Asian Catfish and the Key West Grouper Halloween Trick

Greetings from the Florida Keys,

This Halloween, be on the look out for Asian Catfish trick or treating as “Key West Grouper” on a menu near you.

Asian Catfish Commonly Mislabeled As Grouper
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Greedy fish brokers, looking to make easy money are disguising this $2.00-$3.00 lb. Asian catfish as $10.00-12.00 lb. Florida Grouper and then selling it to unsuspecting restaurants and food service companies across the country.

Florida Grouper
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Just recently Tom Katz president of Universal Fish of Boston in Billerica, MA faced this tough question from T.G.I Friday’s:

“Why was the grouper they received from Katz rubbery and pink, rather than the typical firm, white fish?

Florida Grouper or Asian Catfish?

Before I go on any further, according to Katz’s company estimated annual revenue is $5 to 10 million.

According to a recent article in the Boston Globe, Katz worked on the scheme for months by cultivating a relationship with the popular restaurant chain. He was close to closing in on a grouper deal worth more than $3 million which would make Friday’s one of his top customers. Bad fish would kill it.

When one Friday’s executive e-mailed the unthinkable - perhaps the fish was not grouper at all. Katz offered a string of excuses: Cold water could have turned it pink; maybe it was the fish feed; perhaps the grouper bled internally.

Persuaded by the affable salesman’s pitch, the chain featured Katz’s fish at more than 500 of it’s' restaurants, serving it with roasted vegetables and a citrus splash.

But the Friday’s executive was right. It wasn’t grouper. Customers were actually eating an inexpensive, lower-quality Vietnamese catfish reared in thickly packed Mekong River delta fish farms. And, according to federal court records, Katz apparently knew it.

My advice, know your seafood and buy from a reputable source. Learn more about spotting fake grouper at

Have a good Friday!


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