The need to add value to carp was an issue raised by carp farmers in the first decade of 2000, and was related to the deteriorating economy of pond farming in Poland. Carp producers considered that a major cause for this deterioration was a decline in the market demand for carp, with lower sales prices, reduced profitability of carp production and, consequently, a decrease in the size of the sector.
Live carp is cumbersome to deal with
The current method of marketing and sales of carp in Poland is based on a centuries-old tradition, whereby carp, after harvesting, was stored, transported and sold as a whole live fish, thus ensuring its freshness at the time of sale. Until relatively recently consumers treated buying a whole carp and the need to gut it and prepare it for eating on their own as normal. Today, however, with modern supermarkets, the traditional way of selling carp as a whole fresh fish is considered a barrier to the growth of its sales, because the product does not meet the expectations and needs of consumers. Today's consumers look for food products which are easy and convenient to prepare for eating and are reluctant to buy a whole carp, which is a difficult product, burdensome to process at home.
The project partners assumed that in order to slow the downward trend in market demand for carp and stimulate its growth in the future, it was necessary to create a permanent presence on the market of a variety of semi-finished and finished food products from carp, in forms acceptable to and demanded by today's consumers. This was to be accompanied by developing new products for human consumption, as well as methods and technologies for using post-processing leftovers, previously treated as waste, for consumption and feed purposes. Thus, the aim of the project was to improve the technologies used in the processing of fish and process Polish farmed carp into contemporary food and feed products.
Research indicates the way forward
The project consisted of four lines of research and development covering the processing and the use of carp as a raw material in the production of value-added products, and using the waste for the production of feed. Based on the research results, it was possible to develop:
“Boneless” carp fillets by cutting fillets mechanically, and then enzymatically reconstructing them; A stuffing from the meat separated from the bone waste after slicing or filleting and using it for the production of multi-component fish, and fish and vegetable dishes for immediate consumption, such as burgers, sticks, canned fish, canned fish and vegetable, and fish and vegetable salads; The technology to process carp waste into fish meal and oil; and equipment for processing carp, including a pressure gutter, a de-heading machine that makes a cut around the gills, and a table-top machine for cutting bones in fillets.
The project was designed to appeal to the needs of medium-sized processing facilities, where the fish could be mechanically processed into semi-finished products in the form of carcasses, steaks, slices, fillets, and, above all, enzymatically reconstructed “boneless” carp fillets. The plant would also be able to produce a fish stuffing from the leftovers of the mechanical processing and use it to create a variety of fish, or fish and vegetable products. Finally the waste from the processing would go in to the production of fish or animal feed.
Small farms or processing plants can also benefit
However, individual elements of the system can also be successfully used in small fish processing plants, and even directly by pond farmers. In this case, the range of products may be limited, for example, to whole fresh fish or portions (steaks or fillets), while the fish waste would be processed into a bone and meat mix intended for the production of feed and/or animal food. Producing value added products from carp, such as whole fish fillets without perceptible bones, in the form of individually packaged semi-finished, fresh or frozen products in blister packs would qualify as convenience food and should be attractive to large retail chains.