A Question of Quality

We’d found the seafood variety we were craving and the Fishvish website was launched with that. But our primary objective has always and continues to be – the best quality possible. So the search began again but with a more defined goal and within a far smaller pool of supply contenders.

For the most part, as far as seafood goes, the universal understanding is that if its fresh it’s good quality. However, no one has ever defined what “fresh” means (well the FAO does to some extent but which of us as consumers or home cooks is really going to read that up on their website?). And herein lies the biggest challenge in supplying “quality” seafood. Is it fresh straight off the boat? 5-6 hours later? 12 hours? 24 hours? More? If you’re in a coastal town maybe you’ll get access to fresh seafood. Maybe you wont because it’s getting carted off to export factories and the balance is first picked up by the big hotels and restaurants. The leftovers is what will reach your table. And chances are not the same day it was caught too. So we could plausibly agree that the concept of fresh seafood can be pretty broad in terms of interpretation.

Quality on the other hand encompasses a lot of factors, “fresh” being one of them. People say look at the color of the gills or check if the eyes are clear or if the fish is firm to the touch or whether there are any cuts and bruises on the fish, etc. All of this needs to be looked at together and not in isolation. It’s also important to have information on lab testing on fish for things like mercury levels amongst others. 
Accordingly to Alaska Seafood – “The spoilers of seafood quality: bacteria, enzymes, dehydration, oxidation, contamination and physical damage, will strike whenever they are given an opportunity. These spoilers can be beaten if everyone in the seafood delivery chain from fishermen to chef makes quality their business”.
Almost all seafood lovers are fanatical about their choices and where and how they buy seafood. Getting them to even try something different requires us to have a lot conviction in what we say and do. Now we’re not here to be the know-it-all around town but we do want all seafood lovers to at least try our products once before making up their minds. So we figured lets put ourselves out there, set up that website, get our information out and talk about what we know and if people have questions they can ask us and we’ll do the best we can to answer and if we cant, we’ll find someone who can.
Seafood quality assessment is an extremely vast field. We’ve tried over the last few years to talk to as many domain experts and seafood technologists as we can and essentially they all pretty much agree on what Seafood Health Facts says. I’m just summarizing here and this is not a conclusive list either:
  1. Ideally all fresh seafood should be stored between 3° to -1° C 
  2. Ideally all quick frozen seafood should be stored between -18° to -24° C 
  3. Minimize contact with air
  4. Keep hydrated
  5. Minimize melt water contact when kept on ice during transport or display
  6. Individual species have their own evaluation criteria – more here Seafood Health Facts 
I think its time for us as consumers to ask the difficult questions of our suppliers whether fish market or super market or online retailer and whether they deal in non-frozen or frozen or both (yes that includes Fishvish too). The question is not about fresh or frozen, it is about the handling chain from catch to table thats important. If we can get that right, it wont matter if the fish is 3 days old. It’s still going to be great quality of which a small portion will be ascribed to it’s “freshness“.

Bijal Patel, Fishvish Co-founder

Image Credit: Cover – Vera Kratochvil
Image Credit: Coastal Town – Cochin

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