Chef Jon Gibson
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#4 Tuna

Hello everyone and welcome back to Fish 101….
The purpose of these articles is not to sway you in anyway form or fashion as to why or why not to eat a certain fish or where or what to purchase. We are all adults and what you decide is your business and your choice. These articles are used to educate you and then let you make the decision. With that being said, the information that I relay to you in these articles are researched and documented in an informative and concise manner using reputable sources and research.
All comments and questions are welcomed and encouraged.
Now with all the disclaimers out of the way, lets get down to the basic nuts and bolts of Tuna!

Fresh Tuna
Let me start by defining how Tuna is graded and the quality of each grade.
To grade Tuna there 5 main factors in grading Tuna and those are:
1. Initial Appearance
2. Size and Shape
3. Color
4. Texture
5. Fat Content

Tuna is then broken down into 4 Grades:
Grade #1 – This is the highest grade and is also referred to as sashimi or sushi grade.
Grade #2+ – This the next grade below #1. This grade was created back in the 1980’s due to the disparity between #1 and #2 was so big, that this grade was created.
Grade #2 – This grade is the most used Tuna in restaurants today due to its cost effectiveness. Even though this grade is not technically classified as sushi grade.
Grade #3 – This grade is referred to as cooking grade and has turned brown and or greenish in color.

Tailpipe Tuna (aka Saku Block)
Probably as you could guess, this is tuna is treated with Carbon Monoxide.
This tuna is VERY distinguishable with its BRIGHT red color. This CO treatment is to maintain the color not the quality of the fish. Current FDA regulations state that this treatment of fish is harmless, however Japan, Canada, and several countries in the European Union say that this process can be used to mask spoiled fish. Even though the FDA has deemed it harmless, imported Saku Block or CO treated tuna from foreign countries have no regulations and have been discovered that higher concentrations of CO is used in the process.
When the tuna is caught it is treated with Carbon Monoxide and flash frozen at -40 degrees usually within 2 hours of being caught. It has also been discovered that CO treatment of tuna beginning to turn brown or oxidize can revert the color to a fresh bright red state.
It is estimated that approximately 8 million pounds or 30% of Tuna imported into the U.S. was treated with Carbon Monoxide and originated from Southeast Asia.
The FDA also states that this type of treated tuna is to be labeled, but most likely is not and such labeling isn’t enforced.
Tuna treated with CO can be held in a freezer for a year or more and never change color, thus the practice of stock piling and controlling the price in the world market is used.

Canned Tuna
Most canned tuna is of two different types of tuna. You have “Albacore” also known as white tuna and then you have Skipjack which is a smaller variety of tuna and has a darker type of meat.
Canned tuna is cook/steamed deboned and filets are packed in a can or pouch with either a water solution or oil. The can is then sealed and cooked again. Suffice it to say it is more than likely overcooked, but of course with health concerns and maybe the presence of botulism this process is the norm in packing.
Canned or processed tuna does maintain some of its nutritional value as in protein and some vitamins, however mercury levels are different. Albacore or “white tuna” has been shown to have at least three times more mercury than skipjack.
With that being released sales of canned tuna has decreased over that past 6 years and as Virginia Lee (Senior Industry Analyst of Euromonitor) stated, “Americans have fallen out of love for canned tuna.”
The tuna market fluctuates almost daily and with new studies, along with the expansion of consumer knowledge of sustainability and healthier food options has changed the landscape for canned tuna, because it makes it an affordable viable option for consumers.

The National Fisheries Institute, which represents seafood companies and restaurants, takes issue with the perception that tuna is unsafe to eat. Lynsee Fowler, a spokeswoman for the institute, said the “misreporting of the 1970s” has been “replaced with reams of independent, published, peer-reviewed science that illustrates the clear nutrition and public health benefit seafood, and canned tuna in particular, offer.┬áIn fact up to date science points clearly to a health danger associated with not eating fish.

So when it comes down to it, “Fresh is always best” is my philosophy regarding tuna, fish, or any other seafood or even produce that we consume. What you purchase and what you consume is YOUR choice.

Just in case you didn’t know, but the State of Alabama enacted a law in 2009 that all Alabama restaurants have to disclose the country of origin of their catfish and seafood and a sign must be posted in the restaurant stating “Under Alabama law, the consumer has the right to know, upon request to the food service establishment, the country of origin of farmed raised fish or wild fish.”

It is your right to know and you will be surprised how many restaurants do not abide by this law or do not release this information to the general public or even worse, lie about where their fish comes from.

“When in doubt, ASK!”

“Eat, Live, and Love!”
Chef Jon

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