There are around 400 trout farms and the majority are large farms or businesses with smaller ones. Aqualande, for example, was created in 1981 and has 41 different sites in the Landes, Pyrenees, Charente, Languedoc and Spain and produces 15,000 tonnes per year, including 12,000 large trout weighing two kilos.
Les Eaux de l’Inval in Borrèze, Dordogne, is tiny in comparison, producing 20 tonnes per year, and focuses on producing quality fish that are reared more slowly for more delicate flesh and taste. Owner Edouard Roullet has won several awards at the prestigious Paris International Agricultural Show, winning gold in 2019.
It resumed operations in 2012, after a career in the pharmaceutical industry. He was looking for a lifestyle change and was attracted to freshwater fish. He says he learned a lot from the former owner, Serge Lalba, who passed on everything he had learned in the business:
“It’s not something you can learn overnight. If you don’t get everything you need, it can go wrong very quickly. At first I was tempted to overstock, but learned that you need to carefully balance the number of fish with the amount of water you have, to make sure they are not badly affected by downs. water levels in summer, or overcrowding which can quickly lead to illness.
It has around 200,000 fish, divided between seven basins fed by water from the Inval stream and local sources:
“The quality of the water is essential. The advantage of the springs is that the water is between 9 ° and 12 ° C all year round and that it is always pure. The stream is also pollution-free, but the leaves can block entrances and it would only take one crash with a truck further upstream to leak diesel into the stream and poison the entire system.
“It’s a delicate matter. If something were to corrupt the water, all the fish could be killed within two to three hours, so watch carefully at all times. In the pools, the water is constantly re-oxygenated and there are alarm systems to warn me if the electricity supply cuts the pumps and I have generators to take care of if necessary.
“In nature, rivers are naturally re-oxygenated by small, constant waterfalls and the rest of plant and animal life.”
He breeds three varieties. Most are the rainbow trout, by far the most common in France, representing 96% in fish farms, the brown trout (truite fario) and brook trout (brook trout). Rainbow trout were introduced from America around 200 years ago and are more resistant to temperature changes than other varieties and more greedy, so they grow faster and reach the first weight at which they can be sold. , 250 g, in about 14 months. However, this is even faster when the fish are reared with more industrial methods, when they are fattened to be sold at nine months. They are cheaper, but the flesh is less firm.
The other two varieties, brown trout from France and brook trout from North America, take about 18 months to reach 250 g. Because they take longer to develop, they are more prized as a more delicate fish and are therefore more expensive at € 16.60 per kilo for a fresh whole fish compared to € 12 per kilo for a rainbow trout. in sky.
In December, the female lays her eggs and the male then fertilizes them. They are placed in small tanks where, for the first six to eight weeks, they can develop from the nutrition already present in their eggs. At two months, they are fed a very fine powder and when moved to the larger ponds they are given pellets.
“Trout are carnivores and live in the wild on small fish, insects and worms. The quality of the food we give them is important and we give them pellets mainly made from sea fish with non-GMO soy. It is a challenge to feed our fish not to waste precious resources using too many young fish from the sea. At present there is research on breeding insects as animal feed and it will be. maybe the way to go.
Once the fish weighs 250g, it can be sold whole. It takes between 18 months and two years for a rainbow trout to reach the next stage at 1.5 kilos – when it can be sold in fillet – and three years until it weighs approximately three kilos, and that it can be cut into steaks and smoke.
Mr. Roullet says there are good reasons why trout is becoming more popular:
“First of all, I saw a marked increase in trout sales during the lockdown period, which has boosted rather than hurt our business. I sell in supermarkets but also in farm shops, which became popular when people had more time to spare and were ready to experiment. In particular, I have seen an increase in sales of whole fish.
“Twenty years ago it was really all you could buy, but now consumers overall prefer to eat ready meals, so steaks and tenderloins are generally more popular. But there has been a recent return to the old ways.
Second, he says buyers increasingly prefer to buy home-produced food and since there are very few salmon producers in France, trout is becoming a more popular option. There is also a difference in taste:
“Salmon is stronger and has a higher fat content at 12% than trout at 7%. They’re pretty much the same in omega 3. A really good reason for choosing trout, along with a finer taste, is the fact that it hasn’t traveled that far on your plate.
In addition to fillets, steaks and whole fish, Mr. Roullet says there are so many other possibilities. He sells rillettes, pâté, smoked trout and even sausages: “A friend makes duck sausages and suggested, why not, trout.”
“It’s 100% fish, even the fat, which comes from the little amount you find on the edge of a fillet. We also sell quiches, soup and brandade and want to develop ready meals because we find them to be very popular.
“Right now my pies and soups are made by another company, but I recently rented kitchens in the local village and opened a store because I want to develop this side of the business so that everything is fully. locally grown and produced. Everything is done by hand at Eaux de l’Inval. For me, it was a very rewarding career change.
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