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May 3, 2012 | 12:00 a.m. CST
In the time it takes to search Bon Appetit’s anthology of recipes for steamed mussels in white wine sauce, an order of fresh seafood from the Hawaiian islands can be placed, processed and sent on its way to Columbia.
Yet, Midwest consumers still hold presumptions that seafood prepared here is inferior to that on the coasts. The freshness of seafood is defined only partially by the time frame from sea to plate. Today, quality packaging, handling and transportation can lend as much to the flavor of fish as the distance from shore. Set the reluctance aside, Columbia, and eat the seafood.Related Articles
Wholesalers such as Sysco act as intermediaries to fisheries and restaurants. Customers place their seafood orders with Midwest representatives at Sysco, and the orders are transferred to fisheries around the world. Within three to four days, selections of mahi mahi or yellowfin tuna are delivered to restaurants like Hoss’s Market in Columbia.
With deliveries Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, Jim Koetting of Hoss’s Market keeps its supply freshly stocked. Today, fisheries have the technology to catch and process fish faster than ever. The most wild caught seafood is frozen and processed on the fishing vessel within hours of being caught, says Sysco representative Casey Conway.
These fishing trawlers — think the wave-crashed ships of Deadliest Catch — maintain freezing and packaging facilities on the vessel itself. Because the majority of global fishing is done in vast oceans far from shore, this process allows for vessels to continue fishing for months at a time. The efficiency also helps companies such as Kansas City-based Sysco to receive orders directly after catches are made.
Nonfrozen options also appear in local supermarkets. Companies such as St. Louis-based Fabulous Fish supply fresh fish to mid-Missouri within days of the catch as well. Seasonally, regionally and internationally caught fish travel to the heartland through Fabulous Fish’s highly regulated air or trucking systems.
Temperature levels are critical during this process. “The shelf life of fish is affected by the temperature from the moment it is caught to the time it is delivered to the customer,” says Phil Krupa of Fabulous Fish.
For every two degrees a fish increases in temperature from 32 degrees Fahrenheit, a day of shelf life is lost. Because most home refrigerators are kept at 40-42 degrees, a fresh fillet of salmon from the supermarket can be close to spoilage two days after a customer makes the purchase.
Fabulous Fish’s route to the customer’s refrigerator is a short one, though. Krupa moves seafood three times a week from small and large fisheries across the U.S.
Because an array of fisheries and suppliers exist, much of the buying done is based on relationships and trust, qualities Krupa’s got down.
Fish and Tips
For a reluctant consumer in the heartland, great seafood is right in front of your nose. The key is to use all senses to determine the quality of fish.
• Look for fish displayed on thick beds of nonmelting ice and in a case, if possible.
• Focusing on temperature can mean the difference between a great herb tilapia dish and a slimy-textured
• Fresh whole fish should have scales intact with bright and shiny flesh.
• Fillets should have moist and elastic flesh that springs back when pressed.
• Note any darkness or drying around the edges indicating spoilage.
For buyers contemplating fresh versus frozen, texture and flavor tend to be better in fresh instead of frozen seafood. When fish is thawed, blood vessels contract and break apart, extracting the water that it had been holding.
However, when buying fresh, remember the importance of temperature integrity. Phil Krupa of Fabulous Fish suggests either cooking fresh fish immediately after purchasing, or placing on ice to keep as close to 32 degrees Fahrenheit as possible.
The beneficial cuisine, caught, handled and transported, can be enjoyed by coastal and Midwest seafood lovers.