Thank you for visiting the Seafood Selector. EDF is planning a new approach to providing information to consumers about good seafood choices. Please come back soon for updates.



Rainbow trout

At a glance

Eco-rating Mercury Omega-3s
+-Rainbow trout (farmed)


The globe-trotting rainbow trout is one of the most widespread fish. Rainbow trout live in cold, flowing freshwater, although some populations of rainbows, known as steelhead, have ocean-going runs. Rainbow trout is a popular sport fish that is often stocked into rivers and lakes. They are also frequently farmed. It can grow to a record 3 feet (91 cm).

Commercial Sources

Rainbow trout or steelhead are native to the eastern North Pacific, from Alaska to Baja California in Mexico. However, they have been widely introduced around the world, and their present distribution may be considered global.

The main sources of rainbow trout are Chile, Italy, France and Denmark. Rainbow trout sold in the U.S. market are primarily a domestic product.

Capture Methods

Rainbow trout or steelhead come from fish farms. Rainbow trout are primarily raised in raceways, while steelhead are farmed in net pens.

+-Rainbow (Steelhead) trout (US, farmed)


Steelhead are rainbow trout that spend part of their lives at sea like salmon. On the West Coast of North America, several populations of wild steelhead are either threatened or endangered.

Commercial Sources

Most steelhead on the market are farm-raised in Canada.

Capture Methods

Farmed steelhead are raised in netpens or cages in saltwater like Atlantic salmon.

Recommended servings per month

Contaminant Men Women Kids 6-12 Kids 0-5
Rainbow trout (farmed) Mercury 4+ 4+ 4+ 4
Rainbow (Steelhead) trout (US, farmed) Mercury 4+ 4+ 4+ 4+
Eco details: 

These salmon relatives are largely farmed. Conventional operations use large amounts of fishmeal and fish oil (and hence more wild fish) in their feed.

  • All rainbow trout on the U.S. market is farmed-raised in the U.S., where farming operations are held to strict environmental standards. Improvements to feed have enabled less wild fish to be used. Rainbow trout are farmed in raceways, which mimic a free-flowing river and use large amounts of freshwater.
  • Arctic char, a less well-known relative, comes primarily from eco-friendly farms that conserve water and prevent water pollution.
  • Steelhead are raised in open-water netpens, which have problems similar to those for farmed Atlantic salmon, such as polluting local waters.