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Fish Meal
- Apr 17, 2017 -


This note briefly describes the manufacture, storage, composition and use of fish meal, and also touches on the problem of air pollution from fish meal plant.

The use of fish byproducts for feeding animals is not a new idea; a primitive form of fish meal is mentioned in the Travels of Marco Polo at the beginning of the fourteenth century: ‘... they accustom their cattle, cows, sheep, camels and horses to feed upon dried fish, which being regularly served to them, they eat without any sign of dislike.’ The utilization of herring as an industrial raw material actually started as early as about 800 AD in Norway. A very primitive process of pressing the oil out of herring by means of wooden boards and stones was employed.

What is fish meal?

In the UK the term fish meal means a product obtained by drying and grinding or otherwise treating fish or fish waste to which no other matter has been added. The term white fish meal is reserved for a product containing not more than 6 per cent oil and not more than 4 per cent salt, obtained from white fish or white fish waste such as filleting offal.

These are semilegal definitions, and for convenience fish meal can be defined as a solid product obtained by removing most of the water and some or all of the oil from fish or fish waste. Fish meal is generally sold as a powder, and is used mostly in compound foods for poultry, pigs and farmed fish; it is far too valuable to be used as a fertilizer.

What raw material is used?

Virtually any fish or shellfish in the sea can be used to make fish meal, although there may be a few rare unexploited species which would produce a poisonous meal. The nutritional value of proteins from vertebrate fish differs little from one species to another; whole shellfish would however give a nutritionally poorer meal because of the low protein content of the shell. Most of the world’s fish meal is made from whole fish; the pelagic species are used most for this purpose. Where a fishery catches solely for the fish meal industry, it is known as an industrial fishery.

Countries with major industrial fisheries are Peru,Norway and South Africa. Some countries like the UK make fish meal from unsold fish and from offal, that is the heads, skeletons and trimmings left over when the edible portions are cut off. Other countries like Denmark and Iceland use both industrial fish and processing waste. Fish meal made mainly from filleting offal usually has a slightly lower protein content and a higher mineral content than meal made from whole fish, but a high proportion of small whole fish in the raw material can have the same effect.

The following points are important when selecting species for an industrial fishery:

1. The species must be in large concentrations to give a high catching rate; this is essential because the value of industrial fish is less than that of fish for direct human consumption.

2. The fishery should preferably be based on more than one species in order to reduce the effect of fluctuations in supply of any one species.

3. The total abundance of long lived species varies less from year to year, and

4. Species with a high fat content are more profitable, because the fat in fish is held at the expense of water and not at the expense of protein.