Once in a while a comment left on a post here gets me thinking about something I probably should know more about. An example from yesterday is comment #14 from Paul on this post about raising cattle indoors. While I don’t agree with everything Paul says, like most well thought through comments, there is a lot to think about in there. What really got my attention though was his reference to how some Asian farmers raise their chickens and fish, some of which probably gets exported to your local supermarket.
I had heard of what he describes once before while reading about the avian flu scare of a couple of years ago. But I never followed up on it and have not seen anything about it since. Basically what Paul refers to is this…. Some farmers in Asian countries commercially raise chickens in cages suspended above the ponds in which they raise fish like Catfish and Tilapia. I did some research and there is not a lot of information about this practice, and much of what there is comes from avian flu experts worried about disease, not food safety experts. Here is a PDF explaining the connection between fish farms and avian flu and another link discussing catfish farming practices in Thailand.
Farmers raise poultry and fish like this so that the chicken poop falls through to the water to feed the fish. Cheap fish food and effective use of limited farming space I guess. Now, maybe chicken poop is a healthy food for fish, but it seems a bit disgusting to me. But wait, it gets better. When the fish are processed for export to the human food supply, the residual guts, heads, etc. are then fed back to the chickens…. who then poop the digested fish guts to the next generation of fish who, upon harvest, supply the chickens with more food. Then when the chickens are harvested, the waste from that process is fed back to the fish. Common sense tells us that this sort of closed system could be very dangerous to the food supply. I know I would not want to eat those fish or chickens!
Of course, as I explained here, I don’t eat farmed fish anyway so I am out of that closed loop but that does not make me any less concerned about the questionable practice. Plus if the bird flu experts are to be taken seriously this method of farming creates real potential for human disease. What do you think? Do you ever eat imported, farmed fish from Asia? Do you even know where your Catfish or Tilapia comes from?