Eliminating waste

The most straightforward and economical way to deal with waste would appear to be elimination. For example, any producers who can sell their product whole will not have a waste problem and, in some cases, can achieve the highest price for the product. Restaurants and markets in Asia often sell seafood live. But while this is relatively straightforward for crab and lobster, it becomes more difficult for suppliers of live fish. Fishing boats will need holding tanks, the fishermen must be taught how to handle the catch without harming it, and facilities and transport on land will need to be altered to accommodate live catch. Those who can enter this market most easily are aquaculturists who raise relatively small fish such as tilapia or flounder, since they start out with the facilities to maintain the fish alive, have collecting systems that cause minimum trauma to the animals, and offer species that are recognized and valued by Asian markets.

Despite the obvious benefits of selling products alive and whole, shellfish dealers are finding that they can maximize profits by further processing, even products such as lobsters, which have traditionally been sold alive and whole (particularly in the United States). However, further processing almost always generates waste, and that waste must be dealt with.

Some waste can be eliminated by changing the form of the product or by developing a market for a new product. Korean markets are interested in whole flatfish containing roe, so the roe does not become a waste product. The head and tail are cut off but the roe is left in the body, a cut known as 'karimi'. Another example, popular in some countries, is roe-on scallops. Unlike the flatfish example, which only involves finding a market and minimal re-training of the workforce, marketing roe-on scallops is more difficult due to regulatory issues, particularly concerning red tide toxins. Scallops are more usually sold as pure muscle tissue without the roe. Muscle tissue does not take up toxins, but roe does, so producers of roe-on scallops must comply with testing and certification.

There are large Asian populations, with their own markets and restaurants, in many cities around the world. Different populations buy different products. Fish processors who wish to reduce waste by developing new products or modifying old products should explore the different markets and see if they can supply the demands of these potential new customers, as well as those they have served traditionally. For example, Asian consumers buy fish heads, whereas most Western consumers prefer headless product. However, while the price for fish heads in Asian markets may seem very attractive, once it is recognized that a significant amount of neck meat must be left on the head, thus reducing the weight of steak or fillet, the profit will shrink. Thus, producers must make careful economic decisions when trying to reduce waste by creating products for more than one market.

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