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
story to find out more.
for Catfish Off-Flavor
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
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.
more about the research in the April issue of Agricultural Research
ARS is the U.S. Department of
Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.