Ikejime, quality and sustainability indicator
About 350 years ago, a specially designed way of slaughtering fish was developed in Japan to preserve its quality. In the Western world we are now beginning to learn about this technique, which has only been used since the beginning of this millennium on the fish that is consumed in the best restaurants in Europe and the USA. Surely the recent growth of the gourmet world has a lot to do with why now and not before. But the truth is that Ikejime or Ike Jime, which is how this Japanese sacrificial technique for fish and shellfish is known, is becoming more and more a claim among the best restaurants in the world.
Why sacrifice with the Ike Jime method?
As soon as a fish is caught, the quality of its meat begins to deteriorate, but if we handle it quickly we can preserve its maximum quality for longer. More and more chefs and consumers are aware that the quality of a fish is not only measured by how fresh it is. As with livestock animals, the way they have been slaughtered also determines the quality of their meat.
Do you know how the last fish you ate died? If you don't know, I'm sorry to tell you that the most likely answer is that he died of suffocation. This is how most of the fish we eat die. An agonizingly long and unpleasant way to die that is the polar opposite of a quick painless death. The fish is pulled out of the water and left to die panting without being able to breathe. That is the fate of the vast majority of fish that end up on our plates.
The death of fish by suffocation has only one advantage: it does not require any effort, the fisherman takes the fish out of the water and chimpun, leaving it to die while doing other things. The problem is that this is a productive advantage and a great qualitative disadvantage. It is not only that the fish suffers the same as a cow would suffer if we drowned it in a swimming pool, another added problem is that when suffering agonizing stress and making intense physical efforts, the fish releases lactic acid in its muscles that produce a hardening of the meat and an unpleasant texture in the mouth. Furthermore, this traditional way of slaughtering the fish we eat is associated with the lack of complete bleeding of the fish. Blood is the organic matter that rots beforehand and therefore a fish that has not been bled immediately after its capture lasts much less time fresh.
But let's stop talking about the problems and talk about the solutions, since there is an alternative to slaughtering the fish we eat that is not death by suffocation. A much better alternative, both for fish and for those of us who are going to eat it.
Japan is the country that consumes the most fish in the world, and as experts in the field, it is normal for them to dedicate time and resources to improve any aspect of the fish they consume. Do you know which is the second consuming country of fish? Indeed, Spain. Perhaps that is why we are so interested in everything related to Japan and fish. Luckily, more and more fish and shellfish are being slaughtered using this Japanese technique. We at JC Mackinotsh have been doing it since 2012. It was love at first sight, a door opened for us and we only saw advantages.
Ikejime significantly improves the quality of fish
We have already briefly talked about the levels of suffering that we put into fish during slaughter using the conventional death by suffocation method, but before I get into the Ikejime procedure I am going to tell you one more interesting fact.
Ikejime is directly responsible for the development of umami in fish. For Western culture there are four basic tastes: sweet, salty, bitter and acid. In the Hindu culture there are six, the previous four, the spicy and the astringent. In Japanese culture, there are five basic flavors, the four western ones and umami, which is a subtle flavor but with a prolonged aftertaste that is difficult to describe. It induces salivation and a velvety sensation on the tongue that stimulates the throat, palate and back of the mouth.
Foods such as mushrooms, shiitake mushrooms, ripe tomatoes, dried tomatoes, green tea, anchovies, dried bonito, cheeses (especially Parmesan), soy sauce, Chinese cabbage, spinach, asparagus or Iberian ham stand out for being of this fifth flavor. A fish that has not been slaughtered using the ikejime method does not have the properties of umami taste. If you want to know more about umami, I leave you this link, which is one of the best pages I have found on the subject (go to link).
Ikejime is one of the best ways to stop the progress of stress in the body and stop the effect of lactic acid. The main elements of this process consist of stopping the stress of the fish, bleeding it and cooling its meat. To achieve this, a cable is inserted through the spine that damages the nervous system and stops the survival message from passing through the body. This is a quick method to paralyze the fish and stop their fighting and subsequent stress.
For small fish at an industrial level, mechanized Ikejime processes have been invented, but in the case of large fish such as bluefin tuna, it has to be done by hand, one by one, and a high level of precision and experience is required to its correct practice. This implies that it is not practical to do it in large volume production of bluefin tuna. We at JC Mackintosh fish to order, so the volume of our production is ideal for practicing Ikejime on all of our bluefin tuna catches.
This is one of the reasons why our customers continue to demand our tuna, the quality of the meat is appreciable and it lasts longer in the chamber.