Fresh-frozen Seafood

Written by Jared Vincenti
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While seafood has long been a staple in the diets of people dwelling near the coasts, it is traditionally a treat for those within a day's trip of the ocean. Once, that meant just a few miles. As we increase the speed of transportation, though, we push the boundaries of how far we can ship something in a day. When the first transcontinental railroad was completed, it brought seafood inland. Since then, airplanes and the internet have made it so that you can get fresh seafood almost anywhere.

The reason seafood is so time-sensitive is that seafoods have a very short shelf life. Fish spoils quickly, because the fish processes the salt of the water when it is alive. Once the fish dies, though, the salt is free to degrade the tissues of the fish, and does so quickly. Also, most sea creatures live at temperatures well below those found on land, and the relative heat spoils the meat.

Keeping Seafood Fresh

Traditionally, seafood was canned after capture. The pickling salts would keep the meat's texture while killing any bacteria in the food, so that seafood could be shipped at room temperature, and keep almost indefinitely. Alternately, the meat would be frozen solid in a deep-freezer and shipped while frozen solid. These strategies enabled seafood to reach all corners of the United States.

However, these solutions had their drawbacks. Canned food tends to be very salty, and many people feel most canned meats taste alike. On the other hand, frozen fish loses some texture and flavor when it thaws, as it breaks the tissues apart in the freezing process. The solution to this dilemma is to ship fresh-frozen seafood. This is fresh seafood packed in ice, so that the freeze doesn't ruin the meat, but it also doesn't spoil. The drawback of fresh-frozen seafood is that it is only good for as long as the ice stays frozen, so it needs to ship and be eaten quickly. Modern shipping techniques make it easy to get fresh-frozen seafood just about anywhere, though, and in record time.

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