Q: Fresh seafood is better than frozen seafood, right?

Here are many reasons why you should eat frozen seafood over “fresh.”

Blind taste tests have shown that frozen fish many times taste better than “fresh, never frozen” fish. A recent blind taste test with Oregon State University, Ecotrust, the Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association, and Seafood Analytics, a firm that has developed a Certified Quality Reader (CQR) device that uses an electric current to measure freshness, allowed home consumers to compare “fresh” and “frozen” seafood. According to Ecotrust, the results were telling: “not only did consumers prefer the frozen fish, but the flash-frozen products also rated higher in quality and freshness, as measured by the CQR.”

As a fishermen-owned co-op, Seafood Producers Cooperative sells a good amount of our seafood to restaurants and retailers fresh, never frozen. Many restaurants just don’t have the freezer space or room to thaw out an order. Yet we sell a larger amount of our seafood frozen because more and more buyers understand that frozen seafood, when handled correctly, can be “fresher than fresh.” Once the fish is out of the water, the clock starts ticking and flash freezing fish locks in its freshness.

Because the headaches in logistics are made much simpler once a fish is frozen, frozen seafood also has a much smaller carbon footprint than a fresh fish. What’s essential is starting with a fresh, high-quality product. Line-caught salmon, for example, are harvested on the open ocean when the salmon are in their peak state. Our line-caught salmon is handled One Fish At A Time. Fish don’t stack up on boat decks as they would if they were net-caught. Properly cutting and gutting the fish is also really important. Pressure bleeding the fish with a micro-pipette also makes a big difference. The Alaska Gold Difference is paying attention to all of these details–catch method, landing method, cuts, bleeding, sanitation, state of the art freezing technologies. We take great pride in the quality of our seafood.

We wish more consumers would realize that frozen seafood is superior to “fresh never frozen” seafood. With freezing technologies and good vigilance, frozen fish can be kept for quite some time. We call it “shelf life,” and it appears counter-intuitive to the home consumer, but when a fish is handled well, it can last a long time in ultra-cold storage. Also, it’s really disappointing when fishermen walk by the seafood department in the supermarket and watch (and smell) “fresh” fish lose quality by the minute.

Smart consumers are seeing that fish in the frozen case can be many times “fresher” than what’s in the “fresh” case. There’s no hard and fast rule—a fish’s quality is going to depend on a number of factors. Firstly, you have to start with a good fish. Catch methods, boat sanitation, processing methods, freezing methods, temperature control, all play an important role in the quality of the fish. There are frozen fish that have been out of the water for a long time that are much better than most of what you get in a “fresh” case at the supermarket.

Another reason that frozen fish is superior to “fresh, not frozen” fish is the fact that one-quarter of fish in supermarkets and restaurants is wasted. One-quarter of fish caught means very roughly 2.2 billion pounds of fish per year or to put it in salmon terms, very roughly 200 million salmon, is literally wasted. If you care about sustainable seafood management, consider the many pros of frozen seafood.

In addition to being less prone to spoilage, blind taste tests reveal that frozen fish many times tastes better than “fresh, never frozen” fish.

Q: Does fish have an expiration date? When is the best time to order?

As noted in the answer to the previous question, many times the fresh-frozen seafood that we sell is much better than “fresh never frozen” seafood. Those of us in the office take home our fish year-round and we don’t have a preference for eating the fish at one time or another. Don’t take it from us. Take it from our customers. Here are a couple of reviews from customers:

“We live on the Oregon coast and have been buying fresh salmon locally off the fishing boats. Then we go to all the effort of cleaning them ourselves, de-boning, and vacuum packing in individual servings. […] We haven’t been pleased with the taste and quality. The Alaska Gold Coho is PERFECT! The method of processing and freezing so quickly preserves the great flavor. And having them cleaned, de-boned, and vacuum packed in individual serving portions is so convenient! The 2-day shipping brought a box to the house that was absolutely freezing when I opened it. Colder than my deep freezer! All I had to do was unpack, put them in the deep freeze and voila’! I was all done! The salmon is just the best…..will be ordering on a regular basis.”

“In June 2018 I ordered 30 pounds of coho fillets. I was concerned because I knew they were the prior years’s catch and I worried that the fish might be freezer burned or dry or just too old. I called and was told that the catch was probably from late fall 2017 and should be fine. I decided to take a chance, and am I ever glad I did. Each time I open a defrosted vacuum-packed fillet, I am delighted at the fresh taste and firm texture. Simply delicious!”

There is no printed expiration date on our seafood. The flash frozen seafood we offer for sale on our website has been blast frozen. It is stored at much below -10 degrees F in a commercial freezer. Stored at this temperature with no temperature changes, some claim that the fish will be fine to eat in two, even three years. What will ruin the quality of a fish isn’t time but temperature change. Which is why we recommend eating the frozen fish from your home freezer (with a door that you open and close periodically) within 3 to 6 months to be safe. Most people open and close their freezer doors frequently or may not have their freezer set at its coldest setting. If there are frequent temperature changes in your freezer, we recommend eating the fish within 2-3 months. When we sell our fish wholesale to Europe, we put an expiration date 2 years after harvest date. When shipped and stored with care at proper temperatures, the fish should last a long time. However, we find our fish so tasty that it doesn’t last too long in our freezers.