Tilapia is the common name for nearly a hundred species of cichlid fish from the tilapiine cichlid tribe. Tilapia are mainly freshwater fish inhabiting shallow streams, ponds, rivers and lakes and less commonly found living in brackish water.
Tilapia has risen to the top as a seafood staple on American dinner tables.According to the National Fisheries Institute, the mild fish has climbed to become the fourth most eaten seafood in the U.S., behind only shrimp, salmon and canned tuna.
Tilapia is popular because it is a mild flavored, white-fleshed fish that is available throughout the year at a competitive price. During the early years of production, tilapia from some sources had unpredictable off-flavors that were associated with water conditions and certain types of algae from different freshwater farming operations. However, recent production improvements have introduced methods to prevent the development of off flavors and screen products to ensure that flavors are uniform.
One of the issues with tilapia farmed in China is that smaller, independent farmers face economic pressures to use animal manure rather than more expensive commercial feed for farmed fish, a practice which contaminates water and makes the fish more susceptible to spreading foodborne diseases. A July 2009 report from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on the safety of food imports from China noted that in that country “Fish are often raised in ponds where they feed on waste from poultry and livestock”.
According to the seafood watch fact sheet by the Monterey Bay Aquarium in California, tilapia is a fresh water snapper that is farmed in ponds, closed re-circulating systems or tank systems. About 40% of the world’s tilapia comes from China. Other countries that farm tilapia in mass production are the U.S., Canada, Ecuador, and Taiwan.
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