'People are being better educated
about the health benefits of seafood'
By CAROL RYAN DUMAS
The value of sales for Idaho trout 12 inches and longer during 2012 totaled $42.8 million, up 14 percent from the $37.6 million in 2011, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service.
Nationwide, sales for that trout grew to $72.7 million, up 6 percent from $68.3 million in 2011.
Several factors affected the increased sales but at the top of the list is the growing belief that seafood is a healthful source of protein, said Randy MacMillan, vice president of research and environmental affairs for Clear Springs Foods, Buhl, Idaho.
"People are being better educated about the health benefits of seafood," he said.
The National Aquaculture Association is doing outreach to chefs and consumers about the merits of domestically raised seafood, and the public seems to be embracing it, he said.
In addition, federal guidelines recommend two servings of seafood per week, and all that works well for the trout industry, he said.
In addition, farm-raised fish doesn't carry some of the negative compounds that can be found in wild fish because fish farmers control fish diets, he said.
Idaho has an additional advantage with its trout being raised in pristine, spring-fed, drinking water, he said.
Feed costs were high this year so the price of trout increased but consumers still felt it had a good value. The high price of beef might also have been a factor in more trout sales as consumers replaced that protein, and they might have also chosen trout over more expensive varieties of seafood, he said.
The average price per pound for Idaho farm trout 12 inches and longer was $1.17, up from $1.14 in 2011. That average price in the U.S. was $1.52 per pound, unchanged from 2011.
The discrepancy in prices is a combination of Idaho's lower cost of feed and different markets. Trout going to recreational markets and niche food markets in other states could have a greater value than Idaho's production, which largely goes to processing, he said.
MacMillan said Clear Springs' is optimistic about this year's outlook. Its production capacity is up 5 million to 6 million pounds, due to two new farms in its system.
The unknown is how the sequestration, federal budget cuts that went into effect March 1, will affect consumers' buying choices, he said.
The number of Idaho trout 12 inches and longer sold in 2012 was 30.9 million, up 12 percent from the 27.6 million sold in 2011. Total pounds sold in 2012 were 36.6 million pounds, compared to 33.0 million pounds in 2011.
Nationwide, the number of trout 12 inches and longer sold during 2012 totaled 40.4 million, up 6 percent from the previous year. Total pounds sold were 47.7 million pounds, compared to 44.8 million pounds in 2011.