When it comes to salmon and many other types of seafood, consumers demand aesthetic perfection. While this is well understood across the supply chain, without the right machinery and equipment in place, fish are prone to damage during processing, perhaps beyond recognition, to the point where producers have no choice but to throw it away.

At the same time, fish that aren’t prepared using proper equipment can become plagued with bacteria, making it unsafe to eat—a risk that more and more consumers are conscious of in the era of COVID-19.

Looks matter

Humans are visual creatures. When we go to supermarkets to buy fish, we favor products that are pleasing to the eye. For the most part, our decision-making process starts with our eyes as we scan the display case to see what’s for sale. At this point, the presentation of the gills and eyes are particularly important, and the color is, too. If something doesn’t look right, we won’t buy it—it’s that simple.

Producing fish that's visually appealing and bacteria-free isn't easy. Eyes and gills are particularly difficult features to protect when traditional mechanical cleaning systems are used during processing. Photo: Uni-Food Technic

Quality is, of course, also top of mind for seafood consumers. Nobody wants to buy or sell a product that is of inferior quality—and certainly not one that is riddled with bacteria or other fish-borne illnesses.

Unfortunately, many processors are still relying on traditional mechanical cleaning machines that end up damaging all too many fish—and their bottom line along the way. In addition to damaging gills and eyes (which makes the fish look much less appetizing), mechanical scaling can also damage the meat itself to the point where its unsuitable for sale.

One bad fish can spoil the entire bunch

Making matters worse, older, mechanical fish cleaning machines can cause bacteria and other contaminants to spread without proper cleaning protocols in place.

In certain circumstances, this could force producers to discard large volumes of product to prevent the transmission of seafood-associated food-borne illnesses—and avoid the subsequent lawsuits and penalties.

Obtaining bacteria-free fish prior to processing is possible with Uni-Food

The good news is that many of the challenges that processors face can be overcome by embracing innovative fish cleaning and de-scaling technologies pioneered by the likes of Uni-Food Technic (Uni-Food).

The company, which recently brought the first major innovation the shrimp peeling segment has seen in 60 years to market, is known for engineering state-of-the-art seafood processing equipment, and its suite of fish cleaning solutions is no exception.

Uni-Food's de-scalers use water to remove scales from fish without damaging the meat. No water is recirculated during this process, which helps to ensure a bacteria-free environment. Photo: Uni-Food Technic

These de-scaling and de-sliming machines are gentle by design, which allows fish producers to preserve product appearance—even at scale. Companies such as Bakkafrost, Rode Vis/Leroy Seafood and Austevoll Laksepakkeri rely on Uni-Food’s water de-scalers to produce some of the highest quality fish in the world.

Andrejs Mancinskis, the fillet department leader at Austevoll, recently shared this testimonial about the purchase, installation and use of a Uni-Food de-scaler:

"Our company is very pleased with the cooperation with Uni-Food Technic. At all stages of the project's implementation—from the proposal to the installation and final adjustment of the equipment, everything was done as professionally and accurately as possible, all our wishes were taken into account and implemented. As a result, we are successfully using the De-Scaler 800 DDS since May 2019 and supply our customers with quality products."

Uni-Food's line of de-scalers include these models:

  • The De-Scaler 900, a water scale remover designed to de-scale several whole fish, including smaller fish, like tilapia, school bass, and mackerel, and larger fish, like sea breams, trout, barramundi, small tunas, sea bass, Coho salmon, and more. In addition to removing scales, the machine also helps remove slime and bacteria, such as listeria, from fillets. No water is recirculated during the descaling process, ensuring a bacteria-free environment that protects fish from carrying food-borne illness.
  • The De-Scaler 800, a de-scaling machine built to process salmon, trout, and Coho that enables you to maintain a fish processing line that has as much as 99% less bacteria on each fillet. This piece of equipment was engineered with hygiene top of mind. As such, it’s very easy to clean.
  • The De-Slimer 701, a machine that removes slime and blood from head-on and head-off salmon before and after gutting and once again before filleting, thereby ensuring fish are clean before they’re processed. The machine’s nozzles can be easily removed, allowing for thorough cleaning.

While these machines command a premium, the investment returns significant dividends. They enable commercial fish producers to increase their yields and improve the quality of each fillet—while mitigating potential risks associated with the sale of bacteria-ridden seafood products.

Coho salmon, which is notoriously difficult to de-scale and de-slime without damaging the meat using traditional mechanical equipment, is a great example. Uni-Food’s De-Scaler 800 makes this process exceptionally easier, all but guaranteeing the delivery of more Coho salmon fillets to market—all of which are bacteria-free and look great.

Similarly, these same machines have also been used to serve up some of the tastiest whitefish and pelagic fish the world has seen in recent years.

While Uni-Food Technic’s machines are already well known among salmon producers in Chile and Europe, the company is looking to expand into new geographies—and species—in the weeks and months ahead.

To learn more about how their machinery would make a nice addition to your operations, visit their website. Or, you can contact Sales Manager Mads Sigsgaard via email.