A new fish intown, mate

Published September 18, 2006

It may sound more like a Robin Williams adventure movie, but barramundi will be the next fresh fish to debut at the Publix seafood department.

Barramundi, which will come sliced in 7- to 10-ounce filets, is an Australian fish that recently hit the menu at some top-tier white-tablecloth restaurants around the country. Publix seafood buyers compare the taste and texture to Florida snook.

The Lakeland chain, which stepped up efforts to bring in new food offerings to counter the likes of Whole Foods, Wild Oats and Sweetbay Supermarket, signed an exclusive deal with an Australian aquaculture company that set up a saltwater fish farm near Kissimmee.

Also known as giant perch, barramundi are males until their fourth or fifth birthday, then morph into females. They are carnivorous and can be cannibalistic. But that's little concern to farmers who raise them from imported feedlings with pellet food to about 3 pounds. Touted as a sustainable, antibiotic- and growth hormone-free form of agriculture, the results mean premium prices.

Publix is talking around $17 a pound.