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By John Graham
I would like to echo the thoughts of Mr. Forster about our country’s food supply.
Large corporations do indeed have the ability to lobby and force smaller producers out of the marketplace just as he mentioned. If you have not seen the film documentary Food Inc., (available at the Bedford Library), it puts into frightening perspective the realities of domestic food production – you may never eat another store-bought chicken!
Likewise, Mr. Forster’s comments ring true with respect to the Tilapia sold in this country. Tilapia is a well known fish in most of the world, a staple for many diets in poorer countries, and a hardy fish that can thrive in poor water quality. Being in great demand, inexpensive and easy to grow, Tilapia is a profitable venture for farmers abroad and thus, foreign countries are able to flood the US market with cheap, poor quality product.
How can this be you ask? Watch Food Inc…. just when you thought FDA was on your side, it is not. FDA’s standards levied on domestic production raise costs and limit any competitive edge US farmers have against poor quality seafood imported from other nations.
So when the consumer is focused on cost, as Mr. Forster points out, the unhealthy imported product wins the vote. Most restaurants purchase nearly table-ready tilapia that can be prepared quickly for your dinner plate. We consumers demand this… think honestly – how long do you sit at the table before you motion to the waiter and ask when your meal is coming? We’re forcing restaurants to provide cost-effective meals. We order, eat, and pay, with little awareness of what we’re really doing and what we’re really eating.
Estimates now show that well over 90 percent of the Tilapia on the US market is imported, mostly from China. What to do? Be mindful of the food you are buying. The growing awareness of where our food comes from is helping to change the marketplace.
The grassroots efforts in Virginia to Buy Fresh Buy Local are forcing changes. One thing most nutritionists agree upon is if you can gather your food as close to the harvest, the healthier the food. Said another way, the less you can consume foods that have gone through a manufacturing process or were grown with nothing more in mind than production rates, the healthier you will be.
Many of you frequent the local farmers’ markets to purchase local beef, produce, etc…, to meet the farmers who grow your food, to ask questions, and to support the local economy. In fact, many main-line grocery stores in our area are buying produce from local growers.
But, can you buy local seafood? Yes, thanks to Aquaculture. Virginia is one of the leading producers of farm-raised seafood in the country and in 2010, was ranked 10th with 54 billion in sales. Here in Bedford there are fish farms trying to get off the ground and provide healthy, fresh fish to you.
Local farmers like Rick Rogers of Pennicks Mill and myself are attempting to provide Bedford and the surrounding areas with fresh fish and freshwater prawns.
So, Mr. Forster, I am growing fresh, US born and bred Tilapia right around the corner on Peaks Street. Our fish grow in a healthy environment and we do not use hormones or antibiotics in our systems. The farm is called Graham Bass Fish Farm and I hope you will reconsider Tilapia again!