Farming and Processing - TCI

Farming and Processing


The Ponds

Ponds are built over clay-rich soils, where they are filled with pure freshwater pumped from underground wells. The rectangular-shaped ponds, averaging 10 to 20 acres each, are built above ground by constructing levees. These embankments contain water that can reach 4 to 6 feet in depth.

The Feed

Besides the improved quality of the living conditions, a big difference between a U.S. Farm-Raised Catfish and its wild cousin is what they eat. These delicacies are fed a gourmet diet of puffed, high-protein food pellets, made of a mixture of soybeans, corn, wheat, vitamins and minerals. Farm-raised catfish have learned to feed on pellets that float on top of the ponds, unlike its wild bottom-feeding cousin. This feed not only helps in producing a healthier fish, but also a cleaner, milder tasting one.


Farming begins with the selection and mating of quality brood stock. A brood fish will lay from 3,000 to 4,000 eggs per pound of body weight over an average of 12 years. Fertilized eggs are collected and placed in controlled hatchery tanks. After seven days at a temperature of 78° F, the eggs hatch. The young, called “sac fry,” live off the food supplied by the yolk sacs.

When the yolk is used up, the fish begin to swim and are moved to a special pond where they grow into fingerlings. At 4 to 6 inches in length, they are transferred to catfish ponds in a ratio of approximately 4,500 per surface acre of water.


U.S. Farm-Raised Catfish are harvested in seines (large weighted nets) at about 18 months old and averaging 1 to 1.5 pounds. They are loaded into baskets and then placed in aerated tank trucks for live shipment to processing plants.


The catfish are kept alive up until the minute they are processed. The entire processing procedure in completed in less than 30 minutes. The fish are cleaned, processed, and placed on ice or frozen to temperatures of 40° F below zero. Frozen farm-raised catfish are individually quick-frozen (IQF), a method which preserves the taste and quality of the fish.

The TCI-Certified Processing Plants have a combined processing capability of more than 10 million pounds of U.S. Farm-Raised Catfish per week, every week of the year. This ensures a steady supply of catfish at an affordable price. These plants are continuously inspected and approved by the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service, making U.S. Farm-Raised Catfish the nation’s first and only seafood product to meet these strict standards and requirements for food safety and hazard controls.

U.S. Farm-Raised Catfish is available to the foodservice operator in many forms, both frozen and fresh. Catfish processors are working constantly on developing new foodservice products and improving existing product lines to fill the ever-evolving needs of operators. This fish is extremely versatile, mild flavored and practically indestructible in the kitchen. Overcooking catfish is difficult to do, which is why it fits so well into so many types of operations.

Catfish Products

U.S. Farm-Raised Catfish is available in any of these general forms:

Whole Dressed



Cross-section cuts from larger dressed fish, fresh or frozen


boned sides of the fish, cut lengthwise away from the backbone, fresh or frozen

Regular & shank fillets

regular fillets have the belly section attached, shank fillets have the belly section removed, fresh or frozen


boneless pieces cut from the belly section of the fillet, fresh or frozen

Strips & Fingers

smaller pieces of fish cut from fillets, fresh or frozen

U.S. Farm-Raised Catfish may come in a variety of prepared forms including:

Delacata® Style Catfish Fillets

Dive deeper into the industry

Video Transcript

It’s great tasting, it’s friendly to the environment, it’s 100% all-American and it’s great for you: U.S. Farm-Raised Catfish. You’re gonna love it.

Farm-Raised Catfish production is one of the leading aquaculture industries in the United States from the first commercial production ponds in the 1960s the industry rapidly grew through the 1980s and 90s and became one of the most important agricultural activities in the deep south. The combined production of Mississippi, Arkansas and Alabama make up 90% of all the catfish production in the country. Channel catfish are ideally suited for the farm-raised environment quality brood stock is of the utmost importance when raising catfish. Fertilized eggs are collected and placed in hatchery tanks where the temperature is carefully controlled. The tanks have a paddle that is moving around that keeps those eggs moving, and what that’s doing is simulating what the male fish does naturally keeps those eggs moving and what that’s doing is simulating what the male fish does naturally, keeps those eggs aerated and clean and all that, so it takes about six or seven days for the eggs to hatch at 80 degrees.

After about a week the eggs hatch and the young fish called, “sac fry” live off the yolk from the eggs. When that yolk is consumed and the fish begin to swim, they are moved to a special pond where they will grow into fingerlings. When they reach four to six inches in length, they are then moved to the catfish ponds you see across the south. These ponds are ten to twenty acres in size but only four to six feet deep. They are filled with pure freshwater from underground wells. That’s one of the reasons that farm raised catfish tastes so good.

The catfish industry has always been innovative. Farmers are trying exciting new technologies such as split pond systems and hybrid catfish which may increase yields. Another reason is because of the quality of the food that they eat farm-raised catfish are fed a diet of high protein food pellets made from a scientifically formulated mixture of corn, soybeans, wheat, vitamins, and minerals. These food pellets are puffed so they float on top of the water this helps in producing a healthier cleaner mild-tasting fish. The catfish live in this ideal environment for eighteen months to two years until they weigh one and a half to two pounds.

The fish are then harvested using large weighted nets called sainz. They are transferred to tanker trucks that are filled with water and carried live to the processing plant. The catfish are kept alive until the minute that the processing begins. The catfish are cleaned, processed ,cut into pieces, sorted, and placed on ice or quick-frozen to temperatures of 40-degrees-below zero. This method preserves the taste and quality of the fish. The entire processing procedure takes less than 30 minutes, making U.S. farm-raised catfish among the freshest, freshwater fish available. Catfish can be produced as fillets, or further processed into ready-to-cook items for today’s active families.

Catfish farmers take great pride in providing Americans with a premium product.

Health-conscious Americans are using U.S. farm-raised catfish as part of a healthy diet. Doctors recommend that fish be eaten 2 to 5 times per week. Catfish is a great tasting and nutritious option to add to the diet. It contains 25% of your daily protein needs and 40% of the recommended daily allowance of vitamin B12. It contains Omega 3s, which doctors say is an important part of a healthy diet. Catfish is also a good source of phosphorus and potassium, and with only 140 calories per 4 ounce serving it’s good for your waistline, too. Catfish really is the lean protein. The traditional Southern method of preparing catfish is deep-frying, but there are many other ways to eat this delicacy.

The catfish industry has been really good to us because we were one of the few places that did something other than fried catfish. To us, it was a beautiful white fish that I could put a French sauce on, or I could put wonderful creamy au gratin. So we were doing things a little different, a little more exotic than fried, and there’s nothing better than fried catfish. But when you’ve got that beautiful chunk of white fish, and you can cover it and let those flavors go into the fish, and you don’t have to fight fishy flavors like you do with some fish, I mean you have got a gem and a key piece of catfish fillet. Just perfect.

U.S. farm-raised catfish is great tasting fresh easy to prepare and a nutritional powerhouse. It’s available all year round produced by farmers in man-made freshwater ponds that do no harm to the surrounding environment or other animal species. U.S. farm-raised catfish is a sustainable supply of seafood, and top environmental organizations like the Monterey Bay Aquarium, have recommended it as an environmentally sustainable choice, so it should come as no surprise that U.S. farm-raised catfish is the number one farmed fish in the country. It consistently ranks in the top 10 of all fish and seafood consumed in the U.S. each year.

When you eat us farm-raised catfish you’re getting a great tasting enjoyable meal as well as supporting the American economy. Be sure to look for the US farm-raised catfish seal when purchasing catfish from retailers or local rest it’s great tasting it’s friendly to the environment. Its 100% all-American and it’s great for you: U.S. Farm-Raised Catfish. You’re gonna love it..