Taste the Waste
by lana on October 17th, 2013
By Scott Wallace, Senior Research Scientist, David Suzuki Foundation
Once a year I load up my wallet and make a trip to the dock to buy a whole halibut directly off the boat. Even a small halibut at $7/lb, including head and bones, will cost you over $150. I always question the cost-benefit when I make a halibut purchase as it is the most expensive seafood I buy.
While buying my fish this year, I was asked by the skipper if I wanted the bones and head. In the past I’ve said no thanks, but given that approximately $45 of my expenditure was for the rack, it struck me as wasteful and disrespectful to toss all of that biological product. I knew the fish had more to give and I knew that my laziness was the only barrier preventing the full utilization. Those bones were synthesized through the halibut’s consumption of hundreds of smaller fish and crustaceans, those in turn eating plankton. A lot of ecosystem and industrial energy was required to bring this fish to me.
When I got home I tossed the whole carcass into the largest pot I had, boiled it up, waited for it to cool and then started picking at the meat on the carcass. I easily picked off two pounds of pure meat – the whole process was surprisingly quick and not that messy. I then strained the broth.
The next night I attended a meal and offered to bring a halibut chowder. My ‘something from nothing’ chowder was the most appreciated dish I’ve ever brought to a dinner. The taste from the waste was truly superb. I’ve also dined twice on fish tacos from the same ‘waste’ and have broth for at least three more chowders.
It made me think of the extent of waste in the larger production system, where in 2013 approximately 14,000 metric tons (31,000,000 lbs) of halibut were allocated to be caught in the North Pacific. Even the most sustainable seafoods have an unrecognized waste stream along the production chain that is often ignored, whether through processing, spoilage in transport, losses as the supermarket, waste in the home fridge, or even losses at the dinner table itself. All of these losses are based in an ecosystem somewhere.
Making use of the whole fish is common in most of the world but is an unfamiliar for most North Americans. I challenge you next time to taste the waste.