Louisiana producer embraces ‘pond-to-plate’ crawfish

By Karl Wiggers —

Allen and Erin McClain

Allen and Erin McClain harvest crawfish from their ponds near Abbeville, Louisiana — photo courtesy Louisiana Farm Bureau

With Easter in the rearview mirror, the huge demand for crawfish has begun to decline.

But that doesn’t mean crawfish farmer Allen McLain of Vermilion Parish has drained his ponds yet. He has more than 700 acres of crawfish ponds still in production.

Although McLain also farms soybeans and rice, his newest business, ProBoil, depends on the growth he sees beneath the water’s surface.

“ProBoil is another one of my side jobs that I do with my crawfish,” McLain says. “We do on-site catering and we specialize in crawfish and shrimp.”

The business has been a labor of love for Allen and his wife, Erin. She says this new venture has been an adventure, especially following an unlikely partnership formed last year.

“It was scary at first, because when we started the company, there were never intentions of being in a restaurant,” Erin says about their partnership with Shucks Louisiana Seafood House in Abbeville. “We were just doing it as a catering company.”

Shucks co-owner, David Bertrand was blown away by the first crop of crawfish Allen and Erin brought to the restaurant.

“Allen, if you can supply this kind of product, were gonna be doing some business together,” Bertrand says he told Allen McLain when they met.

Bertrand says his customers agree and can’t get enough of McLain’s crawfish. This is the second year for ProBoil to supply Shucks with all of its crawfish.

According to Erin, the best part about this job is being outside and working alongside her husband.

“Just being able to work together with him, whether with farming or ProBoil, it gives us more time to spend together as a family,” she says.

“With the boiling and the crawfish side of things, my wife is the backbone of this,” Allen says.

The McLains love to offer a product directly to consumers that connects that consumer to the food on his or her table. Erin compares selling crawfish to the marketing of rice.

“With rice, you’ll send that to a dryer and they dry it and they sell it in a store,” Erin says. “When someone buys a sack of rice, they can’t say, ‘Oh, this is Allen McLain’s rice I’m buying. With this crawfish, you go to the restaurant and you have people say, ‘Oh goodness, they were really really good,’ and it brings a different kind of pride.”

Karl Wiggers is with the Louisiana Farm Bureau Federation.