March 28, 2012
By Patrick Bonin
OK, so crawfish aren’t really known for their smarts, but they all “Make the Grade” at Frugé AquaFarms.
Because when we grade crawfish, it’s all about being the biggest in the class… not necessarily the brightest! And only the largest earn the honor of being declared “Select.”
“Our select crawfish are 12 – 15 count, meaning it takes just 12 to 15 of them to equal one pound,” explained Mark Frugé, co-owner of Frugé Aquafarms. “These represent the largest crawfish we produce. They’re at the head of the class.”
But we know not all customers enjoy really large crawfish, so they might select a different mix: the “Washed and Graded” category.
“Washed and graded run 16-20 count, so it takes 16 to 20 of them to make a pound,” Mark said. “Washed and graded provides a good mix of medium and large crawfish. Many of our customers really like this size for crawfish boils.”
Whichever size you prefer, our grading machine enables us to provide our customers with a consistent, reliable product.
“Many of our restaurants prefer purchasing graded crawfish because it provides them with a uniform product to serve their customers,” said Richard Hotard, sales manager for Frugé AquaFarms. “They know that every order they serve will be consistent, which makes for happy customers.”
So how are crawfish actually graded?
The whole process takes place at our dock on the crawfish farm, where our grading machine is located. (Believe it or not, our grader was originally designed to sort potatoes, but it does a fantastic job with mudbugs, too!)
The crawfish arrive at the grader straight from the ponds where they were caught earlier that day: big ones, little ones and everything in between. (By the way, we call that the “straight run” and you can request that mix, too: it’s how we get ‘em “straight from the boat.”)
They’re then placed onto a conveyor belt, which transports them up to the actual grading area. Along the way, and throughout the entire process, the crawfish are constantly sprayed with water to clean them up and keep them wet and cool.
The grading occurs as the crawfish move across a series of spinning plastic rollers, which are spaced so that larger crawfish are continually transported across the grader. Smaller crawfish can “slip through the cracks” and are removed from the mix early in the process – they are usually sold to peeling houses for their tasty meat.
The space between the rollers gradually expands, allowing medium-sized crawfish also to eventually pass through and slide down to the sorting table. The last ones to “fit through the cracks” are the big ones, and they arrive together at the end of the grading process to be re-sacked with the coveted “select” label.
The grader can process up to 3,500 pounds of crawfish per hour, which is great when a typical day’s catch ranges anywhere from 15,000 to 18,000 pounds!
The graded crawfish are then sacked and packed: all cleaned up and ready to appear at a crawfish boil near you!
So if you enjoy boiling medium-sized crawfish, or want to impress the folks with “only the big ones,” don’t forget to “Go for the Grade!”
You’ll definitely get an “A for Effort” at your next boil!