Tilapia has, over the last decade, become a popular meal time food source. It’s everywhere. On the menu of most local dives, and you make a healthy choice by selecting the grilled Tilapia instead of having the burger. Or, so you think. Tilapia is a very old fish. Mentioned in Ancient Egyptian texts more than forty-five hundred years ago, cultured in ancient China as far back as three thousand years ago, and also known as St. Peter’s Fish based on the story of St. Peter catching a fish with a gold coin in its mouth. Tilapia are indigenous to Africa and the (so-called) Middle East. The Nile Tilapia and the Mozambique Tilapia are the original indigenous fish. However, Tilapia raised and sold in the U.S. are classified as Nile Tilapia, but in fact are not Nile Tilapia, but something else.
Between 1973 and 1986 the “Nile” Tilapia was being “reared” in fish hatcheries in Arizona and by 1986 a single Tilapia fish was found in the Saugahatchee Creek portion of the Yates Reservoir, in the Tallapoosa drainage of Mobile Basin in Lee County, Alabama turns up on January 12th, 1986. This fish was introduced “experimentally” into the wild in the southern part of Arizona. This doesn’t explain how the fish ends up in Alabama and are now a large part of aquatic life in the southeast United States. This is not a true Nile Tilapia, and actually cannot be identified. It is a strange fish that hit U.S. market, selling at a very low price. This fish is being sold as low as $1.49 per pound at a time when people are being told that eating of fish will improve their health. But is this true concerning Tilapia?
Tilapia are herbivorous. They eat primarily the vegetation in lakes, rivers, and creeks and have been used in some water treatment plants. Most Tilapia sold in the U.S. are farm raised, though I have seen wild Tilapia sold, that is a rarity. Farm raised Tilapia has been found to be more detrimental for heart health than eating bacon or a hamburger. Wake Forest University Researchers have published in the Journal of American Dietetic Association that “Tilapia have higher levels of potentially detrimental, long-chain, omega-6 fatty acids than 80-percent-lean hamburger, doughnuts and even pork bacon.” And yet, Tilapia is the number five biggest selling fish in the United States, projecting the selling of 2.5 million tons last year. Beware, other transgenic fish are in your market including Trout, Salmon and Carp. For my continental West African people and Memphis, TN fam who love Buffalo Fish, hate to tell you that Buffalo fish is in the Carp family.