Thursday, August 15, 2013

seems fishy to me ...

At some point in time, you come to the realization that your kids are smarter than you are, at least in certain areas. In my case, one of those areas is food.

Both of our children have been vegetarians for a number of years. It may surprise you to know that there are actually three main types of vegetarians: (1) vegan - no animal products at all (2) vegetarian (which is what our kids are) - no meat consumed, but they DO consume eggs and dairy products and (3) Pescatarian - same as #2, but they also eat fish.

According to, however, there are several other types as well:

1) Flexitarian/semi-vegetarian - a vegetarian who occasionally eats meat 2) Lacto-vegetarian - a vegetarian that doesn’t eat eggs, but eats dairy products 3) Ovo-vegetarian - a vegetarian that doesn’t eat dairy products, but does eat eggs 4) raw vegan - a vegan who doesn’t eat food that has been heated over 115 degrees 5) macrobiotic - eats unprocessed vegan foods, with a heavy emphasis on Asian vegetables and seafood vegetables (translation: seaweed)

According to the Vegetarian Times, there are 7.3 million Americans who are some type of vegetarian, and another 22.8 million who follow a vegetarian-inclined diet. If you do the math, that’s roughly 10% of our population.

I tried a vegetarian diet for about 3 months a while back, and found that it wasn’t all that difficult to follow. After reading “Wheat Belly” earlier this year, I also tried a gluten free diet as well. It was doable, but not as enjoyable. My wife and I both eat vegetarian meals on occasion, but we also eat a wide variety of meats - with the exception of hamburger, which we haven’t purchased for about 5 years. If you’ve read Eric Schlosser’s “Fast Food Nation”, you’ll understand why.

Most of the time, we’ll eat either chicken or pork, but we’ll also occasionally eat meals from the pizza food group. Since fish is also supposed to be a healthy choice, we’ve generally been dining on fish about once a week.

Since moving to Arizona, we’ve been buying frozen tilapia at Albertsons whenever they have their “buy one - get three free” specials . On one of our trips there, I noticed that the fish was “a product of China”. As I looked closer, I noticed that it was also “farm raised”, and I started to wonder how good this stuff actually was.

As it turns out, tilapia is now the 4th most popular seafood consumed in America, after shrimp, tuna, and salmon. Due to increased demand, most of the tilapia consumed today is farm-raised rather than fresh caught. As of June, 2013, worldwide production of farmed fish now exceeds beef production, and farmed fish production will soon exceed the production of fresh caught fish.

As the link below explains, farmed fish isn’t necessarily inferior to fresh fish, but you have to be careful about where it’s produced.

what would have to say about this?

China is now the largest producer of farm-raised tilapia, and 40% of the country’s output is exported to the United States, in the form of frozen filets. Much of the tilapia production comes from small independent producers, and that’s the crux of the problem. In order to save money, the small producers use animal manure rather than expensive commercial feed for their fish. Although the FDA inspects fish coming from China into this country, and has rejected 820 Chinese food shipments since 2007, it’s virtually impossible to carefully inspect every shipment that comes in. In order to meet the increased demands placed on the agency, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has requested a $4.7 billion budget for fiscal year 2014, an increase of $821 million (or 21%) more than its 2012 fiscal year budget. Unfortunately, the purse stings are controlled by the less-than-responsible House of Representatives (who just eliminated food stamps from the Farm Bill) so the increased funds that are necessary will need to come from increased user fees.

Tonight for dinner, we’ll be eating the last of the frozen tilapia from our freezer, but we don’t plan to buy any more of the “frozen tilapia from China“ from Albertsons - or anyplace else.

It’s probably time to try out a few of those “easy vegetarian recipes”, and I think that our kids would agree. After all, if it's good enough for Bill Clinton, it's good enough for me !

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