Fish is good for you. Everyone says the protein, vitamins, minerals, and omega-3 fatty acids are supremely beneficial for human health.
Caveat: not all fish is created equal. We’ve heard about the dangers of mercury and other heavy metals in fish. But a quieter issue is farmed fish. It is definitely different than wild fish in many ways.
The overwhelming majority of tilapia sold in the U.S. is raised on farms from China–that’s why it’s so inexpensive (relatively speaking). It has become a fish of choice due to its availability and mild flavor. Here is the reality of life on a fish farm:
- Fish are fed stuff they would never meet in the wild: duck, chicken, and pig feces, genetically-modified corn and soy, pesticides, and antibiotics
- Fish are kept in cages, making them fattier than wild
- Farmed tilapia has very low levels of omega-3 fatty acids but high levels of omega-6–the opposite of what you want. Wild (if you can find it) tilapia (and other varieties of fish) doesn’t have this problem.
- Dibutylin (DBT) is a chemical used in plastics; levels of it in farmed fish is six times higher than in wild varieties. DBT has been found to disrupt the endocrine and immune systems in humans, causing inflammation. You are what you eat.
“The results of these extensive experiments shows that DBT is toxic to immune cells at very low (nanomolar) concentrations similar to what have been measured in human blood…DBT inhibited the expression of genes involved in sugar and fat metabolism and in the flammation response. DBT dramatically blocked the normal anti-inflammatory effects of cortisol.” (2)
The dioxin and PCB (polychlorinated biphenyls) levels in farmed fish are much higher than in wild, presumably because of what they are fed and the dirty environment in which they live–close-to-shore pens that are the first dumping place for industrial run-off. These are known human toxins. (3)
Imported farmed seafood (ninety percent of the shrimp sold in the U.S. is imported from Asia) isn’t inspected before it is sold. One study found that almost every farmed variety of imported fish tested (among them: shrimp and prawns, catfish, crab, tilapia, eel, and Chilean salmon) contained veterinary drug residues(4). Upon landing on North American shores, Food and Water Watch reports you can expect to find:
“a whole bevy of contaminants: antibiotics, residues from chemicals used to clean pens, filth like mouse hair, rat hair, and pieces of insects, [not to] mention things like E. coli.” (5)
With friends like these, who needs anemones?
With conditions like these, it’s no wonder that the objectifiable quality of the farmed fish is much less than what is found in wild fish. Omega-3 fatty acids are much fewer, number of carcinogenic chemicals are much greater, and there is less protein and antioxidant content. So why bother eating it? You’re better off eating an organically-raised BLT.