Everett Griner talks about the label saying “farm raised” in today’s Agri View. If you look at the label saying “Farm Raised” you need to look specifically for “U.S. Farm Raised”. You may not be buying what you think you are. Fish farming is practiced in a number of countries. It may look like U.S raised but when you put it on the table you see a lot of difference. The texture, and taste, is different. If it isn’t U.S. farm raised, you may be paying for something you may not be able to eat. Especially catfish.
Ponds are built over clay-rich soils, where they are filled with pure freshwater pumped from underground wells. The rectangular-shaped ponds, averaging 10 to 20 acres each, are built above ground by constructing levees. These embankments contain water that can reach 4 to 6 feet in depth.
Besides the improved quality of the living conditions, a big difference between a U.S. Farm-Raised Catfish and its wild cousin is what they eat. These delicacies are fed a gourmet diet of puffed, high-protein food pellets, made of a mixture of soybeans, corn, wheat, vitamins and minerals. Farm-raised catfish have learned to feed on pellets that float on top of the ponds, unlike its wild bottom-feeding cousin. This feed not only helps in producing a healthier fish, but also a cleaner, milder tasting one.
Farming begins with the selection and mating of quality brood stock. A brood fish will lay from 3,000 to 4,000 eggs per pound of body weight over an average of 12 years. Fertilized eggs are collected and placed in controlled hatchery tanks. After seven days at a temperature of 78° F, the eggs hatch. The young, called “sac fry,” live off the food supplied by the yolk sacs.When the yolk is used up, the fish begin to swim and are moved to a special pond where they grow into fingerlings. At 4 to 6 inches in length, they are transferred to catfish ponds in a ratio of approximately 4,500 per surface acre of water.
U.S. Farm-Raised Catfish are harvested in seines (large weighted nets) at about 18 months old and averaging 1 to 1.5 pounds. They are loaded into baskets and then placed in aerated tank trucks for live shipment to processing plants.
The catfish are kept alive up until the minute they are processed. The entire processing procedure in completed in less than 30 minutes. The fish are cleaned, processed, and placed on ice or frozen to temperatures of 40° F below zero. Frozen farm-raised catfish are individually quick-frozen (IQF), a method which preserves the taste and quality of the fish.
The TCI-Certified Processing Plants have a combined processing capability of more than 10 million pounds of U.S. Farm-Raised Catfish per week, every week of the year. This ensures a steady supply of catfish at an affordable price. These plants are regularly inspected by the U.S. Department of Commerce (USDC) and are certified by the USDC as a “Sanitarily Inspected Fish Establishment.” Recently, voluntary Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) guidelines have been set by the FDA which have been adapted by all TCI-affiliated catfish processors.
Here is one of many recipes’ available on the U.S. Farm Raised Catfish website: