The Alaska Longline Fishermen’s Association (ALFA) was recently awarded a major grant from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to provide support for consumer education on the environmental and quality benefits of purchasing frozen seafood, as well as to expand markets for and access to locally-caught seafood.
The competitive grant was awarded by USDA’s Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion program, which works to increase domestic consumption of, and access to, locally and regionally produced foods, and to develop new market opportunities for food production operations serving local markets.
ALFA has been working to study and change American attitudes towards frozen seafood since launch of its Community Supported Fishery (CSF) program, Alaskans Own, in 2009. Alaskans Own provides high quality, frozen seafood to customers in Alaska and the lower 48.
“Many Alaskans are used to putting up seafood for the winter in their own freezers, and understand the high quality of carefully-handled flash frozen fish,” says Linda Behnken, Executive Director of ALFA. “However, many Americans hold onto the stereotype that fresh is always better than frozen when it comes to seafood. We have been working to show consumers why choosing frozen can be a better choice for quality- -and for the environment”.
According to Ecotrust, a conservation organization based in Portland, “twenty-three percent of seafood at supermarkets never makes it the dinner plate and goes to waste”. Frozen seafood often has increased quality and freshness, can reduce waste, and has a lower carbon footprint.
ALFA and community-based fishing partners at Port Orford Seafood and Real Good Fish worked with Ecotrust, Oregon State University, Seafood Analytics, and the Oregon Food Innovation Lab to compare consumer reactions to seafood in a blind taste test. The study allowed consumers to compare “frozen” and “fresh” seafood. The study utilized a new device, created by Seafood Analytics, that uses an electric current to measures freshness.
The results, according to Ecotrust, were telling; “not only did consumers prefer the frozen fish, but the flash-frozen products also rated higher in quality and freshness, as measured by the CQR”.
With these results in hand and support from USDA, ALFA will create a multi-media toolkit to help seafood producers, processors, and sellers share information on the advantages of flash frozen seafood, helping to establish or diversify their businesses. It will also provide training to producers and fishermen on using the CQR tool to develop quality assurance programs. ALFA will also work with partners at the Alaska Sustainable Fisheries Trust to launch a market-place portal where users can find and purchase local seafood and other sustainably-sourced goods.