Making the case for dogfish in the US
Written by Christine Blank, Contributing Editor | www.seafoodsource.com
Photo caption: High Liner Foods' Executive Chef Owen Tilley talks with Cape Cod fishermen Greg Walinski and Doug Feeney during this year’s Seafood Expo North America in Boston. Walinski and Feeney were joined by several other fishermen from the Cape and representatives from the Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance to meet with processors, distributors and fish buyers from around the world. The local fleet is seeking new avenues for “under-loved” species like dogfish and skate, which are abundant in our waters but undervalued in the marketplace. Seafood companies like High Liner Foods are developing value-added products, like breaded dogfish nuggets, that can make unfamiliar fish deliciously easy for consumers to enjoy.
Restaurants, universities and meal kit services in the United States are trying out dogfish, the abundant Northeast fish which is well-known throughout Europe but is not yet popular in the U.S.
“Dogfish is a very abundant, sustainable, local, domestically-landed, wild seafood that is primarily destined for an export market,” Nancy Civetta, communications director for the Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance, told SeafoodSource.
At Seafood Expo North America, the alliance held a lunch featuring pan-seared dogfish, dogfish beignets and other dishes. Members also met with supermarket and foodservice buyers who want to purchase dogfish.
While the mild, firm whitefish is used throughout the United Kingdom for fish ‘n chips, as well as in other European countries for a variety of dishes, it is not well-known in the U.S., Civetta said.
“It’s hard to get consumers to try it because they can’t find it in their local retailers and restaurants. And retailers and restaurants find that it’s hard to get people to try it because they aren’t familiar with it,” she said.
To increase U.S. consumption, the alliance is working with three processors that are developing products for retail and foodservice, such as “shark bites”, which is basically a dogfish chicken nugget.
And dock-to-restaurant supplier Sea to Table is growing restaurant and college foodservice operators’ use of dogfish through its connections, according to co-founder Michael Dimin.
“We sell to more than 1,000 chefs in 36 states,” Dimin said. “We describe to chefs how dogfish is extremely abundant, MSC-certified sustainable, quite healthy, delicious and affordable.”
As a result, meal kit delivery service Plated is now featuring dogfish, as are some restaurants. Foodservice operator Aramark has also purchased dogfish, along with universities such as the University of California, Berkeley and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Creating a U.S. market is important for the livelihood of New England fishermen, Civetta and Dimin said.
“This is a fish that fishermen get pennies on the pound for, whereas they get dollars on the pound for cod and haddock. There is no cod in the Gulf of Maine now, so dogfish is their fallback fishery,” Dimin said. “We have got to create stable, domestic markets. If we can build solid, domestic markets, the price will increase.”