Phosphates and salted cod

Adding phosphates to salted cod, the injection of phosphates is a current discussion in EU, the Portuguese producers are against, Norwegian and Icelandic producers can't live without it.
So what exactly are we talking about? Basically injecting the fish flesh with phosphates which avoids oxidation. So they say. Well it also retains moisture, which makes the fish heavier and therefore more beneficial to producers.
Unfortunately people like food to look nice, and everyone likes their cod nice and thick, the whiter the better. To give consumers what they like to see, phosphates are without a doubt a win-win solution for producers and consumers.
Now what may be difficult to understand, is a product which has been produced for ages using 2 simple ingredients, fish and salt, is now being manipulated with chemical additives. This issue about phosphates is actually something that has been done with most of the fish we eat every day.
I must add that I believe that, unauthorised chemical additives are used every day in almost all the industry, from whiteners to fatners, the truth is that, approving phosphates on salted cod will mean a singificant change in the product and the market.
There is also a health issue, although many tend to dismiss them, the truth is that a product that has been produced and sold in the past, will in the near future be manipulated chemically.
If the EU does approve phosphated in salted cod, then the Portuguese law which defines salted cod will have to be changed. A phosphated salted cod has very high moisture levels, drying this fish to Portuguese standards is a very difficult task.
I sincerely don't believe that the phosphates approval will improve salted cod, it might be beneficial to the industry, but not for the consumers health and wallet. Producers are the only ones who win in adding phosphates to salted cod, and Portuguese in particular lose, as their traditional salted cod will gradually disappear.
The traditional Portuguese cod is condemned to disappear, I don't know if everyone has eaten a true Portuguese salted cod meal, the traditional bacalhau, adding phosphates will not be the same.



Bacalhau is the Portuguese word for salted and dried codfish. A tradition in the Portuguese cuisine. Fresh codfish in theory should not be called bacalhau, although many people tend to just incorrectly call it the same. Bacalhau is basically a salted and dried fish from the gadus family. The raw material used to process bacalhau can be from fresh fish or frozen fish.
In trade we view several marketing techniques especially from Norwegian and Icelandic producers who try to pass on the idea that bacalhau made from fresh fish is of better quality than the one made from frozen. Sincerely I have a divided opinion on this matter due to several factors which I will clearly try to explain.
When bacalhau is processed from fresh codfish, the fishing is normally done with small coastal vessels, Norway and especially Iceland have good conditions for this type of operation. However the time taken to arrive at the bacalhau processing plants can determine significantly the quality of the bacalhau. Small fishing vessels in general do not have refrigerated storage, therefore during a day out at sea it's important to avoid a large time gap between the time the fish is captured and the time it arrives and is processed. A fish should not attain a "rigor mortis" state.

Producing bacalhau from frozen fish, basically has two origins, frozen in land and frozen at sea. In my opinion, if the vessel is properly equipped, frozen at sea may be he best option. The codfish is quickly processed in mini on board plants and frozen, which maintains a good level of freshness to the product, very far from a "rigor mortis" state.
Frozen on land is a similar situation to the one described for bacalhau produced from fresh fish, instead of being processed it's frozen. The quality of the product depends on the fishing technique used and the time it spent before being frozen.
Fishing season starts with new quotas in January, season A ends around mid April. In September fishing re-starts ending as soon as quotas have been fulfilled. So it's normal and logic that both frozen and fresh codfish is used in processing bacalhau.
In MHO if the vessel works well and everything goes smoothly either fresh or frozen may be good options in the bacalhau processing industry. Using fresh or frozen sincerely can't really say which one has impact in the flavor or quality of final product.
However fresh fish is cheaper than frozen, but also have bigger breakage in production. Some say fish is whiter if made from frozen raw material. Unfortunately too many variables involved in processing bacalhau, brands may be an assurance of quality, personally I do not valuate Norwegian origin over others. In fact, currently Russian vessels are better equipped for cod fishing and freezing than the Norwegian fleet.


Salted Cod - White wing or black wing?

Salted cod can be found with white wing or black wing. Which salted cod is better? The myth of salted cod has made the white wing a premium product, in truth, between white wing and black wing salted cod the taste texture and product in general are basically similar.

The production procedure for salted cod, is similar to any other salted fish. It all begins with the splitting of the fish, in general made mechanically with specific machinery to split the salted cod, however in some cases, especially when the fish is large (cod fish can be pretty big), the splitting of the fish is done manually. Just to mention, that historically, in the splitted cod fish business, fish splitters was a very common profession. Nowadays, the automatic splitting machines has substituted most of the old manual procedures for splitting cod.

The splitted cod is then cleaned thoroughly. At this point, white wing or black wing, is critical. Cod fish have a thin black internal skin, which is called peritoneum. The manual removal of the peritoneum, makes the fish a white wing salted cod. If the cod fish is simply just clean and salted, the fish will be a traditional black wing salted fish.
So, a white wing and black wing salted cod fish are similar, the small difference is the removal of a thin black skin, called peritoneum, during the splitting procedure.

So why offer white wing salted fish at a higher price?

Two main reasons for such a myth to continue. White wing salted fish has been promoted as a premium quality, although the extraction of the peritoneum, is an additional production procedure, mot enough to justify the price difference between white wing and black wing salted cod. The market values whiter products, therefore to some consumers will have preference for this product despite the fact that it has a premium on its price tag.

Just to add that it is common for some markets to favor white wing and other to favor black wing salted cod. And we can find these types of products in Pacific Cod Gadus macrocephalus and Atlantic Cod Gadus morhua. The majority of salted cod is done with black wing, it's the most standard type of salted cod. The famous Islandic salted cod fish is all black wing.

I can guarantee one thing, its not due to the colour of the wing of a cod fish that you will have a better fish meal. Critical for a salted cods quality are other factors, like the capture method, the correct splitting method, a good salt cure for example.