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Product Spotlight: Trout
Freshwater species a consistent option for chefs, retailers
By April Forristall
July 01, 2008
Rainbow trout is one of the most dependable food-fish on the
market. Prevalent on dinner plates for more than a century,
both production and demand are steadfast.
U.S. trout hatcheries date back to the 1880s, making it the
oldest aquaculture sector in North America. Today, all rainbow
trout sold in the United States is farmed, with Idaho growers
representing more than half of all U.S. trout production.
"Rainbow trout as a species is well known and those who like
it tend to continue to buy it," says Don Riffle, VP of sales
and marketing at Clear Springs Foods in Buhl, Idaho. "We're
finding that a lot of people in the restaurant community are
looking for a good value, a stable-priced type product."
"[Trout] definitely doesn't seem to get the negative press
that farmed salmon does," says Don Cynewski, general manager of
Ducktrap River Fish Farm in Belfast, Maine.
The species rates as a "best choice" on Monterey Bay
Aquarium's Seafood Watch list, which is important to consumers,
"There is absolutely a lot of discussion among customers
about sustainability. We want to be environmentally sensitive
and sustainably sensitive," says Riffle.
Trout has proven to be a very resilient product, standing
the test of time with consistent sales year-to-year. Riffle,
Cynewski and Kay Hardy, president of Idaho Trout Co., say
production is steady.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National
Agriculture Statistics Service, U.S. trout sales by growers
totaled $87.5 million in 2007, an increase of 9 percent from
2006. Sales of trout 12 inches and longer totaled 59.7 million
fish in 2007, up 14 percent from the previous year and the
average price per pound was $1.15, up 4 cents from 2006.
Although production of 6- to 12-inch trout was down 20
percent from 2006, to 4.99 million, a 40-cent price increase
pushed sales to $5.84 million, a 9-percent decrease from
But even the most established products aren't immune to the
current economic situation, as producers are feeling the
effects of increased fuel and feed costs.
"Some [feed prices] have more than doubled," says
Ducktrap's Cynewski says that production costs have
increased 15 percent in just the last year.
"Like any producer, we have increased costs due to oil
imports, which affects our air shipments and trucking
arrangements," says Hardy. "Feed costs have just exploded due
to the commodity price increases."
But increased production costs have not dampened trout
demand, as consumers are dining out less and cooking at home
"Demand is relatively steady," says Cynewski. "There haven't
been any significant changes."
Riffle says Clear Springs is pleased with the retail market
results and will continue to develop new products.
"People still want to eat fresh fish, they're just not
eating out as much," adds Riffle. "For over a year now we've
been doing more in the retail segment. We know there's more
traffic in retail stores. But [customers] still don't want to
cook or they don't have the time, so they're looking for
something they can take home and prepare easily."
Idaho Trout's value-added retail accounts have also
increased since last year.
"The product speaks for itself," says Hardy. "It's high
quality, a good source of omega-3s and it's grown in spring
water so methylmercury is not an issue."
Trout fillets are performing well in grocery stores because
the species is quick and easy to prepare.
"It's very, very versatile," says Riffle. "You can put just
about any kind of seasoning or spices and it will accept it
Growers spent many years establishing a market for trout as
a chef and consumer favorite, and with its solid aquaculture
practices and versatility, the work should pay off for years to
Editorial Assistant April Forristall can be e-mailed at