Every Friday during Lent, my wife and I discussed our dinner options: fried tilapia, pasta, or pizza. The kids haven’t quite taken to salmon or shellfish yet, so the choices were rather limited. But I did offer a weekly suggestion: fish sticks. I grew up on fish sticks from Gorton’s. Alas, my wife greeted my suggestion with, “Uh-huh,” “Sure, yeah,” or “Hmm.” But she still has never bought a box of frozen fish because she is skeptical. Where does the fish come from? How many different fish are in each stick? What kind of fish are we talking about?
As it turns out, this skepticism is widespread. As the Wall Street Journal reported,
Fish sticks just aren’t cutting it anymore.
The frozen-fish industry has faced a problem of making the easy dinner staple more appealing, especially to children at home and in school.
“[Kids] want to have something they could get at a restaurant or something that looks familiar to them,” said Pat Shanahan, program director of Genuine Alaska Pollock, a group representing the fisheries supplying the catches commonly used in fish sticks.
So companies are trying to do what chicken did: Tenders made from whole meat and not minced. “Producers have been moving away from the sticks made of minced fish that are commonly found in frozen-food aisles, instead opting for a fillet that can be cut into a fish stick,” writes the Journal‘s Cicely K. Dyson.
It also turns out the seafood industry as a whole has been suffering. As the Journal‘s Ben DePietro notes,
The average U.S. consumer ate 14.4 pounds of seafood in 2012, the last year for which figures are available, down from 15 pounds in 2011 and a record high 16.6 pounds consumed in 2004. That’s far less than the average 82 pounds of chicken, 57 pounds of beef and 46 pounds of pork. Americans consume in a year. It’s also much less than the amount of seafood eaten in other countries. The average Japanese consumer eats 120 pounds a year, while Spaniards consume 96 pounds.
The main problems are consumer fears (mercury levels) and a general lack of knowledge concerning seafood preparation and recipes.
Now I know what you’re thinking: If you want the fish sticks so much, why don’t you just buy them? I always intend to (even at the risk of provoking the Mrs!). Except I always forget, drawn instead to some other food item, possibly Slim Jims.