Rainbow trout represent golden opportunity for Canadian processor

Published on
December 5, 2016

A large Canadian seafood processor has amped up its rainbow trout processing capability, with an eye toward making its operation more environmentally sustainable.

At its 55,000-square-feet plant in Wheatley, Ontario, John O Foods processes USD 25 million (EUR 23.6 million) worth of seafood annually, according to a Windsor Star article, and trout is a growing part of that. The seafood processor began processing rainbow trout in early 2015, in addition to perch, walleye and other fish.

Over the last few years, John O Foods has “invested heavily in a total and very extensive modernization of our Wheatley fish processing plant,” owner and founder John Omstead told SeafoodSource. This includes cryogenic freezing equipment that freezes fish fillets quickly.

“Beyond just plant and equipment, this initiative has also included an extensive and ongoing commitment towards being certified by BRC [British Retailer Consortium], Global Organic, as well as working with our Canadian Food Inspection Agency to attain and retain top ratings.”

John O Foods’ rainbow trout are different because they are raised in low-density environments, compared with standard aquaculture operations globally that are often “on land” recirculated systems or in-water systems that raise the fish in very high-density conditions, Omstead said.

“In these systems, the fish are raised in numbers per cubic meter that result in the need for antibiotics. The fish are stressed and effectively not ‘happy,’ he said. “Our trout are raised in a beautiful, natural environment where they are truly happy.”

Sustainability is of the utmost importance in both John O Foods’ wild and farmed seafood operations.

“In our view, the limited supply of freshwater fish in this industry affords a different philosophical and tactical approach that lessens the mandate to maximize volume. Instead, [we want to] add value to the limited supply resource by engaging consumers – both retail and restaurant patrons – to better understand and appreciate the great story, [or] ‘ethical biography’, that we will share with them of our fish from swimming habitat, to how we harvest, process and distribute,” Omstead said.

Instead of processing with a focus on optimization, which would allow the farm-raised trout to be processed in seasons wild species are lower in catch volumes, the plant runs smaller batches.

“We believe our fresh water fish industry is more of a ‘boutique’ model. It runs as we do and, accordingly, [that] affords us a strategy that targets what we believe is our volume sweet-spot, which is less that 10 million pounds,” Omstead said. “We remain a 100 percent private company and we are not totally economically pressed to maximize profits, but rather weigh heavily all considerations too also be environmentally as well as socially sustainable and optimized.”

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