Whole Story

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Get to Know Your Tilapia

By Carrie Brownstein, January 4, 2011  |  Meet the Blogger  |  More Posts by Carrie Brownstein
Unlike conventional grocers who may source tilapia from any old place as long as the price is right, Whole Foods Market sources all seafood, including tilapia, according to our Quality Standards. In the case of tilapia, we source from just three supplier partners, all of whom have passed a third-party audit to ensure that they meet our rigorous quality standards. Our primary supplier partner, Tropical Aquaculture Inc., brings us tilapia from Santa Priscila, located in beautiful Ecuador. Santa Priscila practices polyculture by raising shrimp and tilapia together in the same ponds. This helps reduce waste and water pollution, as tilapia consume feed that the shrimp leave behind and help get rid of organic matter that otherwise could end up in the environment. The farm also re-circulates its water, which further helps to protect water quality surrounding the farm. And you’ll be glad to know that our Quality Standards for Aquaculture prohibit the common industry practice of using the hormone methyl testosterone to reverse the sex of tilapia. Conventional tilapia producers prefer to raise only male fish so that the fish put their energy into growth rather than reproduction and grow to a larger, more marketable size. Our farmer partners, however, grow fish the old fashioned way: they let the fish reproduce naturally. Then they separate the males and females by hand and raise them in separate ponds. And as always, Whole Foods Market prohibits slaughterhouse by-products from avian or mammalian species in feed. Fortunately, tilapia are naturally omnivorous fish that don’t require a lot of fishmeal in their feed, which helps our tilapia suppliers meet our goal of reducing pressure on wild populations of fish that are used to produce animal feed, but are also important species in marine food webs. In fact, Santa Priscilla’s feed (as well as other supplier partners’ feed), uses trimmings from other fish species processed for seafood, which also reduces wastes. We launched our Quality Standards for Aquaculture in 2008 and they still remain the toughest quality standards for farmed seafood in the industry. Fish farmers who want to partner with us must complete a lengthy application detailing all of their farming practices. And it’s more than just words; third-party auditors verify that the farm is meeting our standards before any of their fish makes its way to our stores. Not only that, but suppliers must continue to pass annual inspections for as long as they partner with us. So, how do you know you’re purchasing farmed seafood that meets Whole Foods Market’s strict standards? Look for our aquaculture logo — Responsibly Farmed — at Whole Foods Market stores. That symbol means that the fish has been third-party verified to meet our standards.
Category: Seafood




Tricia says ...
I just purchased some tilapia at WFM last night specifically for this reason. I don't shop at WFM for everything, but I think it's important to purchase items in industries that can be unsafe. The fish was reasonably priced and tasted great!
01/04/2011 3:55:21 PM CST
dining room table says ...
I have heard of this fish before and they told me that this is really something so delicious.
01/05/2011 7:02:02 AM CST
Lynda Reynolds says ...
Tilapia are a freshwater fish, not seafood. And how did the prison system in Colorado go about getting a contract with Whole Foods to sell?...is this something I can start in California or do we already have the same program?
01/05/2011 1:36:48 PM CST
Sharon Miracle says ...
I commend you for taking these steps to protect the aquaculture, and for helping protect us humans from ingesting more unnecessary hormones which may have negative consequences on our bodies over time.
01/05/2011 3:06:59 PM CST
Kat says ...
Thank you for this info about tilapia. I just starting eating it but I did not know that hormones are added to it by certain suppliers.
01/05/2011 5:34:58 PM CST
Ellie says ...
Most tilapia is grown in such conditions that it is gross, if not unhealthy, to eat. It is wonderful to hear yours is worth eating. Thanks!
01/05/2011 9:30:32 PM CST
Ryan says ...
But what are they fed? Most tilapia are fed corn, resulting in an extremely high omega 6 to omega 3 ratio.
01/08/2011 10:30:03 AM CST
Bev Baker says ...
Just checking to ensure that the tilapia are not fed GMO corn???
01/10/2011 8:44:44 PM CST
bepkom says ...
Thanks for all your comments! I'm currently looking into the inquiries about feed. I'll let you know what I find out.
01/11/2011 1:17:29 PM CST
Sharon Adelman says ...
Dear Whole Foods, First I want to say, thank you for bringing me quality food and educating me about nutrition, each time I shop at my local WF. However, I do have a concern. As we all know, fish farming practices have a bad name and with it come with a price (cheap and unsanitary conditions) to the eco system and our health. I have been educating myself and seeing and reading my fair share of how and what fish farming is all about. Tilapia and other white fish and my favorite Salmon are unfortunately in that category of fish being farmed are getting a bad name. I read the above write up and Quality Standards for Aquaculture is utmost priority to WF. HOW can you be sure that these farmers are following that very strict guidelines? Anyone can slap a " Quality Standards for Aquaculture" logo on their packaging. So who knows? It could very well be a bait-and-switch tactic to fool WF and us, consumers. Do you WF purchasing staffs visit these farms? How true can it all be? I am being a devil-advocate because I want to make sure the fish or seafood that I buy from WF are farmed with conscious background and they are safe. I am just wondering if you could help me understand further about this? Thank you for listening. I wanted to hear your response. sincerely, Sharon
01/14/2011 7:43:18 AM CST
MelissaVW says ...
Hi there - can you tell me whether your tilapia are fed corn and soy? Or are the fish that are used in the fishmeal? Thanks!
05/02/2011 7:58:37 PM CDT
tim says ...
I raise tilapia in The US and was wondering where you get your fish food? Thank you very much for your help. Tim
09/27/2011 11:59:48 PM CDT
janejohnson says ...
@Tim Very cool, Tim. Since we source from different fisheries depending on the store that the product will end up in, the best way to learn about the feed used will be to contact your community's Whole Foods Market directly. I've included a link be low that will help you identify the contact information for your store. A Team Member at that store will be more than happy to help get you this information. Have a fishy Friday! http://wholefoodsmarket.com/stores/
09/30/2011 1:59:19 PM CDT
celestine davis says ...
I am looking for tilapia that not from China or Taiwan. Who are the other 2 sources? You only mentioned Santa Priscila. Thanks,
12/28/2011 12:16:52 PM CST
Christian says ...
I was under the impression tilapia sold at WFM was U.S raised and that it was from a Hatchery in Colorado. U.S raised tilapia is the "best choice" and they are being farmed in Miami, Florida.
02/05/2013 3:10:21 PM CST
Sharon says ...
I live in Vancouver. I'm led to believe that the WF tilapia I buy here is from a local, land based farm. Is that true?
03/25/2013 11:53:40 PM CDT
Nikki - Community Moderator says ...
@SHARON - Since our products vary between locations, I would check directly with the seafood department at your local store. They will be able to tell you where the tilapia is sourced.
03/29/2013 6:26:18 PM CDT
Jennifer says ...
I see on your website that your primary tilapia supplier is in Ecuador, where are the other two suppliers located, are either of them from China?? Thank you.
06/01/2013 3:03:33 PM CDT
Nikki - Community Moderator says ...
@JENNIFER - Our vendors vary between store locations. Check in with your local store to see where their vendors are located.
06/03/2013 3:32:27 PM CDT
L Tinsley says ...
Are wf tilapia (and other fish) farmed in the USA or Canada only? Thax LT
07/10/2013 10:04:16 PM CDT
Nikki - Community Moderator says ...
@LTINSLEY - This would vary between stores. Check with your local store and they'll be happy to let you know!
07/11/2013 4:00:37 PM CDT
Catherine Rowe says ...
I am/was a lover of Tilapia until I read an article about them being fed pig and chicken waste. I really want to only by USA raised Tilapia. Is this something that you ever carry. I a little afraid of those raised in Ecuador also. I read your article but am still a little iffy. thanks Cathy Rowe
10/04/2013 11:27:25 PM CDT
Nikki - Community Moderator says ...
@CATHERINE - One of our criteria for aquaculture is that we prohibit poultry and mammalian by-products in feed. You can read more at http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/mission-values/seafood-sustainability/aquaculture. Also our vendors will vary between stores so check with your local store to see where their tilapia is sourced from.
10/08/2013 4:01:29 PM CDT
jalinda says ...
Why does your farm raised tilapia come all the way from Peru? I would think that Whole Foods would want to support American farmer's. In addition, have you considered the extra burden it puts on the environment to transport it so far?
11/05/2013 6:53:26 PM CST
Nikki - Community Moderator says ...
@JALINDA - We definitely take all of that in to consideration when choosing vendors.
11/11/2013 4:27:36 PM CST