food & drink

The advantages of ikejime

Veganism and vegetarianism are on the rise universally, and it is estimated that by 2025 a quarter of the world's population will not eat meat. Most of those who have decided to go this route have done so in a desire to end the suffering of animals. And fish? Does a cod suffer as much as a lamb when it is killed?

Research shows that when fish die slowly, acids and hormones accumulate in their flesh as a result of the stress caused. This has a negative effect on muscle mass and accelerates decomposition.

The Japanese, as is usual in matters relating to fish as the most important element in their diet, have the answer. Apparently, if a fish is stunned on being caught and a thin wire inserted through its brain that exits through the tail, it loses blood and rigor mortis is delayed. This is a fiddly process with smaller species, but from a medium-size sardine upwards presents no difficulty. Known as ikejime, the practice is being adopted universally.

Farmed fish cannot legally be subject to inhumane methods, and ikejime is being increasingly used with positive results.

So far ikejime has been limited to line-caught fish as opposed to nets. In Japan demand for ikejime fish is well established and commercial fishermen use the process for tuna caught by Australian and New Zealand fleets bound for Japanese markets. Prices achieved are higher than those of fish killed conventionally, usually around 125%.

In Spain an unusual tasting at a Vigo restaurant consisted of serving up halibut in various ways, with and without the ikejime process and at various stages of maturity. The results proved that the Japanese are right in their preferences.

Best of the selection was a halibut (rodaballo) six days old and having been subjected to ikejima, thus blowing out of the water most people's belief that fish has to be as fresh as possible.

In a separate test it was possible to delay rigor mortis in a cod from six hours to 72, resulting in keeping it fresh for between ten and twelve days. So those display cabinets in restaurants showcasing the freshest fish in town may soon be obsolete.