Food Loss and Waste in Fish Value Chains
©FAO/Ansen Ward
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Markets for Freezing

Freezing and frozen storage of fish can give a storage life of more than one year, if properly carried out and depending on the product. Freezing has enabled fishing vessels to remain at sea for long periods, and allowed the stockpiling of fish during periods of good fishing and high catching rates, as well as widened the market for fish products of high quality.

One of the critical driving factors for the successful evolution of cold chains is the type, location and size of market for frozen fish. According to an FAO policy brief on agroindustry, despite the challenges, economic and demographic trends in sub-Saharan Africa, including a growing middle class and increasing urbanization, offer significant opportunities for reaching more rapidly the “critical mass” needed for cold chain market development in the region.

Reliable and efficient cold chains contribute not only to reducing food loss and waste (FLW), but also to improving the technical and operational efficiency of the food supply chain. Cold chains thus facilitate compliance with quality and safety requirements and promote market growth stimulating increases in production.

Encouraging the freezing of fish and proper use of cold storage for FLW reduction will rely on consumer demand and perceptions of frozen fish and fish products. Frozen fish retailers therefore have a role to play in educating buyers and consumers of the benefits of frozen fish, how to store it, thaw it and take care of products, to ensure quality is maintained and FLW prevented.

Flash Freezing as a Market Differentiator in U.S.A.

Flash Freezing as a Market Differentiator in U.S.A.

With so many uncertainties in today’s seafood market, community-based U.S. fishermen are looking for a market differentiator that encapsulates the values consumers desire most: quality and freshness–while also delivering social and environmental benefits. Flash-freezing seafood is one way to improve traceability, quality of seafood products, reduce waste, as well as support remote fishing communities. Combined with careful handling, flash-freezing essentially “pauses” the degradation process, thereby increasing a product’s shelf life. This enables small-scale producers to aggregate and distribute their high-quality seafood direct to consumers through a short and transparent supply chain.

In July 2016, partners received a $100,000 grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Fisheries Innovation Fund aimed at testing current consumer perceptions that frozen seafood is of lesser quality and exploring market opportunities for flash-frozen seafood.

Results indicated the potential to shift consumer perception in favour of high-quality flash-frozen seafood. If, for example, consumers could receive better information about the added-value of flash-frozen fish, the implications for small-scale fishers and supporting regional seafood economies could be tremendous.

Retailers Advice to Consumers

Retailers Advice to Consumers

Retailers are in a position to advise customers to ensure they enjoy the product at its best. Advice to consumers includes:

  • Fish should be refrigerated as soon as possible after purchase.
  • Fish should be removed from its wrapping and stored on crushed ice cubes on a plate in the fridge.
  • If fish is sold in foil bags, it can be placed directly into the fridge.
  • The customer should be informed if the fish has previously been frozen.
  • Frozen white/lean fish can be stored for a maximum of 6 months in a domestic freezer.
  • Frozen oil-rich fish is best if used within 3 months.
  • If the customer chooses to freeze fish, it should be split into portions as it is intended to be used and frozen on the day of purchase.

Key Publications

Developing the cold chain in the agrifood sector in sub-Saharan Africa

Policy brief based on the proceedings of a Regional workshop on the use of the cold chain in the development of agriculture and agro industries in sub-Saharan Africa.               

A fresh look at frozen fish. Expanding Market Opportunities for community fishermen

In the US, consumer testing results, combined with Seafood-CQR data, indicate that flash-frozen fish can be a fresher, higher quality product than never-frozen fish purchased at retail.

Guidance Note For Retailers Cold Chain Management for Seafood

Information on the prevention of spoilage and good practice for the display and storage of chilled and frozen fish.                                                                                                                               

More Resources

More Resources

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