Steward Supplements

Fresh vs. frozen: Not all fish are the same

Fresh vs. frozen: Not all fish are the same

When it comes to seafood, people tend to think “fresh” is better—but what exactly does it mean for something to be fresh? For most consumers, anytime they see fresh seafood marketed on a menu or in a grocery store, they’re more likely to purchase that product over a frozen one. But is that the best choice?

The meaning of “fresh”

For products labeled “fresh,” that may have been the case when they arrived at their destination. But even in Seattle—which is considered to be one of the seafood capitals of the United States—on average, “fresh” product sits for three to four days before shipment and takes seven to 10 days to reach the store, making it almost 10 days old by the time it reaches the consumer. Have you ever purchased fresh salmon at the store, only to come home to a stinky fridge? Truly fresh salmon doesn’t carry a significant odor—only when it sits on ice does it start to degrade.

Once a fish is brought out of the water, the natural degradation process has already been initiated—there’s no way to stop it, only to pause it. The way to pause this step is through flash freezing of the catch, which should be done immediately after being brought on board and processed. This step pauses oxidation by freezing the fish to a temperature of -35°C in a small time frame.

Benefits of buying flash-frozen seafood

At Steward Supplements, we take pride in only sourcing our raw materials from sustainably sourced fishing industries. All of our products are flash-frozen, leaving the smallest environmental footprint in the industry, and our process is clean from catch to capsule. 

We know “fresh” versus “frozen” can be misleading, so we want to clear the air (or the water) to help you make the best choice for your health. 

Here’s why you should purchase flash-frozen over “fresh” seafood:

Quality and freshness

Many fresh fillets may have been in the grocery seafood display case for eight days or more, and they can take between 10 to 16 days to even arrive at said grocery store—that’s too many days to be considered fresh.

More species, less fishing intensity

Freezing allows small-scale fishers to develop markets for the entirety of their catch—including fish traditionally considered to be bycatch—thereby increasing resource utilization without increasing fishing intensity. We see this firsthand with our fish oils (which we call “Nature’s Marine Superfoods”). We wouldn’t be able to source the raw materials needed for our cod liver oil or our salmon oil if we didn’t have the technology on board our vessels that allows us to flash freeze our products. This also allows seafood companies to practice full utilization of the species, selling everything from the roe (eggs) to the stomach.

Less waste

Flash-frozen seafood can help small-scale fishers address changes like seasonal swings in volume and distribution costs, as well as help them more accurately match supply and demand—ultimately decreasing their waste stream. Flash-frozen seafood can also help recover waste seen at many grocery stores: On average, 33 percent of all “fresh” seafood goes bad prior to sale, meaning the product must be thrown away. The shelf life of frozen seafood ranges from 12 to 24 months depending on the species. This can eliminate waste and ultimately, help us protect one of our most valued resources. 

Lower carbon footprint

Most fresh fish fillets are often caught far from where they’re purchased by consumers and must be shipped by air, one of the world’s most carbon-intensive forms of travel. By comparison, flash-frozen fish can be distributed by freezer trucks, which has a much lower carbon footprint.

According to research from Seafood-CQR, flash-frozen seafood can be a fresher, higher-quality product than never-frozen fish purchased at retail. In the study, consumers could tell a significant difference between fresh and previously frozen products and did not prefer the fresh-never-frozen fish in any category of acceptability. Flash-frozen products received an equal or higher rating than fresh fish across the board, indicating that consumers do not have an automatic preference for fresh fish.

We have the purest process to create the purest product, which is why we flash freeze our raw fish materials aboard our ships within 20 minutes of the catch. Our fish oils—or, as we like to call them, Nature’s Marine Superfoods—are made using only wild-caught Alaskan cod and salmon and retain all of the beneficial nutrients the fish have to offer. Be sure to read our blog on the decrease of omega-3s in farmed salmon and which fish oil is best for you.