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If you eat tilapia...

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this may interest you. It's a lengthy piece about the downside of tilapia, both in terms of less healthfulness and environmental negatives.

Another Side of Tilapia, the Perfect Factory Fish


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      1. re: FoodChic

        3rd that, it's like the shoe leather of seafood., even looks somewhat like a shoe sole.

        1. re: cstr

          Shoe leather would be a bit of an up-stat. I don't think it has any flavor at all.

      2. re: magiesmom

        I always thought so, too. But I recently bought a whole, not filleted, tilapia here in the mercado in La Antigua, Guatemala, stuffed it with onion, garlic, lime, and herbs and pan broiled it, and was very pleasantly surprised at how tasty it was. No idea whether it was the preparation, the freshness of the fish, or where/how it was raised/caught, but it was very different from the insipid, unappealing fillets I've tried back in the States.

      3. I think the issues with it are well-known around here. But, the thing is, even with all its negatives, it's still probably better to have it in your diet than not having any fish at all (or in place of a fatty meat). Since it's usually an economic choice, it's not like there's a financial equal to it.

        3 Replies
        1. re: ediblover

          Since it's usually an economic choice, it's not like there's a financial equal to it.

          How about anchovies? Or sardines?

          Or the Filet-O-Fish?

          1. re: ipsedixit

            Fresh anchovies/sardines are impossible to find. Not sure if I should point out the obvious (guess I am) of the canned ones having an extremely strong flavor that turns of most people. Other whitefish are generally most expensive than the tilapia.

            Overall problem: People need to eat less bad stuff and more good, like fish.

            Solution: The economical and neutral tasting tilapia.

            Problem: It's economical because it's fed less than ideal diets resulting in a nutritional profile that's not great (but still better than many other choices).

            Solution: None at this time. Either get another neutral tasting fish with a good nutritional profile to take its place or improve the profile of the tilapia (difficult since it requires a diet overhaul, which would increase it's price, which...)

          2. re: ediblover

            properly raised fatty meat would be way healthier.

          3. "“Ten years ago no one had heard of it; now everyone wants it because it doesn’t have a fishy taste, especially hospitals and schools,”"

            That cannot be right... . We didn't hear of tilapia ten years ago?

            6 Replies
            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

              I think that statement only applies to some areas of the country. Urban areas have seen tilapia as a major market fish for at least 20 years, probably 30. I know the last time I ate tilapia was about 10 years ago.....shows you how much I appreciate it. I remember an article in Organic Garden magazine extolling the virtues of raising tilapia in your home or yard, and how that should be the only fish you eat. I distinctly remember reading that article in the mid-80's. Stopped reading it afterwards.

              1. re: EricMM

                Tilapia jumped the shark when Denny's started featuring it.

                1. re: EricMM


                  I hear you, man. The last time you ate a tilapia was 10 years ago, huh? That is something. I am not a huge fan of tilapia either, but I don't dislike the taste. It is ok. I probably eat it like once or twice a year.

                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                    Tilapia is abundant in almost every retention pond, ditch and freshwater canal in Florida; pesticide/fertilizer runoff has to be in the flesh. I will pass on this tasteless invasive species.

                    1. re: ospreycove

                      I doubt any restaurant is serving the ones found in retention ponds and drainage ditches.

                      There's an Osprey (I think, could be some kind of hawk or eagle) that lives near my work, where we also have a big runoff ditch that stays at least half full with water through most of the rainy season. It's not uncommon to see the osprey suddenly dive down, grab a tilapia out of the water, and start chowing down at the top of a power pole.

                      1. re: TuteTibiImperes

                        tute, I have a friend who is very accomplished at casting a net, he always gets at least a couple of 5 gallopn buckets of "wild" Tilapia from the retention ponds. As you probably know Florida has no bag limits or season/minimum size for this non-native fish. Still I cannot get myself to accept his offer of his "hauls" of Tilapia.

              2. Everybody has a right to their own opinion, but I have to say, I am tired of the anti-tilapia talk on Chowhound. We get it. It's a 'trash fish' and people don't like it and blah blah blah. Others do, and others still know how to prepare it well. I don't see why people care what other people put in their own mouths.

                9 Replies
                1. re: Jadore

                  Though not my fish of choice I do agree with you.

                  1. re: Jadore

                    Some folks are not aware of the potential hazards of eating imported, farmed, and drainage ditch, fish in general; Tilapia in particular. I always feel I learn something from others everyday.

                    1. re: ospreycove

                      I can pretty much guarantee that no one here can taste the difference between flounder and tilapia when cooked and blindfolded. If you don't want to eat it because it's harmful to you or the environment, so be it. To say it tastes bad is simply absurd.

                      1. re: Worldwide Diner

                        worldWide.....Hmmmmm, Fresh never frozen flounder vs. farm raised Tilapia, frozen, imported,,etc.....you need to try a nice Gulf Coast "Flattie" sauteed whole, with the simplest of seasonings, if one is lucky with the roe intact.. You will pass by the "immigrant Tilapia every time!! LOL

                        1. re: Worldwide Diner

                          I do a few blind tastings of foods and beverages and although I have not done one between flounder and tilapia I'm pretty sure I could tell them apart. May have to try it and report back

                          1. re: scubadoo97

                            Isn't flounder one of those fish that is hard to find anymore?

                            1. re: Rella

                              Rella, not really stocks off the Atlantic Coast and in the Gulf Coast allow for a lengthy recreational season, with good bag limits.

                              1. re: ospreycove

                                Good bag limits? The flounder season in NYS is left to April and May, with a 2 fish bag limit of 12" minimum. Hardly anyone even bothers to try anymore. While some are caught in the NYC area, out east, where I spend summers, nonody even tries to fish for them anymore. I haven't even heard of someone trying in the last 8 years or so. My last flounder was caught maybe 15 years ago. (I'm talking winter flounder, Pseudopleuronectes americanus. Stocks are much better on fluke, Paralichthys dentatus.)

                                1. re: EricMM

                                  EricMM........It has been a long time since I fished in NYS or NJ; I didn't know the regs. were so stringent; but in Florida there is no closed season for summer and "southern" flounder, daily bag limit is 10 fish and a minimum size of 12", no max. size. Having said that, the commercial draggers are doing some damage to the plentiful supply of wild shrimp, flounder, and black sea bass, as well as undersized grouper and red snapper.

                    2. “It’s such a complicated job for consumers to decide what to eat, with aquaculture production expanding so rapidly,”

                      I don't love tilapia, but at my local Whole Foods the other day, I had the choice between inexpensive farm-raised tilapia or several much more expensive, less-responsibly raised/caught - but more delicious - fish. It's such a challenge, as a consumer, knowing the right balance between environmental responsibility, health benefits and cost.

                      7 Replies
                      1. re: jujuthomas

                        In a recent article in the NYT the writer called Tilapia the "meryl Streep" of fish; meaning it is used as a substitution for higher priced species, the article is on fraud in the marketing of fish. I posted the link, in a new topic; but I guess CH removed it. so if you want to read it do a search May 26 2011, Mislabeling of fish by supermarkets and restaurants, by Elizabeth Rosenthal NYT

                        1. re: ospreycove

                          Don't let perfect be the enemy of the good.

                          Tilapia is not perfect, but its still one of the better enviornmental choices out there.

                          You can put yourself on the back because you only buy wild fish recommended by Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch, but if people switched from eating farmed salmon to a wild fish recommended by Seafood watch then that wild fish would soon be moved to MB's avoid list.

                          There's a bunch of new sustainable seafood cookbooks on the market now, and they're all arguing that we should be eating less fish and they're talking about the 'sustainable' wild fishes. If people are going to continue to eat fish, then we'll need to rely more and more on farmed fishes and tilapia is one of the better farmed fishes from an enviornmental impact.

                          Instead of fishing wild cod to collapse, tilapia is a good alternative to cod. As much as people love to bash farmed tilapia as tasteless, wild cod is going to be tasteless to a lot of people as well.

                          Tilapia is a much better fish amenable to farm fishing than something like cod. It'll be cheaper and faster to grow. While the article casts the reduced amounts of fish meal to growing tilapia as an economic cost-saving move, it fails to mention the environmental impact:

                          Most of the other farmed fishes out there rely on taking greater amounts of smaller fishes and grinding them up for feed to the farmed fish. For something like tuna, it takes an amount of around 20 pounds of smaller fish as feed for the tuna to gain one pound in weight.

                          With tilapia, you're not having to fish X pounds of wild, small fishes in the sea to feed to tilapia to then only generate X-Y pounds of tilapia.

                          1. re: hobbess

                            Farmed fish really presents a dilemma. The very characteristics that make tilapia more environmentally sound as a farmed fish also rob it of its nutritional value. To make farmed fish nutritionally valuable, then you need to feed it other fish. However, I see no reason for why farmed fish can't be fed the waste of other seafood. Organic salmon is given feed based on shrimp heads and other waste. Why not process the guts and bones into fish feed?

                            1. re: EricMM

                              The reason those guts and bones and other cast-offs doesn't get used for tilapia is the cost. That organic meal is a lot more expensive, sometimes even twice as much, as traditional fish feed. And, tilapia is being fed soy and corn pellets which are even cheaper than traditional fish feed.

                              If you started feeding tilapia organic fish feed, that would be a significant increase in cost than what the tilapia farmers are currently paying and that would be have to be reflected in tilapia's price. A significant reason for tilapia's popularity these days is because of its low price but if you started jacking up its price, would people still want to eat it?

                              1. re: hobbess

                                I wasn't talking about feeding tilapia fish cast-offs. Tilapia became a popular aquaculture fish because it is herbivorous. It would probably taste much worse given its natural diet of pond scum and algae. The issue is that soy and corn do not boost omega 3's but omega 6's, reducing its value as a healthy option. My point was that farmed bass, salmon, etc should be fed the cast-offs of the fish industry, rather than forage fish such as herring, menhaden, etc. Menhaden (bunker) numbers are way down along the east coast, and its not even an edible fish- it goes into fish meal for aquaculture. It just seems to me that the processing of all the guts from commercial fish should be the source for fish meal for piscivorous fish, rather than catching more fish.

                                1. re: EricMM

                                  An old friend has a massive project in the Yala River basin / swamp in Kenya near Lake Victoria where he now produces about 90 thousand tons of rice per year. As he considered what to do with the rice bran waste he was generating, he expanded the project to include tilapia farming. He now produces about 10 million KG of tilapia annually, fed a diet almost exclusively of rice bran. His toughest environmental challenges have been dealing with the tilapia "poop", the impact of diverting water flow from the Yala River, and having to use strong insecticides in an area that would otherwise be overwhelmed by malaria from mosquitos that breed in the shallow ponds.

                        2. I find Tilapia vile; it tastes like mud. But I've found a wonderful solution that's both inexpensive and healthful-Swai. It's farm raised in the very clean waters of the Mekong Delta. It's a firm white filet with a very clean flavor and a perfectly firm flesh that can be used in just about any conceivable way you'd want to cook a fish. Buy it frozen for typically less than $5.00 per pound and frequently on sale for much less.

                          10 Replies
                          1. re: Bob Brooks

                            Known here as "Basa". Very versatile and low priced.

                            1. re: Tinfoilhat

                              I think Swai and Basa are different species. They are both Asian catfish but the Basa usually is quite a bit more expensive than Swai.

                              Swai has actually been going for less than Tilapia recently.

                            2. re: Bob Brooks

                              I've had frozen swai several times. Sometimes it is good, sometimes not. Sometimes it holds up to baking, sometimes it dissolves. I agree that if it is good, it is very unfishy and neutral tasting.

                              Tonight I grilled Ahi tuna which I bought as frozen filets. It was pretty good. Wild caught. I never know if I am making the right choices when it comes to seafood. Of course I can't really afford what I really like.

                              There is another farmed fish to try, and that is catfish. I find catfish acceptable, if not superb.

                              1. re: Bob Brooks

                                The Mekong River was used as an open dump and sewer by U.S. Forces during the war; Our division dumped used oil, all sorts of fuel, herbicides, pesticides, waste chemicals etc. in the river, I guess 40 years later the area has cleansed itself of those pollutants.

                                1. re: ospreycove

                                  Unsure whether it's true, but I've read that the Mekong is extremely polluted due to fish farming, agriculture and manufacturing runoff. Sm F was always current on that knowlege, wish he was here to confirm or deny what I've read.

                                2. re: Bob Brooks

                                  The Vietnamese catfishes are one of the most common suspects when a restaurant or seafood wholesaler is trying to claim something is grouper or snapper when it really isn't.

                                  1. re: beachmouse

                                    I stopped buying tilapia because it made me nauseous. I never understood why until I started reading up on their farming.

                                    What's the best inexpensive fish to buy then?? I'd like to eat fish at least once a week, but I can't afford salmon or tuna on a regular basis.

                                    1. re: lawgirl3278

                                      How many ounces per serving do you need? Is it possible to eat less fish, thereby cutting down the cost for your once- a- week fish meal? That might be a consideration for you. Myself, older and weight around 120, I only need about 3 oz., whereas husband wants much more.

                                      What is the cost per lb. that you will not exceed?

                                      1. re: Rella

                                        I guess two normal sized portions, although my husband probably could eat more! Something under $10 a pound would be nice.

                                        1. re: lawgirl3278

                                          I buy most all of my fish at Costco. I don't recall paying over $10 for anything there with the exception of New Bedford scallops, although I might have. I buy on a routine basis frozen wild salmon, wild cod, shrimp, tuna and a few others. I have no problem with buying, preparing, and eating frozen fish. It is all excellent quality. I don't buy anything that is breaded or prepped in any way.

                                3. Has anyone else seen the documentary Hugh's Big Fish Fight on the BBC?
                                  Just interested because I thought it addresses a lot of fish farm ..and fish consummation issues.

                                  Also on a totally unrelated note I work with and travel with eight guys who are the atheists of foodies. Every time Tilapia is on the menu they joke about what it eats (I guess being a bottom feeder) and would never order it. Thing is they order catfish regularly and are more interested in the fishes natural diet than most likely the antibiotic pellet one they would probably actually consume.

                                  ...and yes I know catfish fall into the same to fields as farm and natural issues but somehow thier ignorance makes me happy.