Teeming Tilapia

With its story “Tilapia: The Fish Chefs Snub and Shoppers Love,” the Miami Herald explains something I’ve been wondering about for a while: Where the hell did all this tilapia come from? Unheard-of by most Americans before the 1990s, tilapia is now popping up on restaurant menus galore, and is one of the best-selling fish in supermarkets as well. As the Herald reports, annual consumption of the fish has quadrupled in just a few years, from a quarter pound in 2003 to a full pound in 2006. Granted, that’s still not a lot—one could knock down a pound of fish with two hearty sandwiches—but the sudden increase is rather startling.

So why is tilapia the zeitgeist fish? It doesn’t taste fishy, explains the Herald, leading it to be prized by consumers (and often scorned by chefs, who liken it to chicken and call it “insipid” in the story). Thanks to its burgeoning popularity with fish farmers, it’s also relatively cheap, a factor that no doubt accounts for its presence on Red Lobster menus. Sealing the deal is the fish’s decent environmental profile: The Monterey Bay Aquarium gives U.S.-grown tilapia its best rating.

Personally, I think it has a weird, metallic, almost dirty flavor. But that’s just me. Oh, wait. No it’s not.

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