Louisiana crawfish tradition becomes global phenomenon

Louisiana crawfish craze spreads nationwide 04:37

In New Orleans, nearly 10,000 people showed up to turn a genuine south Louisiana ritual into a new world record. Twenty-seven thousand pounds of crustaceans went into making the world's largest crawfish boil, Jamie Wax reports.

But what used to be a local Louisiana ritual is now spreading to backyards nationally, as the crawfish business is now a half a billion dollar-a-year industry.

The trend has kept Mike Morse busier than ever. He runs Zatarain's, the world's leading maker of the spices used in boiling crawfish.

"It goes all over the U.S. and to extent all over the world, and a lot of that has become post-Katrina; a lot of folks have been displaced," Morse told CBS News.

Crawfish used to be caught mostly in the wild, but the increasing demand has rice growers transforming their fields into fish farms.

Burt Tietje is one of 1,200 rice farmers who collectively harvest about 100 million pounds of crawfish a year.

"We don't feed them, we don't fertilize them, we don't do insecticides, we don't do anything," Tietje said. "It's just water and land and we have crawfish."

Another factor is the growing threat to his business from abroad. Last year China exported 18 million pounds of crawfish to the U.S.

"I'm not a big fan of Chinese crawfish," Tietje told CBS News. "I just don't think they can deliver that live fresh product like we can deliver from Louisiana"

For now, Louisiana has the upper hand and Mike Strain, the states' commissioner of agriculture, wants to make sure it stays that way.

"We export now more than half of our crawfish," Strain said. "What I tell everybody is when the season starts eat them quick before they ship them out of state!"