“Known in the food business as ‘aquatic chicken’ because it breeds easily and tastes bland, tilapia is the perfect factory fish; it happily eats pellets made largely of corn and soy and gains weight rapidly, easily converting a diet that resembles cheap chicken feed into low-cost seafood,” writes New York Times correspondent Elizabeth Rosenthal in a May 2, 2011, article exploring the global tilapia market. “[P]romoted as good for your health and for the environment at a time when many marine stocks have been seriously depleted,” tilapia is mostly imported from Latin America and Asia for consumption in the United States, where its newfound fame has also drawn attention to aquaculture practices overseas. In particular, Rosenthal notes that critics have raised questions about raising tilapia in pens, a practice that purportedly pollutes lakes and damages local ecosystems, and on diets that nutritionists say can reduce the production and quality of omega 3 fatty acids, “the fish oils that are the main reasons doctors recommend eating fish frequently.”

And yet, according to Rosenthal, “Americans ate 475 million pounds of tilapia
last year, four times the amount a decade ago, making this once obscure
African native the most popular farmed fish in the United States.” As a result,
groups like the Aquaculture Stewardship Council have apparently started
exploring labeling programs to help consumers chose “responsibly farmed”
products. For example, tilapia farms certified under the council’s guidelines
would operate only “in lakes where tilapia already live” and be required to
design cages to prevent escape, meet water quality rules for oxygen and
phosphorous, and abstain from using prophylactic antibiotics. “In a nod to
its growing popularity, this year tilapia’s will be the first of 10 certification
programs to be initiated,” concludes Rosenthal. “Proponents say tilapia
aquaculture will only grow in importance because it provides food and jobs in
a world of declining fish stocks and rising population.”

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For decades, manufacturers, distributors and retailers at every link in the food chain have come to Shook, Hardy & Bacon to partner with a legal team that understands the issues they face in today's evolving food production industry. Shook attorneys work with some of the world's largest food, beverage and agribusiness companies to establish preventative measures, conduct internal audits, develop public relations strategies, and advance tort reform initiatives.

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