by Gordon Curry, Louisiana Seafood News
While Hurricane Isaac delayed the official start of Louisiana’s alligator harvesting – or hunting – season in the East Zone by a few days, Dexter Guillory hasn’t missed a beat in getting his food products out the door.
That’s because Riceland Crawfish, the business owned and operated with his family since 1984, buys and sells farm-raised alligator meat, as well as wild. And when his customers need alligator meat, he pulls it from cold storage.
Guillory added alligator to his company’s original line-up of crawfish products about two decades ago. He says that since the reality TV show Swamp People started airing (August 2010), he’s seen an uptick in demand for alligator meat
Those in the alligator business directly affected by the hurricane are the hunters, though Guillory believes it is more of an inconvenience of starting the season late.
Lance Nacio, a third-generation alligator hunter, says the storm surge from the hurricane displaced some alligators and it took a little while for them to resettle. His first day out brought only one alligator, but he was able to trap 12 on the second day and nine on the third.
Even with a late start, alligator hunters shouldn’t suffer economically, as they harvest most of their allotment in the first two weeks of the 30-day season.
Guillory says alligator hunters mainly sell to those who want them for their skins. Last season, according to the Swamp People alligator price chart, a respectable-size alligator of eight feet brought in $176 to $192, about $22 to $24 a foot. The shorter the alligator, the lower the price per foot.
“When I was a kid, it didn’t matter whether the alligator was five feet or 10 feet long, you got paid the same price per foot,” says Nacio. This season, he estimates the going price for an eight-foot alligator at $28 a foot.
Hunters bring their catch to designated docks, where alligators are purchased by licensed buyers and then transported to approved facilities for skinning and meat marketing. After the skin is taken, the meat is sold to companies like Riceland Crawfish.
Prepared correctly, alligator meat has its own unique flavor – and is growing in popularity.