Study Worries U.S. Catfish Industry

A study that suggests Vietnamese basa catfish are tastier than US pond-raised catfish has caused a stir among American catfish farmers across the country’s Southeast region.

The study, made public by Mississippi State University researchers last week, has drawn sharp criticism from Mississippi-based Catfish Farmers of America, a group that pushed for tariffs on the Vietnamese basa.

Roger Barlow, president of the Catfish Institute, a Belzoni, Miss., group that promotes domestic farm-raised catfish, said "the reported findings from Mississippi State don't add up given US farm-raised catfish is the fourth-most popular fish in the country".

Sales figures compiled by the US Department of Agriculture and US Bureau of Census showed some 300 million pounds were sold to consumers in 2004, while basa sales were 9 million pounds, Barlow said.

Better fish fry

The study started in 2002 while US catfish farmers and others were describing the Vietnamese fish as an inferior product that had flooded the American market, partly because of lax labeling laws.

A US federal ruling later imposed tariffs of up 64% on the imported catfish.

The study – by food science professor Doug Marshall and graduate student Amit Pal – looked at the amount of bacteria in the basa and domestic catfish, nutrition, and taste.

The frozen imports were compared to frozen, farm-raised channel catfish from area groceries.

Both fish were about the same in terms of quality and safety indicators," Marshall said.

Nutritionally, both fish were about the same. However, three-quarters of the 58 testers in blind taste tests preferred basa, he said.

Industry experts said the report might inspire American customers to buy more Vietnamese basa.

Source: AP.
Story from Thanh Nien News
Published: 26 July, 2005, 11:14:47 (GMT+7)
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