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American Fish Farmers Could “Clean Up” with Chinese Carp

By Sandy Hays
February 3, 1997

American fish farmers could “clean up” with Chinese carp, in more ways than one.

Chinese carp is a big seller in Europe and Asia, and a hit in the United States’ ethnic markets. But the carp’s extremely bony body has kept it off most menus here.

Scientists with USDA’s Agricultural Research Service say canned carp is the answer. Their tests show canning softens the bones, just like salmon, giving fish farmers a brand-new product with an extended shelf life. In taste tests in Arkansas and England, participants praised canned carp’s flavor and said they’d pay at least as much for that product as for tuna.

Chinese carp makes a tidy pond-mate, too, because its favorite food is plankton that flourishes in water where catfish dwell. In fact, the carp won’t even compete for food put into the ponds for other fish, the scientists say. But its growth rate is about four times that of catfish, and a Chinese carp can tip the scales at 6 pounds in a year.

Health-conscious consumers should be pleased with carp: It’s less than 2 percent fat and about 40 percent of those fats are the desirable omega-3 acids linked in some studies to reduced heart disease. It’s also loaded with calcium and protein.

Scientific contact: Donald W. Freeman, USDA-ARS Aquaculture Systems Research Unit, Pine Bluff, AR, telephone (501) 543-8128; fax (501) 543-8116; email