Farmed Tilapia: Good for the Environment, Bad for You

pondfishingPhoto Credit

Last week I discussed how to eat quality seafood for less and gave a few basic principles for buying seafood (low in mercury, high in nutrients, with a low impact on the environment.). I also mentioned the regional guides to eco-friendly seafood that Monteray Bay Aquarium puts out. These are very helpful in making sure that the seafood you buy isn’t putting our natural resources at risk.

But I also wanted to point out that not all of the eco-friendly choices on that list (even the ones low in toxins) are necessarily good for us. Just because it is sustainable, doesn’t mean it’s healthy.  Tilapia may be in that category.

The Chemicals

Once upon a time, tilapia was breed in a way where most of the fish would be male (which allows the fish to grow larger to a marketable size). However, they soon discovered a nifty little trick. If they put testosterone in their feed for the first few months, they would all turn male. Now, I haven’t read of any adverse health effects from people eating testosterone feed fish. But I find the practice a little disturbing and unnatural.  Not all fisheries use this practice, but it is very common.  Secondly, some fish farms use growth hormones.  We avoid growth hormones carefully in our meat, so why would we consume fish that contains it?

Their Food

While some fisheries may still use their natural food ( like duckweed), many, if not most fisheries feed them corn. Tilapia are easy to grow because, like pigs, they will eat anything, including “poop”. So it’s quite easy to grow them on corn. First, the corn is probably genetically modified. That has it’s own problems. Secondly, this high in corn diet leads to fish that’s high in Omega 6’s.

Wait, a minute! High in Omega 6 Fatty Acids?

High in Omega 6 Fatty Acids

One of the biggest health benefits of eating fish is getting Omega 3’s. You aren’t going to find that in Tilapia. In fact, you may be doing harm instead of good by eating it!

Tilapia has higher levels of potentially detrimental long-chain omega-6 fatty acids than 80-percent-lean hamburger, doughnuts and even pork bacon, the article says.

“For individuals who are eating fish as a method to control inflammatory diseases such as heart disease, it is clear from these numbers that tilapia is not a good choice,” the article says. “All other nutritional content aside, the inflammatory potential of hamburger and pork bacon is lower than the average serving of farmed tilapia.” Source

Note of course that this is comparing tilapia to grain feed beef. So…. tilapia contains more omega 6 fatty acids than grain feed beef, and doughnuts? That seems pretty high. And pretty darn, not good for you too.

All things considered, I just don’t think that tilapia is a good choice in seafood.. Sure it’s cheap, but I can buy grassfed beef for the same price or cheaper per pound, and that will contain a much better ratio of omega 3 to 6 fatty acids. Tilapia may be sustainable, but that’s doesn’t mean it’s good for you.

My only disclaimer is that there could be fisheries who follow better practices. If you are going to eat tilapia, try to find a good source for it and ask about specific practices. But before I made it a common food in our diet, I would also like to see some data on the omega 3 to 6 fatty acid ratio in tilapia feed duckweed.

So what do you think? Have you heard any other news or facts on tilapia to share?

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I love beautiful and simple food that is nourishing to the body and the soul. I wrote Fresh: Nourishing Salads for All Seasons and Ladled: Nourishing Soups for All Seasons as another outlet of sharing this love of mine. I also love sharing practical tips on how to make a real food diet work on a real life budget. Find me online elsewhere by clicking on the icons below!

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  1. says

    Thanks for sounding the alarm!

    Much of the farmed tilapia sold in the US comes from countries with weak/non-existent health, labor and environmental laws, such as China

    An 11:1 omega 6-3 ratio is just off-the-chart bad!

    “(tilapia is) …a potentially dangerous food source for some patients with heart disease, arthritis, asthma and other allergic and auto-immune diseases that are particularly vulnerable to an ‘exaggerated inflammatory response’. Inflammation is known to cause damage to blood vessels, the heart, lung and joint tissues, skin, and the digestive tract.”

    • KimiHarris says

      So true! I think I need to do a post about why you shouldn’t eat any seafood from China.

      And the ratio is just terrible, isn’t it!

      • Saby says

        I just ate cape gourmet tilapia frozen packed fish i got on sale from shoprite . A while after i ate the fish , I felt my heart racing and had a hard time breathing. I never had a fish allergy . Today I feel horrible. Not sure if I should go to dr or just wait it out …

    • Juan Irizarry says

      I am very interested in Aquaponics for sustainable living but was concerned about what to feed the fish (Tilapia). There is a preponderance of evidence that corn feed increases Omega 6 levels in farm raised fish. I have looked all over the web and continue to look for a more informed choice on better feed (one that I could include in the Aquaponics cycle would be best of course…thinkin’ of using duckweed), that is how I found this page. I am trying to solve the riddle of “Does using duckweed increase the levels of Omega 3 in Tilapia?”. Although this site is not exactly relevant to my interests in Aquaponics, I feel the need to share a page that I came across that states feeding Tilapia Kikuyu grass increased Omega 3 levels. Here is the page for anyone interesed:

      • Phililp Green says

        Thanks for this article Juan, I had been looking for something like this. It is important to note that the Tilapia species here, Tilapia Rendalii is a little different from that of Oreochromis Niloticus, the most commonly used fish in Tilapia farming, and that Tilapia species should not all be painted with the same brush.

        According to this study ( Niloticus fares less well on grass fed diets and would be very unlikely to be used as a grass fed fish. It baffles me why they even did the study knowing what the fishes habits are. It may well have been just to prove the negative result.

        Anyway in short, if you are looking for a grass fed Tilapia then your first question would be what species it is. Is it Oreochromis Niloticus(Nile Tilapia) which is highly unlikely to be grass fed or Tilapia Rendalli(Red Breasted Tilapia). You want the latter.

        • Juan Irizarry says


          Thanks for sharing about Tilapia Rendalli and Oreochromis Niloticus. With continued collaboration, the general public may figure this out through trial and error. If there is such a thing as the ideal self sustaining aquaponics system, a system that can turn out healthy protein and greens, let us figure it out.

      • says

        Those of us who do aquaponics would like to use duckweed to feed Tilapia, however, one would never want to put duckweed in an aquaponics system because the seeds are fine enough to get through the filters and you would have duckweed out of control in your troughs where the produce grows.
        We currently switched from using mealworms to your standard small pellet pond fish feed. It would be interesting to see research that studied the effects on the Omega acids with these types of feed. I’ve never heard of using corn to feed fish, but I immediately have an aversion to this as King Corn is ubiquitous to everything we eat and has far reaching health effects.
        Thanks for the information on Kikuyu grass, I will definitely see if it is a viable option to feed the Tilapia with our aquaponics system.

    • Sarah says

      I am reading the article and the comments and I am asking myself, why it just doesn’t go out and say that anything from China and India is bad for your health? But I beg to differ that all Tilapia is bad for you because you don’t know what it has been fed on. FYI, any fish caught in the wild, unless it is Tilapia, there is a big chance it has fed on human flesh because someone drowned or something far worse. There are Salmon farms in the US which is riddled with disease and yet not a word from the health police. I grow good Tilapia for the local market. I would have loved to export it to USA but the restrictions do not favor African countries, instead, they prefer to buy from China and India..I wonder if color has something to do with it? like buying from such countries and yet the food bought is riddled with human and animal poop..I dont know..a lot of stuff in this world has a major downside to it.

  2. Devon H says

    Well, I’m going to pose a question – just HOW is farmed fish “sustainable?” Definition of sustainable: capable of being maintained at a steady level without exhausting natural resources or causing severe ecological damage. Aquaculture (fish farming) is sort of like agriculture – there’s quite a few ways of doing it, and most of them are bad, some of them are actually helpful (like raising muscles in the ocean on rope lines helps to clean the water). I could be wrong here, but I don’t see fish farming practices being very open with information to consumers. Mostly I’ve come across “vegetarian feed” comments for farmed fish…which could simply mean soy. And I don’t want that. As consumers have gotten more demanding about how their beef, chicken, and pork are raised, the shrill cry for information on fish raising practices seems to be much quieter.

    Personally, I don’t eat ANY farmed fish because I generally don’t believe it’s sustainable. I eat only wild-caught. Yes, you have to worry about the mercury levels…but as far as I’m concerned, and I believe WAPF feels the same way, that any benefits far outweigh the risks. And I’d say the same thing, too, if I was pregnant. I’m lucky to have a local seafood shop that sells a nice array of wild-caught fish. It’s pricey, so I don’t eat it on a regular basis, but I try to eat it as much as I can afford to. That being said, if more information were available about the practices and living condition of the farmed fish, and I were determine that it was safe enough and ecologically sound, I’d eat it. But right now, with the questionable feed ingredients, soy, corn, dye, GMOs, chemicals and pesticides, less than optimal omega-3s, and lack of REAL nutrients in the wild that fish need, farmed fish seem more of a nutritional risk to me than a teeny amount of mercury.

    Here’s food for thought: The FDA/USDA whatever recommends a certain level of mercury “allowed” in food by ingestion. For those people who vaccinate their kids, they will have a lifetime accumulated total of not only mercury, but other toxic heavy metals (such as aluminum) directly in their blood stream that is WAY, WAY more than you would accumulate eating a lifetime of “average” fish consumption. I read an article in Mothering magazine last year or the year before that addressed this issue.

    I’m one of those who most likely will not be vaccinating my children when I do have them. I’m not going to worry about the smaller amount of mercury in my wild-caught fish, especially when eating a nourishing WAPF lifestyle that helps to mitigate any effects.

    Another thing worth mentioning: farmed fish put dye in food pellets…farmed salmon is actually murky gray in color because of the lack of their normal diet found only in the wild that naturally makes their flesh coral pink. They actually put coloring in feed to make their flesh a pleasing coral color, like their wild counterparts. It’s not uncommon to find soy in farmed fish feed as well. If they stoop to putting dye in feed, what else are they putting in there?!

    I’ll stick with my wild fish 🙂

    • KimiHarris says


      I used the term “eco friendly” simply because comparably it is much better for our environment than overfishing wild fish or farmed salmon (does anyone think farmed salmon is a good choice? I hope not). However, obviously, I don’t recommend eating fish just because it’s eco friendly.

      I have also had a hard time finding information on farmed seafood. I think that you could contact individual fisheries to learn more about their specific practices. I don’t think there is uniformity in practice.

      I don’t think the small amounts of mercury in low mercury fish is a problem and we eat it. Did you notice that wild Alaskan salmon was recommended in my last post? That may contain a small amount of mercury, but we eat it without worries. 🙂

    • traci says

      Devon, bless you for doing your research on what is good for you to eat, and bless you for the research on vaccinations that are filled with so many toxins that its absurd to disrupt our developing children with these govt approved toxins! Keep up the good work and thanks for spreading the news!

    • J Hedge says

      Please vaccinate your children against Polio. I had it and you don’t want them to have it.
      PS mussels not muscles.

    • Mona Norris says

      Thank you for insightful and much needed reasoning. I’ve just recently been reading up on the pros and cons of farmed fish. I’ve been buying frozen tilapia from a major, nationally known company who obtain tilapia from Canada, thinking I was eating healthy fish, but realize now that isn’t true. I’m returning my last purchase, because I’ve been eating the farm raised tilapia 2-3 times a week for 2 years because of the relatively low cost, hoping to lose weight and lower cholesterol. In addition to neither of those happening, my arthritis is worse. I’m not obese, just 60 yrs old and 40 lbs overweight. Of course, I haven’t increased physical exercise or reduced intake of sweets like I should either. Still, I’m buying wild fish from now on, even if more expensive.

      • Julie says

        I lost 60 pounds and have kept it off following the Zone prescription for eating (30-40-30 . That is % of calories in each meal from protein, carbs and fats) . This has been the ONLY time in my life that I was able to lose the weight and keep it OFF because when you eat this way you do not have cravings and you are not starving all the time. And for exercise I just walked – no gym, no trainer, none of that . So, if you find good things that fit into the formula that you love to eat, the battle is pretty much won. Before this change I was on a horrible sugar cycle and yo-yo dieted for 25 years (I am 53).

        I brought that up because I have just begun eating tilapia as a good source of lean protein. I cannot find anywhere that it is actually BAD for you, just not as rich in nutrients. I don’t think that anyone can eat enough fish to get all the good omega 3’s they need (I know I can’t!), so I supplement with a high quality fish oil that states the amounts of Omega 3’s, both EPA and DHA, on the label. I think that if all you are looking for is safe, good tasting, economical protein, then tilapia is a fine choice. I steam it in my microwave with seasonings and it is totally delicious.

        Best of luck to you with the weight loss/ healthy eating. Hope my post helps.

    • monica says

      Hi Devon, regarding vaccinations, it is possible to get vaccines without mercury in them. From what I understand, it is the multi dose vials that have thimerosal (a type of mercury) in them as a preservative. The single dose vials often do not have thimerosal. Also, I believe that thimerosal is chemically a different kind of mercury from the mercury found in seafood — I don’t know if you can compare the amounts that people are exposed to in vaccines vs seafood since they have different chemical compositions.

    • matt says

      Ignorance is bliss!!! Now wild sea caught fish have radiation from Japan. Study Aquaponics for sustainability, I have set countless people up with small Aquaponic systems that produce 1100 lbs. of veggies and 300 lbs of fish. These systems can go on for years! I have a 8 year old tomato plant.

  3. Devon H says

    One other thing of note – I saw on your previous post that you mentioned Nina Planck and her fish recommendation. I think, with her cautions, that it’s also important to point out that Nina herself takes the same WAPF approach – that benefits outweigh the risks. She herself states numerous times in her second book that she ate plenty of canned and frozen Wild Alaskan Salmon (with the bones, in the canned stuff) throughout her pregnancy, and in her most recent pregnancy with twins.

    • KimiHarris says

      Definitely. Like I said in my post…” Nina goes on to give the advice of eating low mercury fish, low in the food chain, but not avoiding fish altogether. Fish is important for the development of your babies brain and shouldn’t be avoided.”

      Though actually Nina differs just a bit than WAPF in that she will eat some farmed fish (not salmon, but ones recommended in the Monteray Bay Aquarium eco friendly list).

  4. Kim says

    Taking precautions with what you put in your body is without a doubt important. Protecting yourself against disease is also important though. Vaccinations should always be considered carefully, but not ruled out. It may not be necessary to get the flu shot every fall, but childhood immunizations are the reason that diseases like polio are no longer the threat that they used to be. The following website has some interesting information on mercury levels in vaccines:

    According to this website, routine pediatric vaccines don’t even contain thimerosal anymore. Thimerosal is predominantly found in multi-dose flu and tetanus vaccines as a preservative to protect against bacterial contamination. Obviously, mercury exposure is not something to take lightly, but fish consumption should be a much bigger concern than routine vaccination.

    In any case, farmed tilapia doesn’t sound all that great anymore. Thanks for the information Kimi!

    • Sarah L says

      Actually, a lot of diseases were on the decline(because of better sanitation and other factors) before mandated vaccinations began. Dr. Mayor Eisenstein is a doctor and a lawyer who has spent years studying vaccinations and their effects on children, esp. the correlation between vaccines and autism.

      For more info go to

      • Kim says

        I would be very cautious when following the advice of doctors like Dr. Eisenstein. A quick internet search doesn’t paint the prettiest picture of Dr. Eisenstein. Dr. Einstein’s ventures seem to be more entrepreneurial than medical. Articles from the Chicago Tribune and ScienceBlogs portray him as more of a quack, not the well-meaning, grandfatherly pediatrician that his website makes him out to be. There is absolutely no proven link between autism and vaccines. The one case in which vaccinations were related to autism-like symptoms was in the case of a young girl with a rare mitochondrial disorder, not autism.

        Autism often begins to show itself in the early years of childhood, usually around the same time that children are receiving routine vaccines. This, interestingly, is also the same time that social behavior begins to develop. Many parents of children with autism notice that, around this time, their children are not developing socially like other children and consequently attribute it to vaccination. It is not that these children stop developing socially, merely that they do not start this development normally in the first place. Please don’t misinterpret this as insensitivity, I am very aware of the devastating effects of autism, but I think that it is very important to look at the issue critically and to be very wary of extremist ideas, especially when the proponent has something to gain, in this case, quite a bit of money.

        I think that there is a lot more to autism than we realize. The complexity of the brain, and the subtle differences observed in the brains of individuals with autism are still being discovered. Much of these differences can be linked to genetic factors. I also think that the increasing prevalence of autism is, in part, due to increasing awareness and diagnosis. Many individuals who we may have written off as being “odd” or just a little socially challenged are now being diagnosed with Asperger’s and high-functioning autism.

        • KimiHarris says

          Anyone interested in how diet effects the mind (including Autism) should definitely read Gut and Psychology Syndrome by Natasha Campbel-McBride. She’s had amazing results working with autistic children.

  5. says

    Thank you so much for addressing this issue. This was a very enlightening post and I will be sharing it with many people. You cleared up the muddy waters, and gave some new info as well. I really appreciate your blog and use it as a reference as I encourage and teach others too!

  6. says

    I am glad that you are discussing the problems with farmed seafood. I rely on seafood since I have not eaten red meat or pork for more than 50 years. This has made chicken and particularly seafood very important in my diet.

    In the last five years I have become increasingly allergic to some seafood. At first I thought it was flat fish, then mussels and now it varies a lot. My fishmonger tells me that in his opinion it is a raection to farmed fish and I believe him. The alergic reaction consists of itchiness and then bumps but is becoming stronger oevr time. It makes me short of breath and brings stomach aches. Very scary. I hate the idea of having to be so careful about eating seafood, it is all leading to vegetarianism.

    • says

      I had the same problem with allergic reactions when I started eating farmed fish/seafood. I was raised on fresh, wild caught seafood and when I started ‘compromising’ on cheaper seafood and bought farmed, I found I was allergic. I had heard that adults can develop seafood allergies at any time, so at first I just passed it off as a new allergy. Then, thankfully, I took a ‘risk’ and ate some salmon once at my parent’s house. NO REACTION! I started testing things out and found that the fish I had at their house (fresh, wildcaught) never made me sick, but what I had at home made me break out in hives. The correlation didn’t have to be proven beyond that for me. Farmed fish was making me sick, but the fish from the Columbia river and Pacific ocean (where I live) didn’t have an effect.
      One more strike against industrialized food!

      • chris says

        this is good info’ I use to eat farm raised talapia until about a month ago.. I noticed that every time i ate the fish I had bad sinus problem,,, knowledge is power,, and for some reason as I were eating the fish,, I just did not feel just right,, no more fish for me.. thanks for the info”’ knowledge is power..

  7. Dani says

    I have been trying, with no success, to locate some non-farmed tilapia. I typically won’t eat any fish unless it’s wild-caught, but for some reason, Tilapia really was on my “don’t touch it ’til you know it’s wild” list. Now I know why! Has anybody ever seen it “wild?”

    Ah, how I wish Walmart would get on the wild-caught fish bandwagon. Their buying power is such that they no longer buy any dairy products with growth hormone in it (according to their statement in the movie “Food, Inc.”). There is so little now that we get there… paper & automotive products are about it!

    • Big eater says

      The last thing our planet needs is for Walmart to get involved in wild-caught fish. They would hire huge fleets of third world fishermen to strip the oceans bare. It would be an environmental disaster. Lets please keep Walmart on land for now.

      And for heavens sake vaccinate your kids.

    • TommySr. says

      Wow,Very discouraging about Tilapia. It’s a tasty fish,light an flaky. I buy from our membership store Sam’s Club ( walmart subsidiary) because it appears fresh and not imported from Asia. I will definitely have to inquire about the the fish I purchase. I know where they grow wild is in Hawaii. They’re a species that are living in canals with a mixture salt and fresh(brackish )water. But the canals are quite dirty,considering the run off from drains and trash dumped in the canals. Probably doesn’t make them to clean.

  8. Stephanie says

    Have you ever read Dr. Rex Russell’s book What The Bible Says About Healthy Living? It is what changed my eating life back in 1996. He has lots of the same ideas as Jordin Rubin and Sally Fallon. There is even a cookbook that goes along with his ideas.
    He has a whole chapter about fish. It is very interesting. I don’t have it in front of me, but he recommends only eating fish with fins AND scales. So you eliminate fish that only have one or the other. He also explains how like pork, many fish will eat anything and are scavengers. They purify/clarify water. So, for example, catfish should not be eaten. His story about catfish in particular talked about how a pond that contained bass and catfish was accidentally contaminated with pesticides from a nearby farmer who was spraying his fields. A day later, all the catfish were floating at the surface dead, but the bass were all fine. The catfish purified the water essentially.

  9. Beth says

    Thanks for another inspiring and info-packed post. As someone unaccustomed to preparing fish and seafood at home (lazy and afraid, I guess), but who otherwise follows a WAPF diet, I’d love to get a few favorite recipes from you or your readers on easy recipes using some of the more virtuous types of fish.

    Also, I know of a fantastic source for wild caught Alaskan salmon (the best I’ve EVER eaten) for anyone here in Minnesota – Wild Run Salmon, owned by a local guy who spends half the year with his family up in Alaska, available in summer at the Mill City Farmer’s Market ( or year-round at Traditional Foods MN (

    On a related topic, I wonder if you’d consider a post sometime on the recent media coverage claiming that the burgeoning market for omega-3 fish oils is depleting some critical fish species. An example is a Jan 25 Time magazine article by Tim Padgett discussing the situation and possible alternative sources like algae. (Could a plant source be as good as a fish source in this case?) Wise Traditions magazine will likely continue covering it as well; their Spring 09 issue on cod liver oil was fascinating, and I’ve since switched to fermented high vitamin CLO (and you can just tell that stuff is potent!).

    And now for something completely different… might you consider, if possible, adding a “search” feature to your blog, so we can search on any key word in your wealth of posts and recipes? Just a thought.

    • Jen says

      Hi Beth. Two recent favorite seafood recipes we’ve enjoyed are:

      I used a raw milk/raw cream mixture for the chowder, and it was excellent. My husband raved about it for a few days. 🙂 The salmon is delicious as well… we just had it for dinner tonight.

      I highly recommend when you need a recipe. You can search by recipe title or ingredients. There are usually lots of reviews from people who have tried the recipe, and you can find good tips. I try to stick with 4.5 or 5 star recipes. I’ve found so many excellent recipes, and most can be adapted (if necessary) to be WAP/NT friendly.

      Thanks for this post Kimi! Before changing our diets, I’m sorry to say that we only ate tilapia, and occasionally shrimp. 🙁 Now we’re enjoying a variety of seafoods. I quit buying tilapia (and all farmed seafood) as soon as I saw Food, Inc. where they showed a fish farm… YUCK!!!

    • KimiHarris says

      Hey Everyone,

      I would love to have you share your favorite recipes with Beth!

      And Beth, thanks for the link and the great post idea. (By the way, I don’t think Algae would be a good choice. I would go to krill oil before that). I actually do have a search feature, just look the the right of this post, about half way down. And in my main dishes section on my recipe index I have a few recipes using seafood. 🙂

      • Beth says

        THANKS KIMI, JEN AND JENNA for the replies. Can’t wait to try the clam chowder recipe, and as luck would have it, I get wonderful raw milk on a weekly basis, and my local Minneapolis co-op happens to have Crown Prince canned clams on sale this month! Thanks for pointing out the search function – sorry I missed it before.

        P.S. I wonder how the tins of smoked oysters (Crown Prince brand) would rate according to all these seafood considerations. Any thought on that?

        • Beth says

          P.P.S. The Crown Prince brand smoked oysters I asked about above are from South Korea, and they contain olive oil. Thoughts?

  10. says

    Thank you, Kimi for doing this very helpful series on seafood!

    Tilapia is out for us now , unless it specifically says ‘wild caught’. And I have never found that one anywhere. Too bad since it tastes pretty good. And I’d love to read that post on ‘why not to buy on Chinese stores’. We do buy from there once a month or once in two months’… I do know it’s bad, but once I read the hows and whys of it, I’m sure I wont go back there.

    • KimiHarris says

      Actually you can buy great seafood sometimes at Asian stores, you just shouldn’t buy fish from China. The reason is because, although they are improving, many chemicals and practices that are illegal here are done there in their fish farms. The fish can be pretty toxic. 🙂

      • says

        Thanks Kimi! We got some fish from chinese store yesterday and the taste was horrible – more leathery than flaky than a typical white fish. That just sealed the deal. No more fish from chinese stores.

  11. Michele says

    I have a question about the information below that’s posted on the Whole Foods Market web site.

    Whole Foods Market – Farmed Fish

    When it comes to farmed seafood, we know exactly where ours comes from, what it was fed … and more importantly, what it wasn’t fed! When it’s done responsibly, fish farming — also known as aquaculture — provides high-quality fish, can be environmentally friendly, and can be a crucial way to supplement the supply of wild-caught fish. And we know we can trust the farmers we partner with because they are world leaders in environmentally responsible aquaculture. Together with scientists and environmentalists, they helped us to develop our strict Quality Standards for Aquaculture, which include:

    * No use of antibiotics, added growth hormones and poultry and mammalian by-products in feed.
    * Traceability that allows us to track our farmed seafood—where it came from and how it got to our stores.
    * Requirements that producers minimize the impacts of fish farming on the environment by protecting sensitive habitats such as mangrove forests and wetlands, monitoring water quality to prevent pollution, and sourcing feed ingredients responsibly.
    * Strict protocols to ensure that farmed seafood is not escaping into the environment and that wildlife around the farm is protected.

    Question when they say ” No use of antibiotics, added growth hormones and poultry and mammalian by-products in feed.”…if this is true would not this take care of the worries that are talked about in your post?

    Do you think they would feed their fish corn?

    • Chris says

      “our tilapia feed contains fish processing trimmings”

      So they are feeding a plant eating fish other fish or even worse THEIR OWN KIND?

      Sounds like Soylent Fin to me.

      • jay says

        Soylent Fin… clever! But… surely you know that in the wild, most big fish eat little fish? And that most species generally adapt to whatever food source their local habitat provides? As for tilapia, I raise my own in an aquaponics setup and know from personal experience that they are omnivorous. If I feed them duckweed or string algae, they enthusiastically consume it. If an insect lands on the water surface, it lasts about two seconds. When they breed and produce young, if the fry are not removed from the tank quickly, they are consumed by the larger fish. So… you shouldn’t be alarmed by “fish processing trimmings” as an ingredient in tilapia feed.

  12. Michele says

    I found more information that may helped answer my questions on Whole Foods Market’s Blog….

    Our Detailed Standards

    Pardon our pride, but we really do have incredibly strong and thorough buying standards for farmed seafood—feel free to compare us to other markets! We are committed to these standards and to implementing them for farmed seafood throughout our stores. Here are a few highlights:

    * Our Quality Standards for Aquaculture prohibit the use of antibiotics, added growth hormones and poultry and mammalian by-products in feed.
    * We do not carry genetically modified or cloned seafood.
    * We partner with farmers who work hard to be the leaders in sustainable aquaculture.
    * Our standards require producers to minimize the impacts of fish farming on the environment by protecting sensitive habitats such as mangrove forests and wetlands, monitoring water quality to prevent pollution and sourcing feed ingredients responsibly.
    * Our seafood is free from added preservatives such as sodium bisulfite, sodium tri-polyphosphate (STP) and sodium metabisulfite.

    Here are some specific standards for popular farm-raised fish you’ll find at Whole Foods Market.

    Farm-Raised Tilapia

    Our tilapia is raised in Ecuador and Costa Rica to our strict standards which prohibit antibiotics and preservatives. Nor do we allow the industry-standard use of hormones for sex reversal. And, our tilapia feed contains fish processing trimmings instead of wild fish caught just for feed.

    They have other fished listed also..

    • Jen says

      If you really want to know if any of the farmed seafood that Whole Foods sells is fed corn or soy (genetically modified or not), I would call and ask! The fish themselves may not be genetically modified, but I don’t see anything stating that the feed is not. Also, where does the “fish processing trimmings” in the feed come from? Are those fish genetically modified, or are they fed GM corn and soy? Whatever the case, with tilapia, it’s just not a healthy fish based on the omega 6:3 ratio.

      I’m sticking with wild seafood!

    • Chris says

      “our tilapia feed contains fish processing trimmings”

      So they are feeding a plant eating fish other fish or even worse THEIR OWN KIND?

      Sounds like Soilent Fin to me.

  13. says

    We don’t eat farm raised fish. My husband’s father was a fisherman/shrimper and my husband spent his teen years out on the Gulf helping. He saw video of fish farms and was utterly disgusted by it and after hearing they are fed corn, refuses to eat it.

    Tilapia are vegetarians – they are not supposed to eat fish trimmings! Also tilapia are known for being able to live in bad water. Especially when the fish come from other countries – I don’t even want to think about what is in the water over there!

  14. mom23 says

    HI All,
    Just wanted to add a couple of quick notes.
    My daughter has several food allergies, but Salmon was supposed to be one of her safe foods. I try to give them healthy seafood at least once a week so we ate a lot of salmon, still do. Once in a while we’d try to eat out, and sometimes she’d react to salmon, other times she’d be fine. WE finally figured out it was a difference between wild caught and farmed salmon, and as she has a severe soy allergy it would be understandable that she was reacting to the foods for the farmed salmon.

    I use this website a lot for recipes- We follow WAP, NT, and Dr. Natasha C/McB’s suggestions faithfully. I’ve found a lot of recipes on this site that are GAPS friendly.

    there are some great ideas for salmon, as well as other proteins, soups etc.

    • Bill Bailey says

      Hi Mom23,
      lived in the great Pacific North West, Tacoma, WA. I had my 32 foot Salmon Boat out there while I was in the Air Force. I fished tons of Salmon. I can tell you that you can not say Farm Raised is worse or Wild Caught is better. I raise my own fish in a pond for now. BUT while in Washington State I SAW a boat come in loaded with Salmon laying all over the deck. No Ice, no cover, no Nothing. Several of us fishermen where there for hours waiting for the owners of the boat or the DNR to come take care of this. The fish had laid there in the hot sun most of the day, their color was gone, there eyes were caved in and dried out. Finally someone came for the fish, it was a cannery that loaded the fish into 4′ x 4′ x 4′ wooden boxes of ice and off to the processing plant. I wouldn’t eat that fish for nothing but it was headed for the Restaurants. It was an Indians Boat and because of “Treaties” they can do as they please.
      Can’t say one is better then the other unless YOU raise it.

  15. says

    The reasons outlined here are a great example of why I’m skeptical of all such lists like the dirty dozen for recommending organic is necessary. For instance corn is not on the dirty dozen list because you peel off the husk so they can spray as much pesticides on it as they want to…not to mention genetically modified. The important thing to remember is that probably the lists are just propaganda anyway…no better or more trustworthy than any other list that corporations pay to put into existence.

  16. says

    While a ratio of 11:1 of Omega 6 to Omega 3 sounds bad it really isn’t and there are Doctors who have stated that the average American dietis 10-20:1 of 6 to 3’s. Very few US farms use corn in their feed and some are even upping the Omega 3’s by adding flax seed oil to the meal they feed their fish as well as offering duckweed for the fish to feed on. Many farms are also moving to an aquaponic what of using the tank water to feed hydroponic vegetable gardens and clean the water before sending it back to the tank thereby producing fish and produce.

    China and Tawain are getting better, but still need work. The Philipines use rice meal.

    Me, I eat farm raised Tilapia all the time, but they’re raised in tanks, not ponds and I take two 1200mg flax seed oil capsules a day for extra Omega 3’s. Tilapia is an easy to raise fish that grows quickly and has lots of nutrients and if they’re tank raised there’s no change of mercury in their system.

  17. Annie says

    Kimi, thanks for linking to this post in Kelly’s recent post re: garlic butter fish. I was guessing hers was tilapia, but I don’t think she specified. Anyway, I’m looking for an alternative – or wild-caught tilapia. My husband really misses it! (I do, too, but I feel especially bad since I’m the one researching and choosing to cut or change so many foods in our diet.)

    • lynn says

      after reading all this ,i 2 have a a few boxes that will be thrown out. after only eating about 4-5 peices of this,i had some blood work done,and my hormones are abnormal,which could be preimenopause,but b-4 all my blood work came back normal,now i was told along with the hormone trouble,my hemogolbin was a high.yes i smoke,but i was curious as 2 the tilapia being sealed with carbon monoxide,if that came with eating the fish. thanks 2 everyone 4 all the info…i sure wont be eating it no more…

  18. jdavis says

    My 1.5-yr-old just got tested for food allergies. She is highly allergic to tilapia, but no other fish. Your article is a huge help in understanding why.

  19. Mimi says

    I just got through watching (albeit late) Strange Days on Planet Earth 2, episode 1… “Dangerous Catch” by Nat’l Geographic and they show kelp and muscles being grown in fish farms to absorb fish waste. Then they market both the kelp & muscles. So, wouldn’t it be dangerous or unhealthy to eat either if they’re grown on fish waste?? That makes no sense to me whatsoever! Thanks

  20. Mimi says

    I just got through watching (albeit late) Strange Days on Planet Earth 2 episode 1 “Dangerous Catch” by Nat’l Geographic, and they show kelp and muscles being grown in farmed fish tanks to absorb fish waste. Then they market both the kelp and muscles. Wouldn’t it be dangerous or unhealthy to eat either when grown on fish waste?? That doesn’t make sense to me whatsoever! Thanks

  21. lynn says

    after reading all this ,i 2 have a a few boxes that will be thrown out. after only eating about 4-5 peices of this,i had some blood work done,and my hormones are abnormal,which could be preimenopause,but b-4 all my blood work came back normal,now i was told along with the hormone trouble,my hemogolbin was high.yes i smoke,but i was curious as 2 the tilapia being sealed with carbon monoxide,if that came with eating the fish. thanks 2 everyone 4 all the info…i sure wont be eating it no more…

  22. David says

    I found wild caught tilapia at my local Pathmark supermarket, frozen in 2-lb bags. Some of the bags had 3 fish and some had 4 fish in them. I guess it depends on the size of the fish. I picked a bag that had 4 in it. The fish are all fully scaled, gutted, and gilled so all I had to do was defrost and cook. I just had one for dinner last night and it was delicious!! Anyway, the website on the bag was No, I don’t work for the company. I’m only posting this because in some of the comments people were saying they couldn’t find non-farmed tilapia.

  23. Noelle says

    I’m so glad I came across this. I had some tilapia for dinner yesterday evening and woke up in the middle of the night with an unbearable itching that started in my hands and feet and just spread all over. In the morning, I realized I had broken out in hives so I was convinced that I had an allergic reaction to something. I only ate broccoli casserole and tilapia (which was farmed), and since I have always eaten broccoli, cheddar, mozzarella, and rice (the ingredients of the casserole), I am so sure the fish was the culprit. I won’t take the risk. That pack of fish is going into the garbage bin!

    • dsl says

      I’ve been breaking out with Blisters since last year. During Christmas my doctor said i had the shingles. Took meds and all, no relief. Went to dermatologist and they ask me to stop drinking beet juice. The only thing that has changed in my diet was has been beet juice and i eat fish every day. I’ve lost a considerable amount of weight as a result. To no avail i couldn’t figure out why. I stop eating at the place i purchase fish from daily due. Saturday went to a friend and she cooked tilapia. As soon as i got finished eating i broke out in the worse set of hives i’ve had since last year. I ithced the entire night even in my sleep. I’ve had hives on feet, arms, legs, breast, and face. Since last October.

  24. fish_guy says

    I raise my own Tilapia as well as the food they eat. The fish are very easy to raise, very fast growing and when fed the proper diet they can contain very high amounts of omega 3s. I spend about an hour a week on maintenance on my aquaponics system and I estimate a couple hundred pounds of fish this year in a 12 x 16 green house. With a little more effort though, that same space can easily triple that poundage. Lot’s of info on the net about how to do this. Look up aquaponics.

  25. Deidra says

    I ahve been dieting and eating tilapia. had it 3 times this week and tonite and noticed about 4hrs later I got this pounding pressure headache. I think it is related to eating the tilapia.

  26. Rachel says

    My 3 year old son broke out in hives and vomited after eating the pesto tilapia purchased from Costco in the frozen section. There are six of us in the family and he is the only one (3 other kids under age of 6) who reacted. We have eaten cod, salmon and other varieties of fish without ever having a reaction. We have no allergy history in our family and this is a completely isolated event. I hate to throw out the package, especially since it was tasty fish, but can’t risk an even worst reaction. I’ll definitely stay away from farmed fish from now on!!

  27. Henri says

    The bible tells you what you should and shouldn’t eat. Only seafood with gills and scales, only animals that walk on 4 legs with split hoofs…interesting?

  28. T says

    Wow! thank you all so much for the info. I will absolutely be staying away from farm raised fish, and checking INto the book about what the Bible says to eat. I find it fascinating that over 2000 yrs. and boatloads of studies later – we could’ve just taken His word for it.

  29. Chris says

    I am always the one reading the entire ingredient label annoying customers trying to grab a quick package of food.

    Well the Tilapia thing scared me from the start. When I snagged a Tilapia by accident in the back waters of the Colorado river in Arizona I didn’t know what it was until my buddy said “hey that’s a Tilapia that’s good eating”. Being from the Midwest and having a stringer full of Largemouth bass I promptly handed him the weird looking fish and said “here you go buddy eat up”!

    Recently when I started to see the national commercial push for Tilapia the alarm bells went off. Firstly how is it being raised, what are they eating and what is the low down on the contaminant levels…and IS IT GOOD FOR US? Those were my questions with THAT or ANY new food source I see.

    The rest of the sea food Cod, Pollock, Halibut, Sole, Flounder, Tuna, Herring, Sardines, Sword etc…most of us have been eating for decades. We know for instance Sword is high in mercury so we shouldn’t eat it often. This Tilapia on the other hand is being raised in plastic stock tanks with only GOD knows how much bacteria and chemicals. I asked one of the local Tilapia farmers barefoot in suspender’s what he feeds them. He told me “Tilapia food”. I said do you know what is in the Tilapia food? He said he thought it was grain. I am totally amazed how much we have progressed in technology and digressed in natural organic nutrition.

    The whole thing scares me…I won’t eat it. It probably won’t surprise you Monsanto has it’s hands in it now. Get this they want to start giving the baby (fingerling) Tilapia the Bovine Growth Hormone! LOL!

    I think the answer for sustainability is catch it yourself…as much as possible. You buy the 20$ fishing license, the money goes into preserving wildlife habitat and the fish hatchery. The state stocks all of the local lakes and rivers with the best tasting fish imaginable…bluegill, crappie, walleye. You catch and eat your own fish. What an excellent cycle that puts most of the energy to “create” the fish from nature…not a 1000 gallon stock tank.

    My 2 cents.

  30. T Bone says

    This article is a joke. Tilapia has such low amount of fat that even if it contains a high ratio of Omega 6 to Omega 3, the total amount of Omega 6 is still extremely low. And what’s with the fear of Tilapia from China? They don’t grow an insane amount of corn in China that they have to put it in everything in every form. The place with corn flowing out of their silos are the US.

  31. Brian says

    My mom made some tilapia for my 17 year-old son yesterday and he had a strong allergic reaction never before exhibited with any other food. I’d rather take my chances with the wild caught stuff than the cheap GMO crap found in everything and everywhere!

  32. says

    If you want farm-raised tilapia, just buy from a local aquaponics grower who feeds them their natural food…duckweed. Problem solved. Support local agriculture and thumb your nose at the “Frankenfood” big ag producers.

  33. Jessica says

    We are starting a fish farm…we feed the fish each other and duckweed…its alot healthier and most of you arnt eating talapia from China…your eating it from local farms!!!! Like Blue Ridge. Do your research yourself b4 you change your diet bc of a few who use corn…even corn isnt bad…dont u eat corn?? This article is a joke! It basicly says if a farmer does a..b..and c it could be bad for you. Not many do A B and C …so ur aquafarms are safe and more efficienct and do water and fish testing regularly bc we feed our families this stuff too. Some pple will believe anything!

  34. Vincent says

    I recently began farming Tilapia at home. I’m still learning how to be successful at breeding them and I still need to learn how to grow algae and duckweed for them. I want to make sure the food I am eating is healthy, so does anyone know about the nutritional value of Tilapia that are raised on Duckweed?

  35. James Reilly says

    What happens when all the wild fisheries are over-fished, gone? Where are you going to get your supply of fresh fish? Fish for thought.

  36. T. Ealy. says

    There is so much to learn about eating healthy. The article mentions pigs that will eat about anything. Well, chicken one of the main stamples of the North American diet, is one of the filthiest animals you can consume. As I grow towards a vegan diet, if you are going to eat one you may as well eat the other.

  37. cancergal says

    Vegetable diet is not completely natural, a lot of them are GMO. Unfortunately, they are not labeled, and I find many vegetables taste different from 20 years ago.

    Indeed,natural grown chickens eat worm, scraps veggies and rice. They are not filthiest animal but one of the domestic poultries. Commercial grown are fed with grains, including GMO corns. No food is safe unless we grow ours.

  38. Mari Yoder says

    So what if I raise tilipia in tanks and feed them alfalfa pellets and non-gmo corn I raise my self and other garden stuff…..will they still be bad for us? I was just in the process of starting this….raising fish …using the water drained weekly to water my garden …we have our own well water…….

  39. Bill Bailey says

    I COMPLETELY agree with what you have written but NOT all Talapia Farmers are the same. My operation is a small and multifaceted farm using OTG (Off The Grid), Green, Organic Aquaculture Operation and my Talapia are bred here, I produce there feed, and there are NO additives, No oils, No Testosterone, No Fish Meal or wild Fish added, etc. It is my own recipe that I make into flakes or pellets. I have been R&D the Project for a year and got my first 300 Gal tank, and Tilapia ordered. My aim is to get the USDA Certification to add to my label as well as produce a really good tasting Tilapia and Produce. And even though several other countries do feed chickens over tanks as Tilapia will eat their dung, that is unthinkable to me. If my fish are happy and healthy they easily feed my Hydroponic Systems and both the fish and vegetables grow much faster, taste MUCH better. So please back off on ALL Farmed Tilapia are bad, no way! My wife and I have been going Organic for a couple years and we can really tell the difference. And I have very HIGH Standards to hit, my Goal is to sell to Whole Foods! They are TOUGH, which I am thankful for because I know WHAT I am getting there.!

    • KimiHarris says

      Hey Bill,

      Sounds like you have a great thing going for your fish! I am not sure whether you actually read my article though. I didn’t actually talk about adding in many of the food items (like chicken) in my article, and I also made clear that not ALL fisheries did the same things. However, for me really to recommend tilapia, I’d want to see the omega 3 to omega 6 fatty acids profiles. I’d love to see some research showing that, when raised the right way, tilapia has a good ratio.

  40. Samuel M. Hay, III says

    Being approved by the FDA or the USDA is the kiss of death. If Monsanto doesnt already own them, they will figure out a way to do so. Monsanto’s failing GMOs, (Some crop failures down 30%) exec is now a top guy with the USDA.
    PLUS, we are just learning what happened to the bees. Monsanto has allegedly placed toxins in their products which target honey bees! Why, money of course. The want everyone to have to buy their Super Bees which are genetically engineered to be immune to the toxins.
    Agreed, I dont want to eat fish that have been fed a diet of GMO feeds. NO, Never, not ever.
    Im setting up my own Tilapia above ground pools so I can have complete control, no run off or anything I dont want in the pools. For feed, I will use organically farmed wild grasses that I will grow myself.
    There are no USDA or FDA regs on imported seafood. Most Asian countries grow them with sewerage or chicken poop. Logically these standards which apply to so many other products, toys etc, can easily be implemented.
    BUT the importers fight it with big bucks.
    They have successfully gotten the net bans in place (If you dig deep enough you will find these importers financially supported Sport Fishermen’s orginazations who were wooed into the belief sport fishing would improve with the net bans. Having successfully put the small fishermen out of business by net bans and also importing fish and selling them cheap now they can charge whatever they want.
    According to a major university in the South who has been testing these imported fish, they contain just about every toxin you can imagine. And it goes on unchallenged the the agencies who are being PAID TO PROTECT US!
    Most states could implement their own programs and standards but it is not happening.
    I MUST POINT OUT however the population of the planet will double in the next ten years. There is no way, read my lips, no way, to feed the population with crops, especially in light of current hostilities in climate which is most likely being controlled by the well known weather experiments which have been taking place here for decades.
    Fish farming is a chance for us to survive…think about it, IN ONLY TEN years there is no way to feed the population.
    We must press for standards in fish farming and we must do it now. If the USDA can regulate growers of agricultural crops, beef, pork and chicken with inspectors nationwide, they can INCLUDE fish as well. Write your Congressmen or at least press your local state legislators to get the job done before its too late.

  41. David says

    If Tilapia eat algae, they could be ideal for algae control in farm ponds wherever water temperatures get low in the winter. They can’t survive temps below ~45F (varies by species), so they can’t establish permanent populations. Otherwise algae has few consumers and is usually controlled by other means such as chemicals that seem far more problematic.

    As temperatures drop in the Fall, Tilapia become sluggish. The larger ones can easily be harvested for eating and the smaller ones become easy prey for bass or other species at the top of the food chain, just when they need to build up reserves for the winter. Smaller fish can also be collected to overwinter indoors for next year’s pond populations.

    Tilapia harvested for human consumption would be “grass-fed” with favorable omega profiles. Health-oriented producers have no compelling reasons to add testosterone or to grow Tilapia at densities high enough to need antibiotics. Instead the optimal density would only be what can be sustained on algae growth.

  42. says

    Have you ever read Dr. Rex Russell’s book What The Bible Says About Healthy Living? It is what altered my eating life back in 1996. He has great deals of the very same concepts as Jordin Rubin and Sally Fallon. There is even a cookbook that supports his ideas.

    He has an entire chapter about fish. It is very interesting. I don’t have it in front of me, however he suggests only eating fish with fins AND scales. So you eliminate fish that just have one or the other. He likewise explains how like pork, numerous fish will consume anything and are scavengers. They purify/clarify water. So, for example, catfish must not be eaten.

    His story about catfish in particular talked about how a pond which contained bass and catfish was accidentally contaminated with pesticides from a nearby farmer who was spraying his fields. A day later, all the catfish were floating at the surface area dead, however the bass were all fine. The catfish purified the water essentially.

  43. Gem says

    I knew very less about seafood bc I was brought up eating just vegetarian food. I heard about talapia from my friend so I bought packaged talapia from shoprite and I broke out with hives, itchiness and rash spreading on my face. Then I came to know that this dish is farm-raised and it eats its own feces. I am never going to eat talapia anymore now onwards! This happens twice this year so I am done eating this now.

  44. Andres Fernandes says

    Thank you for your informative article. I was thinking of growing my own tilapia (in Costa Rica) and wondering if it is worth the while.
    I thought of growing them with some grubs (mealworms produced by me), green pigeon peas, and algae. I tested it on a few fish before and they seem to really like it and thrive. I would try other organic foods, grown by me. But I am wondering if the fish would still have high levels of bad omegas. You mention that corn causes the levels to spike but I am hoping that a better diet would yield healthier fish.
    Or perhaps I should let the tilapia idea go? Am trying to produce a bit more of my own food, and in the very warm climate here tilapia seem to be the best fish contender.
    Any advice would be most welcome.
    Thank you and keep up the good work.

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