By Pauli PoisuoCracked

When you think of salmon in the wild, you’re usually imagining a bunch of strong, determined fish swimming upward through a waterfall, maybe while getting chased by bears. It’s the blood rushing through the powerful salmon’s veins that makes its flesh so pink and healthy as a bastard — by devouring it, you also absorb its strength and the spirit of the untamed Alaskan wilderness.

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At least, that used to be how it worked. The salmon you eat today has never swum a single damn inch upstream. Instead of the Alaskan wilderness, today’s salmon only contain the spirit of the cramped, overcrowded salmon farms in which they spent their entire lives. Because the fish can’t move much and their diet consists entirely of aquarium pellets, the salmon that arrives at your local Safeway is as grey as a British winter.

So how do they recapture the soul of Alaska? They pump the salmon full of pink dye, obviously. The pellets they feed to those aquatic prisoners are infused with a line of coloring agents developed by the pharmaceutical giant Hoffman-La Roche and selected according to a color fan. That’s right — just like the ones you use to choose the color of your wall paint from the hardware store.

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This is no small-scale stuff, either. About 95 percent of Atlantic salmon is currently farmed, and pretty much all of it is dyed.

Of course, salmon is not the only thing in your grocery basket that isn’t really the color you think it is. Remember Perdue chicken, Frank Perdue’s famous poultry with the “healthy, golden color”? Turns out that the healthy, natural color was achieved with a mix of marigold petals and dyes. In the baked goods corner we have wheat bread, which is often dyed darker with brown sugar or molasses to make it appear more healthy. The peculiarly orange hue of cheddar cheese is also a careful mix of coloring agents, because the natural color of cheese batches varies, and being faced with variation reduces regular shoppers to confused and aggressive beasts.

For the red-meat lovers out there, rest assured that your hamburger and sausage meat is often dyed to a more appetizingly red hue that can cause cancer. But hell, who wants to eat slightly inconsistent-looking food?

This article excerpt was written by Pauli Poisuo and published in Cracked on June 18, 2012. Photo by JacquePulsfus/ Flickr.

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