Monday, August 08, 2005

Mercury, smoked salmon, & self marketing

This is something I just gotta get off my chest. We get a lot of "scares" from a lot of sources that I don't think warrant a second of thought. I remember walking an FDA officer around a cold storage in Petersburg and he asked me where all the big halibut were going to. There was a mercury "scare" going on at the time regarding whale halibut. I just told him, Seattle. Like he didn't already know.

That scare went away and now we have the tuna scare. I've never been involved with the tuna industry, but don't believe they deserve what they are getting from "government warnings." The problem is, where is the fickle hand of the FDA going to land next? Is what industry needs is it's own testing equipment to put things in perspective.

I read an article once about just that kind of reality check and it had to do with mercury in fillings, which are about half mercury. The tests showed that the "atmosphere" in the average person's mouth with amalgam fillings was "off the charts" compared to the maximum allowable atmospheric mercury allowed in a factory building by the EPA. Of course nobody wants to tackle that one.

The point is, private industry has to be pro-active: debunking myths about it's products, making fair comparisons with competing products. Maybe Consumer Reports can have a hand in this. And that goes for the flavor comparison of wild caught seafood to farm raised seafood. Maybe they have already. If someone says something negative about your kids you want to get to the bottom of it. In general you go around bragging about your kids, right? We should be the same way with wild caught seafood.

Any Alaskan who has tried farm raised shrimp or farm raised salmon will tell you that they might as well be eating beans for all the flavor the farm "caught" variety has. Beans were never meant to be eaten in a pile on the corner of the plate with the potatos and steamed vegies on the other side. No, you put a ton of sauce on them, some hot sauce, melted cheese, and a thousand other things to make them a meal. Same with farmed raised seafood. They might have a place, but not center stage in my opinion.

In a fish quality workshop at the Marine Advisory program for us instructors, we got a nice little feast on smoked kings from around the state. Those Yukon kings were fine, even though the smoking techniques varied widely. We didn't have a smoked king from Southeast Alaska though. I grew up eating cold smoked troll or ocean seine caught kings. That's not something you see nowadays. Anyway, these smoked kings should be reserved for the $10,000 business lunches.

And don't kid yourself, these guys can afford it and they would appreciate it. They spend a lot more than their share of that lunch just flying in on their Gulfstream.

The point of all this is that fishermen shouldn't let anyone handle their fish to just "get rid of it." There are too many opportunities out there, and it's a lot of fun getting involved in the marketing. You just might get a ride on one of those Gulfstreams, sans the oilskins, of course.

Bonus Material:

Here's an article that looks to me like some folks are having fun marketing their own sockeyes. Of course you can see someone else is making a bunch of money adding value to it before marketing it to the customer. And to Scottish customers! I thought a lot of farmed raised salmon were coming from Scotland. My comment would be, sell 'em smoked salmon like we sell surimi to the Japanese. Just find out how they like it.

Here's an idea, drop the frozen fish off in the Midwest at a continuous smoking process plant and have it all smoked up in a couple of days. Well, the Scots probably like it cold smoked. Well, build a smoker in the winter with fisherman labor and a lien on future production like the big processors do. The cold storages still make money freezing the fish during the season, and the fishermen will get several times the price for their fish.

"The sale to the Scottish firm was sealed after representatives of the company attended a barbecue with fishermen and CISB board members earlier this summer at the mouth of the Kasilof River, Beaudoin said. The firm, whose named was not disclosed, plans to market the reds as a smoked product in retail markets in England, she said."

And here's something that strikes me as right on, considering that juniper berries are great in a smoked salmon brine. Pine nuts and salmon.


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