UK’s largest crayfish processing plant launches in Berkshire

By Gwen Ridler

- Last updated on GMT

The Kennet Crayfish Company has created the ‘UK’s largest’ processing facility for crayfish
The Kennet Crayfish Company has created the ‘UK’s largest’ processing facility for crayfish
Berkshire-based producer The Kennet Crayfish Company has created the ‘UK’s largest’ processing facility for crayfish in a bid to corner a market currently dominated by foreign imports.

The new plant features storage tanks with the capacity to hold more than 3,000kg of crayfish while they are purged, as well as a ‘custom built’, Environment Agency approved, unit where the crayfish are humanely processed. The facility also includes vacuum packing, chilling and freezer rooms.

Managing director Andrew Leech said the new bio-secure facility would enable ‘stress-free’ processing of the crayfish to sell chilled or frozen, vastly improving the quality of the final product.

‘Considerable investment’

“Signal Crayfish are an invasive species and new legislation, which strictly controls the handling and bans the sale of live signal crayfish, meant we had to raise considerable investment to upgrade the existing plant and develop new facilities,”​ Leech added.

“As a result, we have adapted and created a humane, ethical and environmentally friendly way of bringing this popular, world-class delicacy to people’s dinner tables.”

The facility uses water sourced from a spring a quarter of a mile away to clean and process the crayfish, which is filtered through reed beds before entering the building. The River Kennet and its tributaries provide a rare combination of very clean water, high in nutrients and calcium found in chalk streams, of which it is understood there are only around 200 in the world.

Fighting imports

Currently, most of the Crayfish sold in the UK are imported from fish farms in China, which Kennet claimed are based in polluted rivers.

Iggy Ilott, sales and marketing director, added: “Prior to setting up the new company, Andrew was part of a co-operative that used to sell live crayfish from all over the UK. We soon discovered that chalk-stream crayfish, particularly those in the Kennet, are more energetic, healthier and physically cleaner.

“This gives them their superior, sweeter flavour. We expect the company will grow quickly through consumer sales on our website and wholesale to restaurants and specialist retailers, as well as innovative product development.”

Meanwhile, bakery products manufacturer Baker & Baker has invested £2.9m into its cookie production line at its Wirral site,​ expanding production and creating new jobs.

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