Seafood in the desert: to eat or not to eat?

Fresh-off-the-ice salmon lies on the filleting table at Blessings Seafood Company. (Photo by Amanda Lennon/Arizona Sonora News Service)

The myths of seafood are tales as old as time: you should never eat sushi on a Monday, and you should also never eat fish in the desert are two big ones. The reality of the freshness and quality of fish and sushi, especially in places like Arizona may surprise you.

The beginning of the filleting process demonstrated on fresh salmon. (Photo by Amanda Lennon/Arizona Sonora News Service)

For starters much of today’s fish, whether you get it in California, New York or anywhere in between, is farmed. If we ate fish at the rate that we do without the supply from fish farms, we would have run several species of fish into extinction long ago. Since a majority of the fish we consume in the U.S. is farmed in different countries, the difference of shipping it to California vs. Arizona is minuscule.

“The fish is only transported for a few extra hours,” said Steve Tidwell, owner of Blessings Seafood Company in Tucson. According to Tidwell, the fish he receives is caught wild or harvested at a fish farm and put on ice immediately. It is then shipped out within one to two days and they usually receive the shipment within two days.

Their shipments from Tasmania are guaranteed for a delivery time no longer than 24 hours. Canada guarantees their wild caught fish to be delivered to Blessings Seafood within 24-36 hours from the time that it is caught. The fish is transported via climate-controlled crates on boats, planes, and trucks so there’s never a moment when the fish’s temperature could rise, causing it to spoil… even in the middle of the desert. Blessings Seafood receives fresh fish shipments at least once every day.

Unlike most wholesale seafood distributers, Blessings Seafood buys its fish whole.

Steve Tidwell fillets fish in the walk-in refrigerator at Blessings Seafood Company. (Photo by Amanda Lennon/Arizona Sonora News Service)

“Many companies will buy the fish pre-cut because it’s easier and more cost effective,” said Tidwell. However, this method does not result in the freshest possible fish. Once the fish it cut, it is packed and frozen. This way, the fish has the possibility of sitting at the packing company for extended periods of time, up to months. “We never buy frozen fish because the freshness is not certain.”

Upon receiving shipments, Blessings Seafood gets busy with filleting and deboning the fish immediately.

“We do all of our deboning by hand so that the chances of missing any bones is slim-to-none,” said Tidwell. It’s tedious work and makes it so that they are not able to ship more fish due to the lack of time to fillet and debone it all but they pride themselves on quality over quantity.

Steve Tidwell demonstrates the by-hand deboning at Blessings Seafood Company. (Photo by Amanda Lennon/Arizona Sonora News Service)

The wholesale seafood distributing company based in southern Arizona serves Tucson, Phoenix and even a few restaurants in Scottsdale. Rincon Market in Tucson gets shipments from Blessings Seafood about four times per day so that the fish is never filleted sooner than need be. This ensures quality and freshness.

As far as not eating seafood or sushi on a Monday, the myth is completely untrue. Markets and suppliers of today are well equipped to keep fish fresh. 

Amanda Lennon is a reporter for Arizona Sonora News, a service from the School of Journalism with the University of Arizona. Contact her at amandalennon@email.arizona.edu.

Click here for high-resolution photos. 

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