What is Quality Anyway? Seafood



In my opinion, other than the ware wash chemical business, the fresh seafood business is the most deceptive industry out there. Having fresh seafood on your menu can be the most challenging food product category you have. I was the President of the Food Service division of a large Seafood processor / distributor. I only lasted 18 months. Once I saw the amount of bait and switch, I could not look myself in the mirror. The reality is that the FDA only regulates the seafood industry for safety. Unlike the USDA who not only monitors wholesomeness, it rates beef quality by grade. You know what you are getting. When a seafood operator finds that the market loves “snapper” it just makes names up. Years ago, “Snapper” was actually a species called American Gulf Red Snapper. It was over fished and at one time it was illegal to commercially fish in the Gulf. The closest legal species is called Drum. But the industry now has “Pacific Snapper” which is actually Rock Fish. It eats well but it is NOT snapper. Then there is Caribbean Snapper. Again, not a bad product when available but NOT the Snapper that we knew.
One other specie that gets misrepresented sometimes is Halibut. When Halibut season opens in January, it is a mad dash for fisherman to catch as much as possible as fast as possible. The government puts a limit on the total catch for the year. The catch usually last 5-6 weeks. Then it is over. In February when I was working at that processor, trucks of whole fish heads off would arrive and the cutters would process the fish and it would be run through the nitrogen tunnel and flash freeze the fillets. It would be put up in the freezer and sold frozen during the year for as long as the supply would last. So, when I go to a restaurant in July and see “Fresh Halibut” or “Red Snapper” on the menu I just shake my head.
Shrimp – According to Britannica.com there are 2,000 different shrimp species worldwide. However one of the best articles about shrimp commonly used in the US is https://www.chefs-resources.com/seafood/shellfish/types-of-shrimp-a-culinary-resource/   Since God made the animal, the major factors in buying shrimp are how it is processed and how it is packed. True, a gulf brown shrimp has a great taste and texture yet a Florida pink has more iodine in the flesh. Tigers are farm raised and offer a more consistent size in their 5# block. Did you know that packers actually mix broken shrimp into the 5# block? It is not a machine mistake, it is the plan. Did you know that when you buy a 16/20 the actual count is most likely closer to 18-19? If you decide to buy processed shrimp like IQF they “work” the shrimp by soaking them in a tri poly phosphate. It adds weight. They do the same for scallops. Did you ever notice that when you sauté a shrimp that it shrinks? That’s the solution coming out of the product.
Lobster Tails – In my opinion if you are going to offer a Broiled Lobster tail, spend the money for a cold-water tail. They are much more expensive but offer the best end product. Warm water tails are much cheaper but are extremely unforgiving in the preparation. Slightly under cooked, they are mush. A tad overcooked and they are chewy. I believe that there is too much of a chance of disappointing a customer with a warm water tail. #foodservice #restaurants #hotels #restaurantmanager #restaurantpurchasing #restaurantconsulting #hospitalityindustry

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