Delta Pride Catfish, Inc., one of the country's top farm-raised catfish companies, has completed an $8 million renovation of its Indianola, Miss., processing plant.

Utilizing funds from a USDA loan approved in late 2001, the company began renovation work in the spring of 2002. The bulk of funds was allocated to the purchase and installation of new Baader equipment, designed to facilitate faster, more efficient processing under cooler temperatures.

A plant expansion created space for the new equipment and allowed Delta Pride to isolate its filleting and value-added food processing functions from slaughter and evisceration areas.

The facility now has more than 200,000 square feet, while the complete separation of processing functions results in a sanitized environment for filleting, chilling and packaging products.

Most importantly, capacity has been increased by 25 percent in a single shift.

By implementing key components of Baader's Pro-Fit catfish processing concept, Delta Pride is able to remove potential defect-causing agents, including viscera, fins and tails, earlier in the process.

Achieving complete evisceration prior to filleting, when combined with already stringent sizing and flavor testing before fish ever reach the processing floor, results in products that are consistently defect-free.

Improving efficiencies and quality control, and achieving better segregation of products — fillets, nuggets and whole fish — were additional goals of the plant re-design. Now, each category is sorted by size and assigned its own large-capacity chiller. The additional chillers, along with a newly installed slush ice system, result in fish moving quickly through processing functions at temperatures just above freezing.