How do you stamp out tilapia? Just ask Roger Fitzgerald and he'll tell you, "One piece at a time."
That's essentially my approach. I know people like to tout that it's a vegetarian fish. But I don't care. If you're growing it overseas, I'm skeptical of what it's eating. I cringe when I buy my kid toys made in a wide swath of countries with opaque standards of quality (not to mention the working conditions). Why would I want him to ingest something from there?
On top of that, any animal protein I buy should not be too uniform. If it comes in a cookie-cutter shape, it's not wild enough for me.
I had a delicious meal of Brazilian fish stew this week with a big fillet of Pacific cod. I buy local cod whenever I can, but I had to make this purchase at the grocery store fish counter rather than my local fishmonger's, so frozen-at-sea P-cod it was.
After I had my pound-and-a-half piece all wrapped up, I noticed some gorgeous sockeye in the case next to it. I needed whitefish, but man that salmon looked amazing. I said as much to the fish fella. He grinned, thanked me and turned to the next guy in line.
And what did that guy get? "Atlantic" salmon steaks. He was quite proud of his choice, from what I could tell — chest puffed out, confidently ordering for himself and his companion as she smiled behind him. I cannot imagine how anyone looks at farmed salmon steaks sitting below a gorgeous swath of red-fleshed wild sockeye fillets and says, "I'll take the the pale one! Two servings, please!"
Like Fitz says in his column in our June issue (page 10): "There will always be the tilapia eaters, and there will always be those who are looking for something better — and those are the folks we need to help find it."
I keep getting the feeling that when it comes to fish people have no idea what they're ordering. It seems like the average buyer believes that if the fish counter is selling it, it must be good fish, right? Atlantic salmon means it came from the Atlantic ocean, right? Genetically speaking, yes. Why would anyone think any different? Because no one has ever told them.
And what do they think of fish after they've eaten their watery (floating!) tilapia? If it's not good, then seafood as a household protein takes a hit.
This is where marketing can make a difference. A recent study showed that Americans are willing to pay 10 percent more for clothing and appliances made in the States. Would they do the same for seafood?
I think it's high time we found out.