Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The Frozen Myth

Japan is the world leader in seafood consumption and most of that is frozen. So does the entire country of Japan know something we here in the States don’t? The simple answer, yes they do. But we all may have good reason to doubt. Many chefs simply have not had good experience with frozen seafood, and even those that use frozen shrimp or frozen squid on a daily basis are reluctant to try frozen fin fish. What gives? Well for so many years frozen was synonymous with low grade waterlogged commodity fish that gave frozen fish as a class a real bad rep. But today there are a few products that equal or surpass the quality of fresh, or as Bruce Gore a leader and pioneer in boat frozen wild salmon likes to call” fresh”...refrigerated. I remember that first conversation with Bruce as he constantly corrected me every time I told him about the fresh wild salmon we were bringing in. Although it is possible to have very fresh west coast product in New York because of the miracle of flight. I couldn’t argue with the quality of Bruce’s fish when we first began carrying them. In a word …...amazing.

From a Seafood Business interview with Bruce Gore

“There was nobody taking responsibility for the quality of the fish from start to finish. There wasn't any differentiation in terms of quality and value, and it didn't matter if the fishermen did a very wonderful job or a very poor job; everybody got the same price.
I decided that didn't make any sense at all, and it was possible to do a much better job by taking control of the catching and the processing and the distribution.
As a fisherman, I felt I had to take control to make sure I could survive and maintain a decent standard of living. By 1978, we were actively freezing, and I've frozen every fish I've caught from that point on.
I was amazed that there was so little understanding about the huge differences in terms of values of salmon from different areas, different species and different quality levels. I soon found out that there was a tremendous amount of misrepresentation and lack of product knowledge, because the issues I was addressing were not even in the consciousness of most chefs at that time. Since I was using the words quality and frozen in the same sentence, I was obviously from another planet.”


MichaelLA said...

FRESH is the most important adjective in the world when marketing fish. More important than FREE, more important than HEALTHY, more important than DELICIOUS.

If this is a paradigm that needs to be broken, it will a a marathon like effort, correct?

Michael Albert
Open Blue Sea Farms

Fishmonger said...

Thank you for your insight. I agree that fresh is important, but I offer that frozen at sea fish can be fresher than a refrigerated product that is subject to the realities of shipping logistics. In the case of wild Alaskan salmon for instance. A fish is likely to spend at least three days to market in New York. That is not bad fish by any means, but it is not what a consumer thinks of as fresh caught. So yes it will take a marathon effort.

BTW I am interested in your Cobia, drop me a line mbhovey@juno.com