DV-17-04 A comparison of farmed versus wild American eel products

Sara Rademaker
American Unagi LLC
PO Box 81
Thomaston, ME

Maine's multimillion dollar juvenile eel fishing industry currently ships elvers or glass eels to farms in Asia, where they are grown to marketable size and exported back to the U.S. Recognizing an opportunity to provide local, sustainable seafood, Sara Rademaker has made progres in moving towards commercial eel aquaculture production in Maine. Sea Grant funds in 2014 (DV-14-17) supported testing of commercially available feeds for eel aquaculture. Since then, American Unagi, LLC has grown from research and development to a production facility capable of raising one metric ton of adult American eel.

In this current study, Rademaker will focus on the consumer side of American eel product development. There is currently no information on nutritional value or contamination levels of wild or farm-raised American eel. Using a USDA-approved laboratory, Rademaker will evaluate the nutritional value, including Vitamin D, and contamination with mercury and PCBs, of wild-caught smoked American eel product and a farm-raised smoked eel product. Following lab evaluation, information on consumer preference and purchasing factors will be gathered using a combination of focus groups and in-person surveys, including taste preference. This grant will help shape the addition of value-added products into future eel aquaculture production by understanding benefits of farmed products over wild and the important issues for consumers. Processing for aquaculture production can lead to increase in year-round use of Maine's fish processors and could lead to the addition of a new product line to smokehouses in Maine.

Supplementing the Sea Grant funds is an award from USDA’s Value-Added Producer Grant, which will support further work on improving economics of eel production in the U.S.

Sea Grant funds $4,480