Reeling in the dough: California catfish proving to be big business

When you think farm-to-fork you probably think fresh fruits, vegetables, or meat. Here in Sacramento, farm-to-fork also means fresh fish. More specifically, catfish.

When you think farm-to-fork you probably think fresh fruits, vegetables, or meat. Here in Sacramento, farm-to-fork also means fresh fish. More specifically, catfish.

For the past three years, California catfish has fetched the highest per pound prices in the nation. Last year, the USDA reported that catfish sales in California were nearly $2 a pound more than the rest of the nation. The reason being, most California fish are delivered alive.

The Fishery in Galt is the leading catfish producer in the state. The company’s CFO, Zachary Beer, says 100 percent of their fish are delivered live.

"It’s truly farm-to-fork. You can see it go from our farm to a restaurant or market in a matter of hours,” Beer said.

The California fish farm industry has been one of the fastest growing aquaculture businesses in the state. Mississippi, Alabama and Arkansas produce the lion share of catfish, but California is now the sixth largest producer of farmed catfish. The Sunshine State grows one to two million pounds a year.

"Our biggest customer is the Asian markets," Beer said.

The Fishery delivers live catfish, carp, bass and sturgeon all over the Sacramento Valley and the Bay Area. The going rate right now is about $4 a pound.

"We harvest fish two times a week and sell out. We don't even advertise,” Beer said.

The Fishery owns 800 acres just off Hwy 99. They are expanding as fast as state regulators will let them. Fish farms are a sustainable way to feed consumers. Catfish and other predatory fish in the Sacramento Delta contain high levels of mercury.

Beer says finding a natural source of catfish to meet the demand is not possible.

"The water in our ponds is 100 percent well water and that makes it so the fish can’t absorb any toxins,” he said.

Water on most fish farms is recycled or us used to irrigate fields. Beer says sustainable fish farms can provide ample food sources without overfishing natural waterway.

© 2017 KXTV-TV


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