Heartland Catfish Company’s main processing plant and corporate headquarters are-located on a 50 acre site along US Highway 82 just east of Itta Bena, Mississippi. In the 135,000 square-foot facility you will find some of the latest and most technologically advanced catfish processing available today. Everything from live fish receiving to product shipment utilizes state-of-the-art equipment and systems in an effort to allow Heartland Catfish Company to provide our customers with the highest quality catfish products accurately, consistently and efficiently.
Beginning at live fish receiving, the fish are weighed and graded according to size and automatically directed to the production line best suited for each fish. By matching each fish to the production equipment, we can increase meat yields off the carcass, reduce miscuts and maximize machine and personnel efficiencies. Once the fish has been filleted and the fillets trimmed, the fillets are again weighed and graded by size using a computerized grading and sorting system. This system sends the different sizes of fillets to the different pack off or further processing areas best suited for the size of the fillet. This helps ensure that each box is packed with the correct size fillets so our customers get the portion size and piece counts they expect. Computerized scales weigh and record each box of fish as it is packed to be sure the correct net weight of product is packed in each case.
Computers also regulate air and water temperatures in all areas of the plant. Chill water is used extensively in areas where fish or fillets have to be held up during the production process. By maintaining the water at a set temperature, fillet degradation and bacteria growth are minimized. Similarly, the air temperature in the plant is maintained at a level that discourages bacteria growth on the equipment and product. This keeps the fish as fresh as possible and extends the shelf life of the product. Cold isn’t our only defense against bacteria growth as we utilize direct-fired water heaters to supply 140°F water on demand for our cleaning crews to maintain a sanitary work environment all day long.
Our frozen products are Individually Quick Frozen (IQF) in one of our several spiral blast freezers. Fillets are frozen in a matter of minutes in order to preserve their freshness. We have the ability to freeze all of our production every day and, by utilizing multiple freezers, unexpected mechanical issues don’t shut us completely down. The product can easily be moved to another freezer until the repairs can be made. This allows us to provide our customers with the freshest, frozen catfish year round.
Heartland Catfish Company has the ability to store over 2,000,000 pounds of catfish products in company-owned storage freezers. This is by far the largest in-house storage capacity of any catfish processor and allows us to have same-day access to the largest frozen inventory in the industry. We also operate our own fleet of refrigerated tractor trailers. Utilizing a fleet of 24 late-model Kenworth tractors and 32 late-model refrigerated trailers, we are able to deliver our products to our customers when and where they need them. We have planned routes that carry our trucks across the entire United States every week and can easily deliver to any customer anywhere the United States.