Daniel Pauly gave me a copy of the February issue of Eurofish magazine, which at first had me raise my eyebrows in skepticism. But the magazine was filled with delights, particularly an article about the Estonian seafood manufacturer Kriskal.
From the Kriskal website: Due to growing popularity of shrimp and crab imitation products during the ’90s, a favorable situation occurred for introducing analogous products, close to natural products, to the market.
Kriskal’s financial bread and butter is pulverized fish–our old friend surimi turned into ‘crabsticks’. An interesting element of shifting baselines from the article: Originally the crabsticks were based on a surimi made from Alaska pollock. However, as prices began to climb, the company switched to itoyori [threadfish bream] imported from India and then to a Thai supplier when the Indian surimi got too expensive.
And I like this bit from the magazine article detailing the conveyor belt of crabsticks:
The production of crabsticks starts with a flat band of surimi that is carried by a conveyor belt through a tunnel in which it is cooked. Along the side of the band is the stripe of orange familiar from a variety of surimi products. This is generated by the addition of a colour as the surimi is laid on the belt. As the band of cooked surimi comes out of the tunnel it is rolled lengthwise into a tube and directed down a channel where it is wrapped and then chopped into crabsticks.
And now I have to blow crabsticks’ cover: they’re made with chicken breast. That’s right, we feed seafood to chickens and then grind up chickens into imitation seafood. From the Kriskal website:
Those seafood artificials [i.e., crabsticks] are made by using natural components such as:
Surimi- rafinated fish mince – most of fats and taste carring carbohydrates washed out.
Chicken breast proteins and fiber – most of fats and taste carring carbohydrates washed out.
Natural and modified potato and corn starches.
Carragenan – powder made of seaweeds – gellying agent.(E407)
Flavor – made out of natural sources, species and taste carring components added
Food color – made out of vegetables and herbs, preservatives added
Some small amount of food preservative
And the imitation doesn’t stop there. “Art you can feel in your mouth!” That’s how one internet ad for Kriskal Black Caviar reads. The Estonia-based country Kriskal developed two lines of artificial caviar that they claim tastes almost exactly like sturgeon caviar. There is one line made from seaweed and suitable for vegetarians. The other artificial caviar uses pig gelatin (yum). The company wanted to use fish gelatin but it was too expensive so they used pig instead.
Seaweed and pig posing as fish eggs. Chicken ground up into imitation crab. Shifting seafood, just another shifting baseline.