Poultry and Fish Farming Danger


Photo by Jina Lee

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?

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Will Sig
1 Binky

I think your last question is probably the most relevant. How much of what we eat comes from unknown sources? When we buy anything that’s been processed in any away, how can you really be sure of the source, and even if it’s listed, how can you be sure of its accuracy? I’ve heard before that when a test was done on fish sold (I believe in supermarkets and restaurants) to the public, quite a high percentage of it was not even the type of fish it was supposed to be.
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2 Anna

Gosh, the fish picture creeps me out! Now, I do not ever want to eat fish. I guess we would be shocked, if we knew how our food is produced before it gets to the stores.


3 Jan

I watched a documentary here some time ago about fish farming in Asian countries. Some of the rice farms have been converted to fish farms because the returns are much better, but they are overpopulated and there is not enough water flowing in and out of the pools to keep the water fresh. Added to this they use chemicals banned in Australia to stop the fish from getting diseased. Needless to say, I only eat Australian fish, but as we are in the Asia Pacific region, who knows what some fish mongers try to pass off as Australian!


4 jessietaylor

I don’t think Cattle fish and Tilapia are dangerous to eat. The only thing they are not safe to eat is when there id the so called red tide. But mostly Tilapia are raised in the ponds rather than in sea.
Poultry like chicken are only not safe if they are being exposed to flu and other aerial sickness.


5 Catwoman

Such a shocking information for me! I used to eat farmed asian fish but now on I’m gonna erase it from all my menus. Bloah, it is really disgusting, that they are feed with chicken poop.


6 Sheryl

This news is really shocked..Very disgusting this kind of fish are going to feed to the chicken..


7 Tony McGurk

This is so disgusting. Here in Australia they have to label where fish comes from in supermarkets, seafood shops etc but still we are at the mercy of the honesty of the shops. As Binky said , what about restaurants? We have no real idea what goes on behind the scenes of so much of our food. There was a big Current Affair episode once revealing how widely spread the fish substitution racket was. We just never really know for sure. That’s what I love so much about my homegrown veggies. I know where they’re from & what’s been put on them


8 Will

Hey Tony – You, Jan and Binky are right on the identification of what is actually being sold. What is sold as “Red Snapper” here in the US can be any of a number of other less desirable rock-fish species. That particular switch does not necessarily make what is labeled as Snapper unsafe to eat, but it should be illegal anyway to do it.


9 Edmund

Hi, I live in Indonesia. In some small local farmers, they do use poops as food for catfish. I almost never eat catfish again, disgusting indeed. While tilapia, they mostly use the pellets as food, so no problem to eat it.

For the export quality fish, farmers are required to meet HACCP (Hazardous Analysis for Critical Control Point) standards. Usually, the exporter will do HACCP test of fish they would buy.


10 Patricia

The way they raise catfish and Tilapia is really unbearable. The food authority should never allow such set up in raising fish and chicken. I know about chicken poop being a fertilizer but a feed to some fishes, it’s really a no-no. I don’t really know about this issue until now so thanks for sharing this information. It makes me aware about things that’s happening in some countries in Asia.


11 Gregg Evans

Well, it’s really unbearable. But I’m just curios, can it cause any human diseases? Anyway, you cook it first before eating.


12 Patricia

Don’t know about that, Gregg but the fact that those fishes ate chicken poop will probably cause bacteria that could lead to illness or such to the fish that we can’t see. Anyway, its just my opinion.


13 Gregg Evans

Well yeah. It’s a big possibility though.


14 Billy

This is a great post. My family and I live on an island in Thailand, and we only eat fresh fish ( and we don’t consume any other form of meat). All of the meat here is raised free range or at least close to it. When we lived in Korea there was also a lot of fresh fish and seafood, but the chicken situation was the same, and actually US beef industry folks had come to Korea years back to increase importation of poor quality factory farmed meat and poultry. Thus their meat consumption went up and their small local farms lost money. It’s a sad situation.


15 Lindsey H. Rojas

Hi Will,

Yucky! This is indeed disgusting! I hope McDonald’s chickens are not eating same stuff as this lol!


16 Tamhas

Take it as a given: if it’s disgusting, then McDonald’s will be doing it.
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17 Rob

Britain was badly affected by mad cow disease which resulted from similar unnatural practices.
If its not natural, it’s not right!!


18 David Crew

Good that here in our place, we only have here fresh fishes from open seas vend in the wet market.


19 John

What do you think fish eat in the wild. Do you think they are fed pellets. No, they eat whatever they want to eat. Catfish, Tilapia, Prawns are bottom feeders. They eat the crap on the bottom. The nutrients that are within chicken manure is 100% vegetable compound. If you are still sickened from the fact that chicken manure is vegetable waste and the fish are consuming it, with it being a healthy alternative to the garbage, processed foods and waste being dumped into our water sheds and these fish consuming that. I would be a lot happier knowing that my fish was raised being fed a feed that originally was not a processed, man made concoction of who knows what.
Lindsey hope you are not serious about Mcdonald’s. That’s not remotely close to being food. If you need that stuff to survive you have no room to talk about what a fish is being fed.
Just look at what KFC, thinks is chicken “oh thats right, they changed there name from Kentucky Fried Chicken to KFC because the government wouldn’t allow them to use the word Chicken in there name” as it isn’t chicken they are serving you.


20 Ibrahim

john you just nailed it, I wander what they think fishes actually eat in the wild.? I also think its natural food for the fishes and poses no health risk to humans and beside chicken diseases are not pathogenic that means they can not be passed to humans except for the bird flu of which well cooked birds possibly kills the virus.


21 Andrew

To clear things up, research on the cleanliness of tilapia when raised on poultry manure is ongoing, but preliminary results published by the FAO indicate that the flesh of fish raised in such circumstances are no dirtier or more disease-prone than fish caught in the wild.

You know, the fish in the wild that we have no idea what they eat or what pollutants they carry, the fish that everyone’s fine with eating? That fish.

The suggested link between avian flu and fish disease is dubious at best, and I’d wait for health experts and researchers to publish solid information before making any judgements. As I am sure some of you may know, diseases evolve to attack specific organisms, with a chance of spreading to other species if the species are genetically similar (hence SIV to HIV from apes to humans, or how measles were originally from farmed mammals). Fish and chicken are, genetically speaking, worlds apart. It’s like saying that the tree in my garden has blight, therefore I’m worried that my cat might get blight.

Fish have been raised with human or chicken waste literally since ancient times, and it is still a common practice in the likes of Taiwan, India, Vietnam, and China. In India, in particular, fish raised in this manner are actually substantially safer and more nutritious to eat than other sources. Calcutta raises 13,000 tons of fish a year from human waste alone, which feeds many–and you never hear of epidemics from tainted fish breaking out there. With such a huge sample size I’d say that Calcutta’s epidemiological history is a fair assessment on the cleanliness of waste-raised fish.

Now imagine such practice being made in the United States, where there is a lot tighter regulations on what you may put into fish feed and the FDA closely monitors the food that we eat. Does it seem reasonable to doubt the cleanliness of such fish now?

A final note on all the people decrying farmed fish or the way they are raised…Not all farmed fish is wicked or sinful. In fact, when employed correctly farming tilapia is actually beneficial for the environment, as well as acting as an efficient source of protein that is also low in bad cholesterol or fat (especially when measured against pork or beef). Farmed salmon are of course questionable, but every fish has a different diet and a different impact on the environment when farmed. Dismissing farmed fish as a whole is doing a disservice to the industry. We hear of mad cow outbreaks all the time and people are still perfectly fine with eating beef, and yet when we hear next to nothing about diseases from fish, we still freak out about integrated fish management.

Bottom line: if you find eating farmed fish to be environmentally or morally repugnant while still eating beef, pork or poultry (all of which employ unhygenic, barbaric practices and contribute majorly to pollution and environmental destruction), you are a hypocrite. If you are vegetarian on principle and don’t eat farmed fish because of the bad things you’ve heard about them, I encourage you to engage in more detailed research.


22 Blaine

Yes but what about the hormones, medications, and preservatives being absorbed by the fish?


23 Marcus

If you have a big enough operation to afford growth hormones and medications for birds, you wouldn’t be raising them above ponds or engaging in fish production for that matter. Birds in low-middle income farms & ponds eat cracked corn, mash, rice bran, azolla/duckweed, greens, etc. which are what smaller farms can best afford.


24 dirtyman

Article about using organic fertilizer for fish ponds.


25 ofodile chidozie

Pls I have a new farm that I am biulding , pls I need more information on how to combine peotry farm a and fish farm, is it that you will beuld fowl house on top of fish pound, pls enlighten me thanks.


26 Tamhas

I live in Asia, and just banned my family from eating farmed fish. Since we have a pier 5 minutes away and they sell their catch every Wednesday morning, my ban should be achievable.


27 Sarah

Oh, for pete’s sake. Do some research on virology and the chance of a cold blooded, aquatic fish passing disease back and forth to poultry. It’s not even likely that many harmful bacteria could be passed back and forth! Not to mention, the person who stated above that foods should be cooked was dead on.

You are more likely to eat chicken contaminated by its coop mates. And how do we get rid of the deadly salmonella? Exactly. We cook it.


28 Satya

Don’t say entire Asia is like that, in India we use rice bran powder to feed the fish. Govt banned cat fish farming because some farmers started using chicken and other meat to feed cat fish.. Rohu and Katla fish are purely grown on rice bran..


29 Marcus

Fish under the ponds (like tilapia and carp) don’t necessarily eat the chicken manure. The manure promotes the growth of plankton and algae, which are then consumed by the fish. Sure, some fish will ingest the manure if it has undigested feeds but the fish feed mainly on what they know — aquatic plants — and there are studies saying fish yields are up 40% this way with no supplemental commercial feeds because the plankton and algae are so abundant. Think about that if you are wondering what is healthier.


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