Changing stereotypes about flash frozen fish: Why buying frozen makes a difference.
Answering the age old question: Frozen or fresh?
Alaskans Own has been working to study and change American attitudes towards frozen seafood since its launch as a Community Supported Fishery (CSF) program in 2009.
what is flash freezing?
Flash freezing is a process in which seafood is frozen rapidly to at least -10° F in a few hours. This essentially locks the fish in time allowing for a two year shelf life at premium quality. Locking the fish in this fresh state halts cellular degradation so that when you thaw your seafood it is as fresh as the day it was frozen. Flash freezing also allows for the elimination of the "use it or lose it" mentality in consumers.
flash freezing provides solutions to:
The perishable nature of seafood
Seasonal changes in volume and supply
The high cost of distribution
High levels of seafood waste. About 23% of seafood purchased by retailers goes to waste!
Unaffordable nature of seafood products for consumers
why do we sell only frozen at Alaskans Own?
ALFA, along with AO, has a goal to increase the availabilty of local seafood, regional food security, and diversify market opportunities for rural producers. Flash freezing is the key to providing access to the market for these rural communities.
1. To reduce waste
According to EcoTrust, an organization based in Portland, "Twenty-three percent of seafood at supermarkets never makes it to the dinner plate and goes to waste." Grocery stores must throw away "fresh" fish after a certain number of days if it has not been sold (rightly so, because fresh fish loses quality quickly!). "Fresh" fish may have been out of the water for 10-14 days or more, which greatly impacts quality. However, frozen product can be stored for many months without any reduction in quality or freshness. Frozen product is also far less vulnerable to spoiling at the whim of shipping delays-where fresh product that is delayed by weather or other shipping problems often is thrown away or wasted.
2. To ensure quality and freshness
The longer that a fish is out of water the more that its meat degrades. When seafood is properly handled and frozen at a very low temperature, it is essentially "locked" in time- meaning that the freshness and quality are preserved.
The figure to the left demonstrates the differences between "fresh" and "frozen-fresh" salmon predictions in "days since harvest (on ice, exposed to air)" and "shelf life remaining".
3. To help fishermen
The seafood market is volatile- with prices, variables, and demand constantly shifting. Being able to store and market frozen product over a range of time means that fishermen can choose to fish in good weather, can diversify into new species of fish, and can sell product outside of fishing season (when prices or demand might be higher).
4. To help consumers
By offering frozen seafood, we can be confident that our fish is of high and consistent quality. We can also offer the fish at lower prices, ship the fish in bulk or via less carbon-intensive methods, and provide fish outside of the fishing season. Consumers can stock up on high quality, frozen fish for the entire winter if they'd like, and don't have to feel rushed to cook a product that will degrade or spoil quickly. Plus, according to a recent study (read on for more information), they get better fish!
Consumers taste tested flash-frozen seafood from Alaskans Own, Port Orford Seafood, and Real Good Fish and compared it to never-frozen, "fresh" fish from a local store. Consumers preferred the frozen product, which also proved to be higher quality when measured by the CQR device.
We aren't just proud of the care with which our seafood is handled- we now have data that proves that our blast frozen seafood is higher quality than much of the "fresh" seafood that marketed across the US.
ALFA and community-based fishing partners at Port Orford Seafood and Real Good Fish worked with Ecotrust, Oregon State University, Seafood Analytics, and the Oregon Food Innovation Lab to compare consumer reactions to seafood in a blind taste test. The study allowed consumers to compare “frozen” and “fresh” seafood.
The study also utilized a new device, called the "CQR" (Certified Quality Reader) and created by a company called Seafood Analytics, that uses an electric current to measures freshness.
The results, according to Ecotrust, were telling; “not only did consumers prefer the frozen fish, but the flash-frozen products also rated higher in quality and freshness, as measured by the CQR”.
The CQR device, when pressed into a piece of seafood, can give a numerical measurement of quality. This is the first time that we have been able to quantify the quality of seafood- before, smell and appearance were the signifiers used.
Alaskans Own Frozen Products Support Conservation
From our small boats to you
All profits from AO products go directly to supporting fishery conservation research, to keep fishing rights local, and ensure the health/longevity of Alaskan fisheries.
What are you investing in?
Healthy, sustainable fish stocks
Healthy fishermen and communities
A cleaner environment
The creation of more vibrant local economies ensuring a better future for Alaska
Ready to jump on board with flash-frozen seafood?
If you are interested in becoming an Alaskans Own subscriber or purchasing flash-frozen seafood products please visit AO's website. Join the many other members of the AO community and enjoy wild Alaskan seafood.
Alaska Longline Fishermen's Association, AO's parent organization, was awarded a major grant in 2017 from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to provide support for consumer education on the environmental and quality benefits of purchasing frozen seafood, as well as to expand markets for and access to locally-caught seafood.
The competitive grant was awarded by USDA’s Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion program, which works to increase domestic consumption of, and access to, locally and regionally produced foods, and to develop new market opportunities for food production operations serving local markets.
With the fresh vs. frozen study results in hand and support from USDA, ALFA has created a multi-media toolkit to help seafood producers, processors, and sellers share information on the advantages of flash frozen seafood, helping to establish or diversify their businesses. ALFA also provides training to producers and fishermen on using the CQR tool to develop quality assurance programs.
CQR trainings are held at local businesses and gatherings such as fishermen's EXPOs. ALFA staff are available to provide private trainings for any businesses, direct marketers or interested individuals. Please contact 747-3400 for more information.
Banner image courtesy of Alyssa Russell