salmon farmers are able and willing to replace omega-6-rich vegetable oils and grains with costlier fish meal or fish oil, this will contribute to further over-fishing of species closer to the bottom of the marine food chain, with negative impacts throughout the oceanic ecosystem.
Vitamin D in Wild Salmon and Farmed
Research published in recent years makes it clear that vitamin D is a much bigger factor in human health than previously thought, reducing the risks of osteoporosis, fractures, and major cancers.
And new findings show that wild Salmon — especially Sockeye — are the best food sources available, by far. For example, while a cup of milk contains only 100 IU, there are 600-700 IU of vitamin D in a 3.5 ounce serving of sockeye salmon.
Farmed salmon contain only one-quarter as much vitamin D as wild salmon, according to independent tests by researchers at Boston University.
Selecting Wild Salmon Helps to Save Wild Salmon
The Alaskan salmon fishing industry is the chief economic force behind the preservation of wild Salmon.
But in recent years it has been devastated by competition from the world-wide proliferation of cheap, nutritionally inferior, environmentally destructive farmed salmon.
As paradoxical as it may seem, to save wild salmon it helps to choose it over farmed salmon products.
Support for Coastal Communities and a Sustainable Trade
Contributing positively to local fisher-folk, their families, and their threatened coastal communities and environment is so important to Vital Choice we consider it a key guiding principle.
We are strongly committed to helping promote a sustainable social, ecological, and economic model for the harvesting and sale of wild Salmon, and donate a portion of our profits to advocacy organizations such as the United Fishermen of Alaska.
Vital Community Connections: The Causes We Help Sustain
We contribute a portion of our net profits to the Weil Foundation, The Monterey Bay Aquarium, the Natural Resources Defense Council, Raincoast Research (Alexandra Morton's campaign to protect Canada's wild Pacific salmon from stressed caused by nearby salmon farms) and other causes devoted to improving the health and well being of people and the planet that sustains us.
Our Purity Story
In September of, 2013, Vital Choice released reassuring results of their third round of radiation tests Pacific seafood products harvested after the accident in Japan, which show them to be very safe.
Rest assured ... our wild fish and shellfish are exceptionally pure and safe. Here's the story:
Vital Choice seafood is very low in mercury
All of our fish are free of hazardous levels of mercury, for two reasons:
- We feature species that are inherently low in mercury: Salmon, Sablefish, Sardines, Scallops, Prawns, and Crab.
- We offer only younger, smaller therefore, minimal-mercury) members of predatory species (Halibut and Albacore Tuna).
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was very conservative in setting the legal limit for mercury at 1 ppm (parts per million), which is 10 times lower than the very lowest level associated with mercury poisoning.
The minuscule amounts of mercury in our fish fall very far below this conservative safety level.
- Vital Choice Salmon: At 0.03 to 0.05 parts per million (ppm) mercury, our wild Salmon (Sockeye, Silver and King) has about 25 times less mercury than is allowed under FDA rules (1 ppm).
- Vital Choice Tuna: At 0.08 ppm, our small, troll-caught Albacore Tuna has4 times less mercury, compared with standard canned Albacore (0.34 ppm).
- Vital Choice Halibut: At 0.08 ppm, our Halibut has 3 times less mercury, compared with standard Halibut (0.26 ppm).
- Vital Choice Sablefish: At 0.07 ppm, our Sablefish has 3 times less mercury, compared with standard Sablefish (0.22 ppm).
Why is seafood so clearly safe, despite mercury?
The form of mercury found in fish (methylmercury) harms the nervous system and brain because it attaches to selenium in the body.
Every molecule of methylmercury you consume makes one molecule of selenium unavailable to antioxidant enzymes that protect your brain against free radicals, and require this essential mineral to function.
Yet, children and adults who consume far more fish than Americans do show nosigns of harm from mercury. This is because almost all ocean fish contain much more selenium than mercury.
Shark, whale meat, swordfish, tilefish, and king mackerel are the few exceptions to the near-universal rule that ocean fish have more selenium than mercury. (Note: Our Portuguese mackerel is a different species that has very little mercury and ample selenium.)
The two studies cited as evidence that seafood-rich diets might cause slight developmental harm involved children who ate lots of shark (New Zealand) or pilot whale (the Faroe Islands). Unsurprisingly, both shark and pilot whale contain much more mercury than selenium, and pilot whale is very high in PCBs and other industrial contaminants.
We also recommend a summary by nutrition/health writer Chris Kesser, L.Ac, appropriately titled “Is eating fish safe? A lot safer than not eating fish!”.
How much fish is safe to eat?
The answer to that varies by species and consumer. You can consult the fish intake calculator at howmuchfish.com, which shows the amount of each species people can safely eat, based on US government mercury-intake guidelines.
If anything, the intake limits provided there are conservative, because they do not take into account the fact that almost all ocean fish contain far more selenium than mercury.
The organization behind howmuchfish.com, called the Center for Consumer Freedom, is funded in part by industry, but the fish-intake advice in its calculator directly reflect the limits set by official U.S. mercury-intake guidelines.
Note: The descriptive text that howmuchfish.com provides about farmed salmon says that wild and farmed salmon offer nearly identical nutritional profiles.
In reality, while wild and farmed salmon are equally high in omega-3s, farmed salmon is much higher in omega-6 fatty acids (due to its grain/soy-based diet), which tend to block absorption of omega-3s and exert pro-inflammatory effects in the body.
Vital Choice seafood is very low in chemical pollutants
As is the case with mercury, our fish are inherently low in PCBs and other “persistent organic pollutants” (e.g., pesticides, dioxins, furans, and organobromides), probably because Alaska has never been a significant production site for these chemicals.
Persistent organic pollutants (POPs) are synthetic organic compounds that (unlike organic compounds from natural sources) resist chemical degradation and can “bioaccumulate” in in animals near the top of the ocean food chain, such as fish. They also accumulate in beef, pork, poultry, milk, and butter.
The species we sell are less likely to accumulate POPs, either because they are naturally short-lived and eat fairly low in the food chain (salmon, cod, sablefish, and shellfish) or because we pick only younger, smaller members of longer-lived species (halibut and tuna).
The traces of PCBs in wild salmon are so minuscule that, according to U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidelines, it is completely safe to enjoy these fish freely and frequently.
The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation monitors levels of PCBs and other persistent organic pollutants in Alaskan salmon and other commercial fish. As the agency reported in 2008, “Levels of PCBs measured in Alaska fish are far below those measured in fish from other parts of the world.”
Specifically, the levels of PCBs in wild Alaskan and Canadian salmon – one to 12 parts per billion – are 1,000 times lower than the safety limit of 2 parts per million set both by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) and the U.S. FDA. The levels of dioxins and furans detected in wild Alaskan and Canadian salmon are very low, averaging less than three parts per trillion.
Likewise, wild Alaskan salmon and other wild Alaskan species are very low (0.1 to 0.5 parts per billion) in fire retardants (organobromides), probably because Alaska has never been a significant production site for these chemicals.
Phew! That's all, folks.