I. Purpose: Fish samples must be taken from every pond prior to harvest in order to assure a consistently high-quality processed product. The two main criteria to be considered are flavor and the condition (appearance) of fish.

A. Number and size of fish for sample: Samples should be at least a 1 pound fish and should not exceed 4 pounds. There should be 3 consecutive on flavor checks prior to scheduling a harvest. Depending on flavor analysis, farmer may be asked to bring 2 fish samples from the same pond to confirm flavor.

B. Preparation of samples: The samples must be properly marked for identification from the time they are caught, until they are flavor checked at the processing plant. The sample fish should be killed humanely, eviscerated, iced and put into a clean cooler as soon as possible after catching. Some things to avoid when collecting samples are: dirty ice chest, diesel fuel, dead or dying fish, brown paper sacks, “stink baits” and any other strong smelling odors on the sample gatherer’s hands.

C. The length of time the fish should be taken off feed prior to harvesting is based on the pond water temperature.

50 °F or less
6 days off feed
51 °F – 60 °F
5 days off feed

61 °F – 70 °F
4 days off feed

81 °F or more
more 2 days off feed

If the fish are seined and held in the pond for several days a sample should be taken from 1st load to the plant before loading additional loads, in the event the fish have gone off flavor. Any noticeable change in water quality (appearance or smell) would require another sample before harvesting. If a pond sample is rejected by the processing plant taste-panel for off flavor, the pond must pass at least three (3) consecutive checks before it can be harvested.

D. Appearance of the fish samples: When the samples are caught, the producer should observe the body confirmation and general health of the fish. Fish that appear to be sick or unhealthy should be investigated prior to forwarding samples to processing plant. The sampler should note any large amount of dead or dying fish in the pond. This is important even if the dead fish are not catfish. The catfish may feed on the dead fish and develop an unacceptable flavor.

E. Observation of water quality: The appearance and smell of the pond water is not the only criteria for flavor determination. However, the “smell” of the pond and the general color of the water and the presence of algae scum can be indicators of how the fish will taste.

II. Processing plant sample procedure: Flavor checking is the final and most critical step in the pre-slaughter fish sampling program.
1. Plant Flavor Test members
1. Lamon Hall (Primary Flavor Tester)
2. Bobby Collins
3. Tammy Spencer
4. Daniel Watts

A. Method of preparation of samples:
1. Sample is to be cooked without spices, or flavoring in a microwave oven or per section 261.104 (1) of title 50 page 33.
2. The standard flavor should be neutral to slightly sweet flavor. Flavors such as muddy, musty, sewer, algae, and chemical are not acceptable.

B. The flavor tester completes a flavor analysis sheet on each sample. If any sample has questionable flavor, he will ask another flavor test member to give a second opinion.

C. The flavor analysis sheet is made available to the harvest department manager to determine the ponds that are acceptable for harvesting. Ponds must have three consecutive on flavor checks before they can be harvested. The harvest department manager will make known the results of the flavor samples to the farm owner or manager.