What Color Is Raw Salmon?

Salmon bred on farms is gray by nature; the pink hue is an addition. Due to their diet including astaxanthin, a reddish-orange pigment present in krill and shrimp, wild salmon are naturally pink.

Wild salmon consumes shrimp and krill to obtain its color.

Similar to flamingos, salmon in the wild acquire their distinctive color from the things they consume. Salmon are pink to reddish-orange even as eggs. Due to its diet of krill and shrimp, this carnivore has a distinctive “salmon pink” color. The amount of these carotenoid-rich crustaceans that each species of salmon consumes affects how pink or red they turn out to be. Sockeye and coho salmon, for instance, have the darkest colors whereas pink salmon has a pinker hue.

Then there is the unique situation of king salmon, which has a recessive mutation that can result in ivory or white meat. White-fleshed, wild-caught king salmon is today regarded as more of a delicacy than it was in the past, when fishermen and women tended to avoid this peculiarity. Does it have the same flavor as the more vibrant version now? That is debatable.

How Are Salmon Farms Made Pink?

Farmers feed these fish an additive called astaxanthin, which gets absorbed into their flesh and gives salmon their pink color since buyers don’t like gray salmon. While farmed salmon are only given a highly processed feed that may contain waste from the shrimp industry or even petroleum-based coloring to make their flesh resemble that of their wild counterparts, wild salmon obtain astaxanthin from their natural diets. However, farmed salmon are denied everything that is natural and important to them. Jared Koch, the founder of Clean Plates, stated that we “don’t know if synthetic astaxanthin is beneficial, and it may be hazardous.” However, wild-caught fish has its own set of issues, so read on before choosing it.

Salmon (color)

Salmon, which is named after the color of salmon meat, is a range of pinkish-orange to light pink hues.

Because of the abundance of krill and shrimp in the fish’s diet, the true color of salmon flesh varies from virtually white to pale orange; salmon grown in fish farms receive non-synthetic or artificial colour in their meal.

Its hue is faded and gray.

Typically, fresh salmon is brilliant pink, or at the very least, attractively rosy or slightly orange in hue. Avoid salmon with a grey color. That fish is not fit for consumption! Also, salmon can still be hazardous even after cooking and storing it. Salmon leftovers can also spoil, especially if they are kept at room temperature for a long time. As a general rule, it is advisable to discard salmon that seems pale and discolored.


Few things are as beautiful as a fresh salmon piece. It should have lustrous, silver skin that is a vibrant pink-orange tint. The salmon is probably not fresh if the skin appears dead and dreary or if the flesh has become gray. A milky-white residue on the fillet and any dark stains or discoloration are signs of spoiling. (But not the white substance on cooked fish; that is safe.)

Look at the eyes of any whole fish you may come across. They need to be glowing and somewhat inflated. The salmon’s flavor will match how dejected those eyes appear if they are sunken or dull.

It’s crucial to know when to throw away leftover meat and fish. How can you tell if ground beef is bad?

The shade is proper.

Wild salmon has a richer reddish-orange tint, but farmed salmon is paler and more pink. Since farmed fish aren’t upstream fighting currents like wild fish are, farmed fish will also have a lot more fatty marbling in its flesh—those wavy white lines. According to Miller, you can usually tell when fillets are farmed because they are too homogeneous and perfectly colored.

Why is color added to your farm-raised salmon?

The orangey-pink tint of salmon is so striking that Crayola named a crayon after it. The flesh of wild salmon is accurately portrayed, but not that of farmed salmon, whose meat is naturally gray. Or at least it would be if fish farmers didn’t add pink-flavoring pellets to their artificial diet.

Eating krill and shrimp, which contain the reddish-orange astaxanthin chemical, gives wild salmon their rosy hue. (That diet high in shrimp is also what gives flamingos their pink color.) According to the species, the spectrum varies: Sockeye salmon from Alaska are the reddest of all because they are closest to the teeming krill in the Bering Sea. Coho, king, and pink salmon, which are found further south, consume comparatively less krill and shrimp, giving them a softer orange color.

Depending on food, farmed salmon can range in color from pink to orange, just like their wild siblings. But the color of the salmon is decided by the farmers, not by the food chain.

Because farm-raised salmon are kept in pens, they are fed kibble that may contain soy, chicken fat, soybeans, ground-up feathers, corn gluten, and the oil and flesh of smaller fish (such as herring and anchovies).

Astaxanthin is a crucial component of these pellets. Sometimes it’s produced “naturally” using crushed crustaceans or algae, while other producers create the substance in a lab using petrochemicals. Salmon health isn’t the selling point, even if it gives the fish some of the vitamins and antioxidants they’d acquire in the wild.

The “pigmenting,” to use the terminology of the feed business, is what truly counts since it allows salmon producers to control how red their fillets will be. (Due to a 2003 lawsuit, they are required to inform customers when “added” colour is present.)

Pharmaceutical behemoth Hoffman-LaRoche created what is now known as DSM SalmoFanTM to simplify that choosing procedure (Dutch multinational DSM acquired it in 2002).

The gold standard in terms of taste and appearance is wild salmon, which can cost two to three times as much as farmed salmon (which is about $6–10 per pound).

Wealthy consumers prefer darker-hued salmon, which can sell for up to $1 per pound more than lighter shades, according to study by DSM, one of the largest astaxanthin producers today. This finding is supported by other industry research (pdf). According to one study, farmed salmon that is less than the 23rd color on SalmoFan (see below) is “impossible to sell at any price” (pdf).

The cost of pigmenting additives, which can account for up to 20% of feed expenses, is the most expensive part of the diet of farmed salmon. But it increases revenue. Farmers may still produce salmon fillets at an industrial rate while producing a product that commands prices that are comparable to those of wild-caught salmon. That frequently makes life more difficult for the fisherman in the Pacific Northwest whose catch they’re trying to imitate. Due to a surplus of farmed salmon, fishermen must reduce the price of their wild-caught salmon to remain competitive (pdf, p.xxiii).

The fact that consumers are willing to pay more for salmon that appears wild, even if it did so by consuming pellets in its pen, suggests that they are interested in eating wild salmon but not quite as much as to pay for the genuine thing. If the cost of wild-caught salmon is preventing people from purchasing it, they may wish to save a little more money and start insisting that farmers remove those pricey pigments and sell them salmon that is gray instead.

How come salmon is pink?

No matter if the salmon is wild or farmed, its nutrition will influence the color of its flesh. The quantities of organic pigments, known as carotenoids, present in the fish’s diet are what determine the color of the flesh, which can range from orange to ivory-pink.

More than 600 naturally occurring carotenoids are responsible for the magnificent color changes in fall foliage as well as turning carrots and pumpkins orange, daffodils, and sweet corn yellow.

Astaxanthin is the pigment that gives animals like pink flamingos and brilliant red sockeye salmon their striking colors. These animals eat plankton and crustaceans for food.

Astaxanthin is a potent antioxidant and a source of pro-vitamin A that can be produced synthetically or biologically. These characteristics can increase fertility and growth while stimulating the immune system. Farmers in Scotland utilize a natural, organic pigment that is produced by the fermentation of a microorganism and has no additives or preservatives.

Scottish salmon producers strive to give their fish the finest nutrition possible that closely resembles a wild diet, but they also want to live up to customer expectations. Therefore, the salmon farming industry adds small amounts of Astaxanthin (between 20 and 60 milligrams per kilo of food) to salmon feed, producing not only healthier fish but also fillets that are recognizable as “salmon pink.”

What would salmon flesh look like if they didn’t consume this vital pigment? As shown in the image above (of a salmon smolt on a diet devoid of carotenoids), it would appear much more like haddock, which is white with a pinkish cast.

One in twenty Chinook salmon (also known as King salmon), which are found in the northwest Pacific, are unable to absorb astaxanthin, leaving their flesh uncolored. The white-fleshed chinook salmon was regarded as less appealing until recently.

It’s also important to note that because of its antioxidant characteristics, astaxanthin is widely available and used as a human health supplement.

What shade of salmon should you eat?

Keep an eye out for the salmon’s color to transition from a dark pink to a lighter shade while it is still cooking. The inside of a cooked salmon will be a translucent pink tint on the outside and an opaque pinkish white color on the inside.

Your fillet needs to cook longer if the outside is still dark pink. It is overcooked if the interior has turned a pale, opaque pink.

What variety of salmon can you consume raw?

The fish used in sushi platters and other fine dining dishes is often of the sashimi grade. In reality, sashimi is a dish comprised of thinly sliced raw fish, like salmon or tuna, eaten without rice or other sides to highlight the meat’s natural qualities. Many individuals choose to purchase sashimi-grade fish for their raw consumption because salmon used for sashimi needs to be in absolutely safe conditions to consume raw. This is a wonderful technique to make sure fish follow stringent guidelines before being approved for consumption! If you intend to eat salmon raw, look for salmon that has been graded for sashimi, which must adhere to very strict standards.

Salmon is it really gray?

Salmon bred on farms is gray by nature; the pink hue is an addition. Due to their diet including astaxanthin, a reddish-orange pigment present in krill and shrimp, wild salmon are naturally pink.