Page Banner

United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Canine Cure for Catfish Off-Flavor / April 13, 2004 / News from the USDA Agricultural Research Service

Agricultural Research Service
U.S. Department of Agriculture
ARS News and Information Search News and Info Science for Kids Image Gallery Agricultural Research Magazine Publications and Newsletters News Archive News and Info home ARS News and Information
Latest news | Subscribe

Photo: Rusty, a yellow Labrador mix, practices sniffing water samples as trainers--an Auburn university veterinary student and her professor--look on. Link to photo information
Rusty, a yellow Labrador mix, practices sniffing water samples as trainers--an Auburn university veterinary student and her professor--look on.  Click the image for more information about it.

Read the magazine story to find out more.

Canine Cure for Catfish Off-Flavor

By David Elstein
April 13, 2004

Dogs have been enlisted in a scientific effort to halt off-flavor in catfish. An Agricultural Research Service microbiologist has trained dogs to smell water samples to determine which ponds will likely give catfish a muddy--yet safe to eat--off-flavor.

Richard A. Shelby at the ARS Aquatic Animal Health Research Unit in Auburn, Ala., has teamed up with Larry Myers, an associate professor at Auburn University who has trained dozens of dogs for police work.

Catfish off-flavor is a problem that costs the industry as much as $50 million a year. Currently producers use one of two methods to check it. The simplest way is to remove fish from a pond, cook them, and have experts taste the fish for off-flavors. But this is time-consuming and subjective, because even trained personnel taste food differently. Also, producers can use tests, called gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GCMS), to determine the pond water's levels of the chemicals that cause off-flavors. But this procedure is costly and can take several days.

Dogs, however, can be trained to do the work more cheaply and accurately. Shelby and Myers have successfully trained five dogs, and several of them can smell off-flavor at 10 parts per trillion, a significantly lower concentration than trained human tasters can detect. Consumers generally can taste an off-flavor at 700 to 800 parts per trillion.

What's more, the dogs don't have to enter the pond to smell the water. They sniff a small water sample away from the pond. Dogs can be trained to work successfully for a few hours at a time, and can work effectively for seven years or more.

Read more about the research in the April issue of Agricultural Research magazine.

ARS is the U.S. Department of Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.

Top | News Staff | Photo Staff

E-mail the web team Privacy and other policies Site map About ARS Information Staff Bottom menu

Home | News | Pubs | Magazine | Photos | Sci4Kids | Search
About ARS Info | Site map | Policies | E-mail us

Last Modified: 4/13/2004
Footer Content Back to Top of Page