Yes, it’s cheap (for a reason) and it doesn’t taste like fish (for a related reason), but we most likely won’t get the other side of the tilapia story when experts such as Joy Bauer, the “resident nutrition expert” for NBC’s “Today” show, dispense cooking and health tips.
Since many of my clients ask me about tilapia, I was happy to see “Another Side of Tilapia, the Perfect Factory Fish,” an article in yesterday’s New York Times, which summarizes the growing process.
According to the article, the “vast majority” of the tilapia eaten in the United States comes from Latin American or Asian fish farms. Yet, because tilapia is “fish,” it's automatically construed as “healthy.”
However, in reality, tilapia is really no different than commercial feedlot chicken, pork and beef, the factory foods that dominate our food supply:
"Known in the food business as 'aquatic chicken' because it breeds easily and tastes bland, tilapia is the perfect factory fish; it happily eats pellets made largely of corn and soy and gains weight rapidly, easily converting a diet that resembles cheap chicken feed into low-cost seafood."Furthermore:
"Farmed tilapia is promoted as good for your health and for the environment at a time when many marine stocks have been seriously depleted. 'Did you know the American Heart Association recommends eating fish twice a week?' asks the industry Web site, abouttilapia.com. But tilapia has both nutritional and environmental drawbacks.Yes, eating tilapia is better than eating a Twinkie or a Big Mac, but we should at least know its whole story, one we usually won't hear from our designated “experts.”
"Compared with other fish, farmed tilapia contains relatively small amounts of beneficial omega-3 fatty acids, the fish oils that are the main reasons doctors recommend eating fish frequently; salmon has more than 10 times the amount of tilapia. Also, farmed tilapia contains a less healthful mix of fatty acids because the fish are fed corn and soy instead of lake plants and algae, the diet of wild tilapia."