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A fish farmer guides a basket containing 2,000 pounds of catfish into a truck for transport to a processing plant. Link to photo information
A fish farmer guides a basket containing 2,000 pounds of catfish into a truck for transport to a processing plant. To ensure that more parts of the fish can be marketed, ARS scientists have developed food products from portions that are not normally used or are mis-cut during processing. Click the image for more information about it.

Today's Catch: Convenient Catfish Cuisine

By Jim Core
January 12, 2006

Several new food products developed by the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and made from low-value fillet byproducts could help improve catfish processors' profits.

Jin Kim, a former food technologist with the ARS Aquaculture Systems Research Unit in Pine Bluff, Ark., developed the convenient food products from catfish nuggets and mis-cut fillets. Nuggets are small-sized pieces of meat that processors trim off fillets.

Developing value-added products from these fish portions will increase profitability for catfish producers. The U.S. catfish industry needs new markets to offset competition from imported fish products, especially those similar in quality and taste to catfish.

One drawback for catfish nuggets is the price per pound they bring at market, which is nearly half the price brought by fillets. Including ingredients such as cooked spinach, or wrapping the nugget in pasta, makes the meat more appealing, according to Kim.

Kim has also developed methods for improving the taste and texture of the nuggets by rinsing the meat with water and incorporating various functional ingredients to improve texture. With special ingredients and preparation methods, fat content is reduced.

In addition to nuggets, other meat portions, such as mis-cut fillets, have been hard to market because they lack uniform appearance. Kim created other new products, including microwaveable catfish wonton turnovers. He also stuffed pasta with marinated and grilled nuggets that are seasoned with Italian-style and Oriental spices.

Industry has already shown interest, and the research unit recently received a grant from the Arkansas Catfish Promotion Board for the projects.

Read more about the research in the January 2006 issue of Agricultural Research magazine.

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