Find Seafood - Tilapia (farmed)
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- Blue tilapia
- Mozambique tilapia
- Nile tilapia
- St. Peter’s fish
HOROMONE USE IN TILAPIA FARMING
Some tilapia farmers treat their fingerlings with methyl testosterone (MT), a hormone that ensures the entire crop is male. They do this is to eliminate breeding, which reduces the growth rate of the fish. While the hormone is excreted from the fish within a month and is deemed safe by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration, some buyers have stopped buying tilapia treated with MT due to health concerns. Tilapia farmers are currently researching alternatives to MT treatments.
The KidSafe Seafood program recommends farmed tilapia from the U.S. It is sufficiently low in mercury and PCBs to be safe for children age three and up to eat at least once a week.
Tilapia, or “St. Peter’s fish,” is a living relic. References to and drawings of tilapia-like species date to the time of the Egyptian pharaohs. Some biblical scholars believe that the fish Jesus multiplied in the Sea of Galilee was tilapia, and tilapia farming may predate the farming of any other fish species.
Tilapia’s mild taste, adaptability, and relatively low cost have led to its rapid ascension as one of the top 10 seafoods consumed in the U.S. by volume. It is estimated that by 2020 it will be the third most consumed seafood in the U.S. In the first seven months of 2005 alone, the U.S. imported over 60 MT (140,000 pounds) of tilapia. Today, tilapia is farmed on a large scale in more than 50 countries, with an annual production of approximately 1.4 million MT (three billion pounds). The majority of tilapia farms are freshwater, although tilapia can survive in freshwater, brackish water, and even salt water. The most commonly farmed species are Nile, Mozambique, and blue.
Production methods for tilapia vary widely around the world. In the U.S., producers primarily use closed systems with little risk of causing pollution or releases of invasive species. These closed systems are considered the most sustainable production systems, but only a relatively small amount of tilapia is available from these systems. In some instances a producer may utilize an integrated system – agriculture and aquaculture – where waste from agriculture is used as a fertilizer for the aquaculture ponds, resulting in a more efficient use of resources.
A good alternative to U.S. tilapia is that farmed in Central America, where ponds, tanks and raceways may be used. In contrast, China and Taiwan primarily utilize open-water systems such as nets or cages, which can result in pollution of waterways and escapes of farmed fish.
Tilapia, as a plant eater, grows quite well on a grain-based diet. The use of fishmeal or oil from wild fish is therefore not required, although some farmers do add a small amount of fishmeal to their feed. Several tilapia growers in the U.S., Latin America and Asia are attempting to develop organic tilapia, certified to standards developed outside the U.S. This product is now becoming available in the U.S., however, organic standards vary greatly and final U.S. government standards for organic seafood are still in development.
(primarily from Central America):
FROZEN (primarily from China and Taiwan):
- Fillets, including value-added, marinated and breaded fillets
- Tilapia fillets are usually available in graded sizes of 3–5 ounces, 5–7 ounces (most common), and 7–9 ounces.
- Tilapia tastes like the water in which it’s raised. The best quality tilapia has a very clean taste.
- Ecuadorian producers sell mostly deep-skinned fillets with the brown fat layer removed, while other Latin American producers leave the fat layer intact. Skin color varies but is unrelated to flesh color or taste.
- Nile tilapia, known as nilotica or black tilapia, has dark skin. Mozambique tilapia, or red tilapia, has reddish skin.
- Most Asian producers treat frozen fillets with carbon monoxide to give it a reddish-pink hue. These fillets are often sold as sashimi-quality izumi dai (snapper) tilapia, although they are almost never true sashimi quality and are definitely not snapper.
American Tilapia Association
111 W. Washington St., Suite 1, Charles Town, WV 25414, Phone: 304–728–2167, Web Site: www.ag.arizona.edu/azaqua/ata.html • Provides general information, including contact information for local growers.