Today, I had my standards challenged and this was a good thing.
Fish is on the menu for this week – filets tonight and homemade fish sticks later in the week. I only buy fish or meats at one of the nicer grocery stores, so it was the last thing I needed to pick up to be completely food-ready for the week ahead. I decided to do something different. I decided to check out the little hole-in-the-wall, local-only seafood market.
As a registered dietitian, I consider myself fairly food savvy in terms of how food is grown, raised, processed, and packaged. Fish, however, is one item that always remains fuzzy in my mind. I know to do my part for fish happiness and to reduce disease, wild is preferable to farm raised. I know which fish are more healthful because they are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon or mackerel. I know which fish are better in limited amounts because of potential higher mercury levels, such as swordfish or shark. This, however, is all that my brain chooses to remember. Here’s a great link from the Food and Drug Administration about selecting, storing, preparing fish and some health concerns.
Today, I walked into a local fish market and asked for tilapia. I was happy to learn some more about fish from a friendly fish monger.
According to my local fishmonger, tilapia is not a fish that is local to my area (Florida) and since he only carries fish caught up the road in Mayport, he doesn’t have any. He added that most of the tilapia comes from out of the country (which equals a lot of food miles) and is farm raised, not wild caught. He definitely was not a fan of tilapia; but I had a meal plan to stick to so I asked for his recommendation and engaged in an educational conversation about fish.
According to the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch 2012 report on tilapia, 95% of the tilapia eaten by Americans is imported from other countries. The fish that is raised in the US is mostly farmed in the West and Northeast regions of the country. Tilapia is the fourth most consumed fish in the USA after shrimp, tuna, and salmon. Most of the US-raised tilapia (75%) is farmed using closed recirculating systems. On the negative side, these fish are separated from other wildlife, ponds are typically overly full, it requires more to be put into the system than comes out (1.4 pounds of feed to produce 1 pound of fish) and many farms use drugs to treat/prevent disease or to change the fish’s gender to male to produce a larger fish. One the positive side, this method does have an overall low environmental cost (food miles excepted).
If you want to know which fish are local for you, check the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch site.
If you are curious, I happily purchased a more expensive, local, drug-free triggerfish, which is supposed to be similar to grouper. I will be baking this beautiful fish in the oven at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes (until it flakes easily with a fork) after dredging the filets in egg whites and coating with a combination of breadcrumbs, crushed pecans, and oregano. On the side, will be homemade tartar sauce (mayonnaise and relish), fresh boiled corn on the cob, and oven-fried red potatoes sprinkled with salt, pepper, and garlic powder.
Is it dinner time yet?
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