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Getting the Most from Your Catch

A rule of thumb when you fillet a haddock is that you only end up with about 40% of the fish left at the end. This is referred to as the "butchering yield", which is the amount of useable fish you can expect once you process a whole fish. This yield percentage can vary greatly between fish species. For instance, when you fillet a flounder you only get about 25% due to the flatfish's thin, oval body that allows it to blend seamlessly with the ocean floor. To compound the task, some flounders are relatively small, some as short as only 12 inches, which makes filleting even trickier. However, even larger, "meatier" fish like monkfish, with most of the meat concentrated in the substantial tail fin, only yields about 70%. Shellfish processing has the same issue of low butchering yield. Take lobster, for example, which only yields about 40-50%. For all of these species, there is a lot of extra material to work with. Most people know that you can use parts of these seafood species to make stock, but there are myriad other ways to utilize more of the fish and shellfish.


Some creative chefs and processors are finding ways to get more yield from what comes ashore. Did you know that halibut had ribs? Chef Kirby Sholl at Chaval has been serving them as a part of their “Halibut Project”, which aims to use as much of the fish as possible. He’s also served halibut neck, halibut collar, and halibut cheek among other unusual parts. Other species have also been part of Sholl’s experiments - creating interesting new flavors such as monkfish prosciutto. These creations are documented on Instagram (@kirby_sholl#thehalibutproject).

I got a rare treat a couple of weeks ago when I was able to visit the processing facilities at Luke’s Lobster in Saco. Some of the techniques they are employing to use as much of each lobster as possible is truly extraordinary. The meat is all picked by hand, with the exception of a nifty roller that squeezes meat out of the legs. The claw and knuckle meat are used in lobster rolls while the leg and body meat gets minced and used in other culinary products like seafood cakes and soups. Then, the shells are crushed, cleaned and dried before being milled down to a variety of sizes that can be used in organic farming. The goal is to get as much protein and as much use out of each lobster as possible.


Closer to home, right here in the MCFA office, we have been taste-testing a monkfish soup recipe that we are developing with Hurricane Soups in Greene, Maine. Soup was chosen specifically because significantly less fish is wasted in the soup-making process, making it possible to deliver an entire meal through our Fishermen Feeding Mainers Program, our successful program that buys fish directly from the fishermen and then donates it to area food banks and schools.


Reducing waste from sea to table is a win-win for everyone - a higher price for fishermen, a more sustainable seafood supply chain, and more delicious products for you and me to eat at home!.


This blog post was written by MCFA Director of Operations, Susan Olcott. Susan writes for a lot of local papers in the midcoast including the Times Record and Harpswell Anchor.

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