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.