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Catfish – Mississippi's Favorite food in an Economic Decline




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

County Total Water Surface Acres Used for Production Jan 1 – Jun 30 Foodsize Sales
Live Weight Total Sales
Acres (in thousands) Pounds (in millions) Dollars (in millions)
2004 2009 2004 2009 2004 2009
District 10 5.9 * 25.48 * 16.815 *
Humphreys 21.3 16 69.27 37.8 45.025 28.3
Issaquena 1 * * *
Leflore 16.4 17.4 60.34 66 41.455 49.14
Sharkey 4.2 * * *
Sunflower 24.5 16.4 68.74 38.8 46.16 27.735
Washington 6.8 4.3 26.66 11.2 17.735 8.51
Yazoo 5.6 3.9 18.25 * 11.905 *
Other Counties 2.3 11.525 10 7.6 7.945
District 40 79.8 60.3 254.785 163.8 169.88 121.63
Chickasaw 1.05 0.8 4.75 3.85 3.03 2.635
Lowndes 2.4 2.2 10.6 8.4 6.8 5.78
Noxubee 6.3 6.3 38.225 33.6 24.71 23.24
Other Counties 4.25 4.6 18.76 11.515
District 60 14 13.9 72.335 * 46.055 *
Other Districts 1.3 6 2.6 39.35 1.682 28.485
State Total 101 80.2 355.2 249 234.432 181.77
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 Ponds Ponds 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 Feed 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 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. Farming 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. Harvesting 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. Processing 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. 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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