|Illustration by Abby Clawson Low|
But one sector of the seafood industry has remained elusive. Fast-food restaurants, which serve hundreds of millions of deep-fried-fish sandwiches every year, have always chosen wild species over farmed ones, because the flavor is better.
But now even these piscean purists may start buying from the farm. This spring, after 10 months of testing, the aquaculture company HQ Sustainable Maritime Industries created what it calls “sea-flavored” tilapia, the first farmed fish manipulated to taste like a wild fish.
“It met 10 out of our 10 taste parameters,” says HQ’s president and CEO, Norbert Sporns.
The company, which is negotiating distribution deals with several fast-food chains, employs good old-fashioned food-processing technology to imitate the industry standard. It uses flavoring compounds to replicate the mild taste of Alaska pollock, a northern Pacific whitefish that holds a near-monopoly over products like fish sticks, imitation crabmeat and frozen fish fillets. HQ has even found a way to replicate the mushy texture of cooked pollock.