Tuna is a prized fish that is enjoyed by many around the world. However, if you’ve ever seen a tuna being prepared for sale, you may have noticed that the tail is often cut off.
This may leave you wondering why this is done and what purpose it serves. In this article, we’ll explore the reasons behind this practice and shed some light on the process of preparing tuna for market.
So, grab a seat and get ready to learn more about one of the world’s most popular fish!
Why Do They Cut The Tail Off Tuna?
The tail of a tuna is usually cut off during the preparation process because it makes the bleeding process much easier. When a tuna is caught, it is often exhausted and has a high metabolic rate, which can lead to a build-up of lactic acid in the muscle tissue. This can spoil the quality of the meat if the tuna is brought aboard immediately and bled.
To prevent this, many commercial tuna fishermen tie a rope around the tail and anchor it to the boat while also re-hooking the tuna in the mouth. This allows the fish to swim alongside the boat at a slow pace until it is revived and the lactic acid build-up dissipates enough.
Once the tuna has been revived, it is then bled by making two deep cuts in the tail to sever the arteries. This allows the blood to flow out of the fish and helps to preserve the quality of the meat.
The Importance Of Tuna In The Fishing Industry
Tuna is one of the most commercially valuable fish in the world, contributing more than $40 billion to the global economy each year. It is fished in more than 70 countries and marketed in fresh, frozen, or canned form. Tuna species are critical to both commercial and recreational fisheries, providing employment and food all over the world. The global tuna market was worth around US$12 billion in 2018, and the annual value of tuna product sales is as high as US$42 billion, making up nearly 30% of total global seafood trade. In the Asia-Pacific region alone, the tuna industry directly employs more than 6 million people.
Despite its economic importance, high demand for tuna has led to overfishing and depletion of stocks. In 2017, among the seven principal tuna species, 33.3 percent of the stocks were estimated to be fished at biologically unsustainable levels. To address this issue, organizations like WWF work with the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) and International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF) to help global tuna fisheries implement more sustainable practices. This ensures that this valuable resource is harvested responsibly, yielding benefits for ecosystems and livelihoods.
Tuna processing is also a hugely important industry, with Thailand being the dominant player responsible for nearly half of canned tuna production. Its processing industry employs around 80,000 people. In Ecuador, tuna fishing and processing employs 25,000 people, with exports generating over US$1 billion in 2018. It’s in the island nations of the Pacific Ocean, though, that tuna holds the greatest socio-economic importance. Pacific island countries control around 60% of the total tuna catch and for some small island states it represents their most important economic resource.
From food, livelihoods and cultural traditions to multimillion-dollar businesses, it’s clear there’s a lot riding on tuna. All the more reason to ensure stocks are managed sustainably and that practices like bleeding are done correctly to preserve the quality of this valuable resource.
The Process Of Preparing Tuna For Market
After the tuna has been bled, it is delivered to the cannery either directly from the fishing vessel or from reefer ships delivering from foreign fishing companies. The majority of the tuna delivered is frozen, and to maintain quality, it is moved promptly from the vessel into cold storage facilities at the cannery.
During the unloading process, the fish are grouped according to size and weight. Quality assurance provides uniformity in thawing and precooking. Bumble Bee specialists inspect the vessel and the condition of the fish delivered to ensure that only the highest quality tuna is processed.
To begin processing, tuna is moved from the freezer to thawing tanks. These are large water tanks where the tuna is uniformly thawed to prepare for initial cleaning. The tuna is then loaded into metal racks, which are wheeled into large steam pressure-cooking chambers called retorts.
Tuna is baked for a prescribed time and temperature, depending upon the size of the fish. This steam baking removes excess oils and prepares the tuna for the easy removal of skin and bones. After baking, the racks of tuna are moved to a temperature-controlled room for cooling.
Once the tuna has cooled, it is sent to cleaning tables where the separation of edible meat (loins) from skin and bones begins. There are two stations used for preparing Albacore tuna – one for skin removal and another for deboning. These extra steps are taken to assure premium-quality canned tuna.
The cleaned loins are then moved to the canning process. Cans are automatically filled with tuna and move in a single line from the filling machine to the vacuum sealer. Next, the cans of tuna automatically receive the appropriate measure of salt, vegetable broth, water, or oil.
Lids are then automatically clinched on top of the can before entering the vacuum sealer, where the air is withdrawn and the lid hermetically sealed. The cans proceed through a water bath for cleaning off oil residue, and then are placed back into retort baskets.
After the prescribed cook time and temperature, the sterilized canned tuna is removed from the retort and moved to a cooling area. When the cans have cooled, they are labeled.
The day following packing, quality control personnel cut open representative samples from the previous day’s pack and grade them for vacuum, appearance, smell, texture, style of pack, cleanliness, and flavor. The results of these cuttings determine if the product is marketable as Bumble Bee.
Throughout the entire process, important quality control measures are taken to meet Bumble Bee standards – one that is equal or superior to any premium brand for consistency in appearance, cleanliness, smell, and flavor.
Why Is The Tail Cut Off?
Tuna tails are cut off during the preparation process to facilitate the bleeding process. When a tuna is caught, it is often exhausted and has a high metabolic rate, which can lead to a build-up of lactic acid in the muscle tissue. This can spoil the quality of the meat if the tuna is brought aboard immediately and bled. To prevent this, many commercial tuna fishermen tie a rope around the tail and anchor it to the boat while also re-hooking the tuna in the mouth.
Once the tuna has been revived, it is then bled by making two deep cuts in the tail to sever the arteries. This allows the blood to flow out of the fish and helps to preserve the quality of the meat. The tail is specifically targeted for cutting because it is an area with a high concentration of arteries and veins, making it an efficient way to bleed the fish. Additionally, removing the tail makes it easier to handle and transport the fish, especially when dealing with large tunas. Overall, cutting off the tail of a tuna is a necessary step in ensuring that its meat remains fresh and high-quality.
The Benefits Of Removing The Tail
Removing the tail of a tuna has several benefits during the preparation process. Firstly, it makes the bleeding process much easier and quicker. By cutting off the tail, the arteries in the tail are exposed, making it easier to sever them and allow the blood to flow out of the fish. This helps to preserve the quality of the meat by preventing a build-up of lactic acid in the muscle tissue, which can spoil the taste and texture of the fish.
Secondly, removing the tail also makes it easier to handle and transport the tuna. A large tuna can weigh several hundred pounds, and its tail can be quite long and heavy. By removing the tail, it reduces the overall weight of the fish and makes it easier to handle and transport.
Finally, removing the tail can also make it easier to fillet the fish. The tail can be quite tough and difficult to cut through, especially if it is still attached to the rest of the fish. By removing it beforehand, it makes it easier to cut through the rest of the fish and produce clean fillets.
Other Practices In Tuna Preparation
Aside from cutting off the tail to bleed the tuna, there are other practices in tuna preparation that can affect the quality of the meat. One of these practices is marinating the tuna before cooking. Marinating can help to tenderize the meat and add flavor. A popular marinade for tuna is a mixture of soy sauce, sesame oil, and rice vinegar. Other ingredients such as ginger, garlic, and honey can also be added to enhance the flavor.
Another way to prepare tuna is by grilling it. Grilling gives the tuna a smoky flavor and crispy exterior while maintaining its juicy texture. To grill tuna, it is important to grease the grill rack or spray it with nonstick cooking spray to prevent sticking. Brushing the tuna steaks with melted butter or olive oil and seasoning as desired can also add flavor.
For those who prefer their tuna raw, there are various dishes that use fresh tuna such as poke bowls, sushi rolls, and tartare. When using raw tuna, it is important to ensure that it is fresh and of high quality. Tuna should have a bright red color and firm texture. It should also be stored properly in a cooler or freezer until ready to use.