Thursday, June 7, 2018

08/06/2018: Is slaughter killing your fish farming investment?

by Ace Aquatec, Dundee, Scotland

“It can take 20,000 hours of careful attention to produce a farmed fish of 3-5kg, and less than one hour to reduce that investment to well below cost by “saving” on processing technology.”

This is a problem Alastair Smart, Managing Director of aquaculture advisory group SmartAqua, says he’s seen again and again over the years as many companies fail to put appropriate focus on the slaughter process. He highlights the harvesting handover from farm to processing as a weak spot that can have a big impact on fish quality.

The majority of production cost in aquaculture (up to 60-75% in many cases) is on feed, and with such a big focus on that part of the operation it can be easy to forget that the slaughter process can have just as big an impact on the end product. A stressful slaughter process can lead to reduced taste quality and shelf-life, quickly eroding the return on that feed investment.

Research published in the Journal of Food Science in 2016 proved that the more humanely a fish is killed, the better it tastes. And yet despite progress in some areas, many processing sites still create a highly stressful environment for fish at the end of their lives.

Traditional approaches have evolved, but still have flaws
For decades asphyxiation and carbon dioxide (CO2) stunning were standard practice, and the industry has only relatively recently moved away from CO2 to more humane stunning methods that render fish fully unconscious prior to being bled or put on ice. Norway banned CO2 stunning 2010, and the major UK supermarkets have all signed up to humane slaughter standards, but some regions, such as Greece and Turkey, are still adjusting their farming practices to bring them in line with these new standards.

Percussive stunning – a sharp blow to the head causing immediate unconsciousness – is now the most common slaughter method, but despite being an improvement over previous techniques it also carries inherent flaws impacting fish welfare and quality, operational efficiency, and staff safety.

The fact that the fish are still in a highly stressed state when entering the percussive stunning process means fish welfare and quality levels are not ideal. And the high levels of handling required to guide stressed fish into the percussive stunner wastes a lot of time and creates higher than necessary levels of staff risk.

Read the full article, HERE.

Visit the Ace Aquatec website, HERE.

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