Ohio's farm-raised perch tastes fine, thank you

Staff Writer

Monday, December 11, 2006

People like the taste of perch raised in Ohio's farm ponds just as well as wild-caught perch, according to an Ohio State University study published in the Journal of Food Science.

In Ohio, the aquaculture industry has grown from $1.8 million in sales in 1998 to $3.2 million in 2005, according to OSU's College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. Those figures may grow in the future, as concerns about overfishing wild stocks on a global level could someday lead to collapse of those fisheries.

Most of the perch raised on Ohio's fish farms supplies restaurants and grocery stores, as well as churches and other organizations that hold fish fries. In 2003, both commercial fishers of yellow perch in Lake Erie and the aquaculture industry faced some unexpected competition from a flood of imported fish from Turkey and other European countries.

Although it was called "Turkish yellow perch," the species, officially called "zander," (Stizostedion lucioperca) is unrelated to the yellow perch caught and raised in Ohio (Perca flavescens), OSU officials said.

In the study, Delwiche conducted two experiments with a total of 118 volunteers who ate and evaluated pieces of battered and deep-fried fish in the department's Sensory Evaluation Laboratory.

They were not told which types of fish they were eating. She asked consumers to compare the farm-raised yellow perch to three of its main competitors: wild-caught zander, wild-caught ocean perch (Sebastes marinus, a saltwater species also unrelated to the fresh-water yellow perch) and wild-caught walleye (Stizostedion vitreum).

As in the previous study, the judges in both experiments could distinguish farm-raised yellow perch, rating it as "slightly different" from the other types of fish. When asked how much they liked each fish, zander ranked the highest and walleye the lowest, although those differences weren't statistically different from the likability rating given to farm-raised perch, Delwiche said.

"We may have seen more differences if we had served baked or broiled fish instead of the battered and fried," Delwiche said. "By preparing the fish in this manner, we may have hidden subtle flavor differences. But this is how most consumers eat this type of fish."

Contact this reporter at (937) 225-2258 or mfisher@DaytonDailyNews.com.

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