The Atchafalaya Swamp in Louisiana ... perfect breeding grounds for crawfish (Staff Photo)
Crawfish are found in all the southern U.S. states in warm waters during warm weather seasons.
Small harvests of farmed crawfish for human consumption occur in states such as Texas, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, the Carolinas and California.
But Louisiana is by far the largest producer of crawfish in the United States.
Official nationwide comparisons are not available, but industry experts estimate that Louisiana usually accounts for 90%-95% of the total U.S. production from year to year, either from wild waters of the state, or on farms.
Commercial sales of crawfish in Louisiana date back to the late 1800s, and today's crawfish industry includes millions of pounds harvested from farms and natural waterways in the Bayou State.
A typical crawfish farm in South Louisiana
The harvesting of wild crawfish from natural habitats such as bayous, swamps and marshes provides a significant number of jobs for Louisiana residents. The Atchafalaya Basin is world famous for its crawfish production.
More than 1,600 Louisiana farmers and fishermen produce crawfish from 111,000 acres of ponds and from natural wetlands, primarily the Atchafalaya Basin. The industry employs about 7,000 people directly or indirectly and injects $300 million into the state's economy each year, according to the Louisiana Crawfish Promotion and Research Board.
Crawfish traps on a commercial crawfish pond in Louisiana
Crawfish farming is a major industry in Louisiana, with Louisiana commercial crawfish farmers providing 85% of domestically produced crawfish to Louisiana markets and across the nation. The state's annual yield is more than 100 million pounds of crawfish.
Crawfish ponds have no standard size, but most are between 10 and 40 acres, and most producers manage 150 or fewer acres.
Some farmers use the crawfish ponds for growing rice at other times of the year.
Texas is the next most productive crawfish supplier after Louisiana. There are seven large producers with 100-300 acres of capacity each, mostly in southeast Texas between Beaumont and Houston. Small-scale producers are entering the market as an opportunity for supplemental income as crawfish demand grows.
Crawfish also are cultivated for food in Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, South Carolina, North Carolina and California, and are consumed in these and many other states.
"Crawfish Farming" with Mike Prevost in Branch, Louisiana. The day in the life of a crawfish farmer. (YouTube Video)
Louisiana is the largest domestic producer of crawfish, a delicacy whose peak season runs from Mardi Gras to Easter.
About 1,600 Louisiana farmers produce 130-150 million pounds of crawfish per year with a combined value to producers of over $172 million, LSU AgCenter figures show.
A sack of fresh, live Louisiana crawfish ... NOT imported! (Staff Photo)
There is stiff competition from "foreign" importers, but we steadfastly do not purchase imported crawfish.
Crawfish are often dumped on American markets at significantly lower prices, and always come with the concern that they were raised under unsanitary conditions. We do not take the risks that come with cooking imported crawfish. Plus, we strongly believe in supporting our local crawfish industry and crawfish fishermen.
We recommended buyers always read the label carefully and see where the crawfish are from ... check the "Country of Origin". If they are not a product of the USA, we do not buy!!
Foreign crawfish can sometimes be found in restaurants, so beware. To aid consumers, the Louisiana Department of Agriculture has developed a promotional campaign called “Ask Before You Eat.”
Act 372 of the 2019 Louisiana Legislature requires any food service establishment that serves imported shrimp or crawfish to post a notice that informs patrons that the seafood has been imported from a foreign place. The legislative intent behind this bill is to protect consumers of seafood in Louisiana from chemicals and residue found in imported seafood products, such as antibiotics, radiation, and numerous toxins. It is commonly called the "Louisiana Seafood Labeling Law".
Always insist on crawfish harvested in the USA ... be alert for foreign imports (Staff Photo)
Many people in Louisiana and Texas, and from across the country, have not had the experience of touring a working crawfish farm.
The Jefferson Davis Parish Tourist Commission offers field trips and group tours for those interested in how the crawfish industry works. The tours are popular with tourists, area residents and student and school groups.
The crawfish tour begins with a visit to the Tietje Crawfish Farm, a 65-acre pond near Roanoke, where the crawfish’s habitat and harvesting process are showcased.
Participants will stand on a dock, over a pond, while Burt Tietje describes the process. Viewers will also hear about the biology of the species such as dietary information, pond ecology, and harvesting equipment.
After visitors finish their lesson in harvesting crawfish, a trip to the I-10 Crawfish Cooperative begins the explanation of the marketing sector. The I-10 Cooperative will demonstrate the cleaning, grading, and distribution process. Visitors will gain an appreciation of the labor required to supply crawfish for those popular boils and for delicious recipes.
Tours also include a visit to Gator Chateau to learn more about, and see first hand, live alligators and their habitats.
|Scenes at the Crawfish Tour (photos courtesy of Jeff Davis Parish)
Tours are seasonal, often March to May. For more information, schedules and pricing on the crawfish tours, visit www.JeffDavis.org
Reservations are required. Call the Jeff Davis Parish Tourism Office to book a tour at 337.821.5521. Tours are available for groups of 10 or more. Call the office to see if a scheduled group is going on your date, as you may be able to join an existing group tour.