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Catfish – Mississippi's Favorite food in an Economic Decline

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Here is some data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture comparing 2009 and five years previous in 2004. (2010 data not yet available)Mississippi Catfish County Estimates, 2004 vs 2009

CountyTotal WaterSurface AcresUsed forProductionJan 1 – Jun 30Foodsize Sales
Live WeightTotal Sales
Acres(in thousands)Pounds(in millions)Dollars(in millions)
200420092004200920042009
District 105.9*25.48*16.815*
Humphreys21.31669.2737.845.02528.3
Issaquena1***
Leflore16.417.460.346641.45549.14
Sharkey4.2***
Sunflower24.516.468.7438.846.1627.735
Washington6.84.326.6611.217.7358.51
Yazoo5.63.918.25*11.905*
Other Counties2.311.525107.67.945
District 4079.860.3254.785163.8169.88121.63
Chickasaw1.050.84.753.853.032.635
Lowndes2.42.210.68.46.85.78
Noxubee6.36.338.22533.624.7123.24
Other Counties4.254.618.7611.515
District 601413.972.335*46.055*
Other Districts1.362.639.351.68228.485
State Total10180.2355.2249234.432181.77
Estimates for operations with ponds in more than one county are included in the county where the farm’s headquarters is located.Total water surface acres include acres used for broodfish, foodfish and fingerling production.* Included in Other Districts.

The Catfish Farming Process

The PondsPonds are built over the clay-rich soils of the delta, where they are filled with pure fresh water 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. There are now over 144,000 acres of ponds raising catfish in the delta area.The FeedBesides 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 delta 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.FarmingFarming 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.HarvestingU.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.ProcessingThe 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.These plants are regularly inspected by the U.S. Department of Commerce (USDC) and are certified by the USDC as a “Sanitary Inspected Fish Establishment.” Recently, voluntary Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) guidelines have been set by the FDA which are quickly being adapted by many TCI processors.]]]]> ]]>

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