Catfish Farmer Wars

One of the first species of fish I ever caught was the brown bullhead catfish (Amerius nebulosa). I caught it in a canal that marked the border of my grandfather’s backyard when he lived in Inverness, Florida circa 1972. I remembered how good it tasted, so I was surprised when I first began sampling farm-raised catfish being marketed during the 1980s. Farmers in Mississippi and Alabama raise channel catfish (Ictalurus punctatus). The farm-raised catfish tasted ok, but the flesh had a flabby texture, and it was filled with streaks of tasteless fat. Frying the fish makes the fat crisp, but it is just not a versatile product. During the 1990s Vietnamese catfish farmers began flooding the American market with their farm-raised catfish, and The American Catfish Farmers of America went to work trying to cheat away the competition. During 2003 this organization convinced Senator Trent Lott to add an amendment to an appropriations bill that made it illegal for Asian catfish to be marketed as catfish. Asian catfish farmers were forced to rename their product as swai (Panganius hypothalmus) and basa (P. bocourti). The catfish Vietnamese farmers raise are known as the shark catfish, though they are true catfish and not related to sharks. However, Vietnamese raised catfish were still cheaper, and consumers seemed to prefer it over American farm-raised catfish. Not surprisingly, during 2008 American catfish farmers unsuccessfully tried to force Vietnamese catfish farmers to change the names of swai and basa back to catfish.

Brown bullhead. This is 1 of the first species of fish I ever caught. Some call it a trash fish, but it tastes just as good as American farm-raised catfish and the flesh has a better texture.
Adult and juvenile channel catfish. American catfish farmers raise this species. The flesh has a flabby texture and there are big blobs of fat in it. Vietnamese farm-raised catfish is better.
Vietnamese catfish farmers raise 2 species of shark catfish known as swai and basa because American catfish farmers bribed politicians to pass a law not allowing them to be called catfish. Vietnamese catfish is superior in texture compared to American farm-raised catfish, and beat it in a small blind taste test involving 58 people.

The American Catfish Farmers of America are a bunch of liars. They’ve convinced celebrity chefs including Alton Brown and Emeril Lagasse that farm-raised catfish tastes better than wild catfish, but from my experience I know this is untrue. Perhaps wild catfish caught in evaporating mud puddles do taste muddy, but wild catfish caught in clear water taste just as clean as farm-raised catfish. They want to discourage competition from sports anglers. This organization is also probably behind propaganda videos that falsely claim Vietnamese farm-raised catfish are raised in sewage and are contaminated with bacteria. An independent study conducted by Alan Marshall and Amit Pal of Mississippi State University found that Vietnamese raised catfish were just as safe to eat as American farm-raised catfish. Moreover, in a taste test involving 58 people, Vietnamese farm-raised catfish beat American farm-raised catfish. Accusing Vietnamese farmers of raising unsanitary food seems a bit racist to me. The Vietnamese eat their own product. They wouldn’t feed hazardous food to customers in their own country. In my opinion the American Catfish Farmers of America is a dishonest and racist organization. They represent unethical rednecks.

I made fried swai, hush puppies, and okra and tomatoes for supper last Sunday.

I recently discovered swai, and the product was so good it inspired me to research what exactly it was. It is an economical and quality product. The flesh is meaty without the flabby texture and streaks of fat found in American farm-raised catfish. It is as good as farm raised tilapia. I will be a regular consumer of this product.

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