Technology helps more than any fish reach our plates

In the meat industry, it is common practice to turn the whole animal into food. In the fishing industry, more than half the weight of fish ends up as side streams that never reach our plates. This has an impact on the environment and is contrary to Swedish food and fisheries strategies. Now food researchers at Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden, are introducing a new sorting technology that means we get five good cuts of fish, not just fillets. A herring processing plant on the west coast of Sweden is already applying the new method.

When the fillet itself is removed from the fish, valuable side streams remain, which can be turned into products such as bites, minced meat, protein isolates or omega-3-rich oils. Despite such great potential, these products leave the food chain to become animal feed or, in the worst case, are discarded. In order to use valuable nutrients and move to more sustainable procedures, the way we process fish needs to change.

All cuts are treated carefully

“With our new sorting method, all the fish is treated with the same care as the fillet. The focus is on maintaining quality throughout the value chain. Instead of putting the various side streams in one container to become by-products, they are processed separately, just like in the meat industry, “said study leader Ingrid Undeland, a professor of food science at the Department of Biology and Biological Engineering in Chalmers. .

The study was conducted as part of an international project called Waseabi. Researchers from Chalmers recently published their results in the scientific journal Food Chemistry.

“Our research shows that this type of sorting technology is important, especially as it means that we can avoid mixing perishable side cuts with more stable cuts. This new method brings new opportunities for the production of high quality food, “says Chalmers researcher Haizhou Wu, the first author of the scientific article.

“Interest is there”

The new sorting method for separating the five different cuts is introduced in one of the research partner companies. The fish processing company, Sweden Pelagic in Elos on the island of Orust already uses parts of the method in its production and has good results.

“Sorting technology gives us many more opportunities to develop healthy, new and delicious foods and to expand our product range. This year we estimate that we will produce about 200-300 tons of minced meat from one of the new cuts and we strive to increase this figure from year to year. There is interest in segments of the food industry and the public production of food such as school meals, “said Martin Cullin, CEO of Sweden Pelagic.

About research and opportunities for the fishing industry

  • Read the scientific article Oxidation of lipids in sorted herring (Clupea harengus) of filleted by-products from two seasons and its relationship with the composition in the journal Food Chemistry. The article was written by Haizhou Wu, Bita Forgani, Mehdi Abdolahi and Ingrid Undeland from the Department of Biology and Biological Engineering at Chalmers University of Technology.
  • The new sorting technology means that the fillet, the backbone, the tail fin, the head, the belly and the viscera can be separated. The spine and head are the richest in muscle and thus are suitable for converting minced fish or protein ingredients. Because the abdominal valve and intestines are rich in marine omega-3s, they can be used to produce oil. The caudal fin has a lot of skin, bones and connective tissue and is therefore very suitable for such things as the production of marine collagen, a much sought after ingredient on the market today. In addition to food, marine collagen is also used in cosmetics and “nutraceuticals”, with documented good effects on the health of our joints and skin.
  • The EU’s fish processing industry is significant and generates an annual turnover of nearly € 28 billion, while employing over 122,000 people. However, the industry faces several challenges. For example, approximately 1.5 million tonnes of seafood by-products are produced in Europe on the basis of a production of 5.1 million tonnes of fish caught. In Sweden, it is estimated that 30,000-60,000 tonnes of seafood by-products are generated annually; about 35-70 times more than the catch of Swedish cod. This means that the current use of aquatic biomass for food is too low. In fillet production, up to 70% of water resources end up as by-streams, which are used either for low-value products, such as animal feed, or are discarded, which affects the environment and sometimes the participating companies.

reference: Wu H, Forghani B, Abdollahi M, Undeland I. Oxidation of lipids in sorted herring (Clupea harengus) from filleted by-products of two seasons and its relationship with the composition. Food Chem. 2022; 373: 131523. doi: 10.1016 / j.foodchem.2021.131523

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