Future Work

As we updated this chapter, it became clear that efforts devoted to identifying the chemical components of seafood flavors appeared to have reached a plateau in the late 1980s and very early 1990s, based at least in part on the number of recent publications. At least part of the reason for this may lie in the fact that in the decade since the first edition chapter was written, some very significant changes have occurred within the seafood industry related to the outstanding growth and importance of value-added convenience food products. Part of the cause of these changes have been cultural, such as the increased numbers of families with both spouses working; political, for example, passage of the 1976 Magnuson Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MFCMA) (150); and environmental/ economic, for example, overfished, high-valued species such as salmon.

Demand for value-added convenience foods in both North America and Europe is evidenced by the increased popularity of fast-food restaurants worldwide and sales of ready-to-eat and prepared entrées, particularly those that minimize and simplify both home and institutional food preparation—that is, "heat and eat" foods. To lower costs and reduce time, institutional users (restaurants, hospitals, school lunch programs) rely less on in-house food preparation, preferring to utilize centralized production of whole fresh or frozen entrées. Many of these entrées involve new combinations of food forms. Convenience foods have been a staple in supermarkets, but now warehouse/ club stores, which may have exclusively serviced the restaurant trade (both fast-food and white-tablecloth types), are now marketing these same items for home consumption. To service all these market segments, the food industry has created new and improved, value-added, complex-formulated food forms. To maintain market niches, the seafood industry has followed suit. New seafood product forms include the use of analogue simulated traditional forms (eg, crabmeat and shrimp), flavored breadings, sauces, and stuffings applied to traditional seafood forms, such as steaks and fillets.

Clearly, interest in seafood flavors and flavor components is now complicated by the presence of other food components, such as extracts, spices, herbs, induced cooking flavors (eg, browning of fried and baked breadings). In such complex cases, the inherent mild flavors of most fish and shellfish are completely lost or submerged in the final presentation.

Passage of MFCMA effectively extended U.S. jurisdiction over the waters of all coastal states and U.S. marine territories. The effect of this legislation was to establish a fisheries conservation zone that enabled the United States to greatly expand its commercial fisheries, most notably in Alaska, where an estimated 10 billion lb of fish and shellfish were available to U.S. fishers. Although much of this fishery pre-existed before the act, namely, cod, halibut, salmon, and crab, a biomass in excess of 5 billion lb of groundfish consisting of walleye pollock, assorted rockfish (Sebastes spp.), soles, and flounders was opened up to the U.S. seafood industry when foreign entities were excluded from the newly formed economic zones. At the same time, extension of the Pacific coast's economic zones expanded a fishery for Pacific whiting (200,000 MT) (151), a white fish, facilitating the growth of a new industry in the eastern Pacific. Passage of this act led to one of the most significant developments in the seafood processing industry: the appearance of surimi-based analogue products, primarily artificial crab and shrimp forms. Produced from very mild flavored pollock or whiting, surimi (160 MT in 1997) (155) is finely minced, deboned, washed fish flesh containing stabilizers to which crab or shrimp meats or flavorings are added to make simulated products. These can be used in seafood salads, casseroles, hors d'oeuvres, and other dishes. Here the role of extractable flavorings and the fates of flavor components is of major importance and will need future study.

Stresses on our marine fishery resources, such as overfishing, environmental factors, and economics, have led to the creation of new fisheries enterprises and modified traditional ones. For example, aquaculture and fish culturing are now major contributors to the seafood marketplace. In the past 10 years, there has been outstanding growth in the production of farmed salmon. The largest producer of farmed salmon (500,000 MT) (152) is Norway. Norway competes with Chile, which is the fastest-growing producer of farmed salmon, as well as with Scotland and Canada for sustainable markets. A considerable portion of the salmon consumed in the United States (855 million lb) (152), however, still comes from the capture fisheries. But within the last 10 years, farmed salmon produced in the United States and imported has successfully taken a significant market share. Although salmon, catfish, and trout have been successfully farmed in the United States, other species are now being investigated for possible cultivation. Convenience, value added, and institutional processors are major forces behind this growth. They in turn are being driven by the need for quality, portion and cost control, and year-round availability.

Fish culture raises some interesting questions concerning flavor research. It has been known for over 30 years that cultured fish, such as catfish and salmon, can take on both physical and flavor characteristics of their diets, for example, astaxanthin and canthaxanthin are used to achieve the pink or reddish color expected with salmon. Cultured trout or salmon fed diets high in soybean meal sometimes accrued a "beany" flavor. We have also recognized that a similar phenomenon occurs in wild fish, such as salmon, where unusual flavor notes, or taints, are observed. We have discussed some of these in this chapter. Fish can, at least from a flavor standpoint, become what they eat. This raises the potential of including desired and selective flavor components in the diet of cultured fish, which might include herbs, spices, and other extractables, to achieve new, flavorful seafood products. If not the inclusion of specific flavor components, perhaps alteration of the lipid content could also achieve similar, subtle flavor changes.

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