The New International Encyclopædia/Fish as Food

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FISH AS FOOD. Fish is almost universally recognized as one of the important food materials, and enters into the diet of very many if not most American families. From recent data collected by the United States Fish Commission it appears that the total weight of the fish marketed yearly in the United States is 1,696,000.000 pounds, having a value of $47,200,000. By the processes of canning, salting, smoking, and otherwise preserving, the value of the fish is very much increased. In addition, thousands of pounds of fish are annually caught by sportsmen, but statistics of the amount are not available. Of the very large quantity of fish annually placed on the American market the greater part is consumed at home, although a portion is prepared in various ways for export. The preference for fresh-water or salt-water fish is a matter of individual taste. Both are, so far as known, equally wholesome. The market value of fish is affected by various conditions. Among these are the locality from which they come, the season in which they are taken, and the food on which they have grown.

Fish are sold either dressed or round, i.e. whole. Sometimes only the entrails are removed. Often, however, especially when dressed for cooking, the head, fins, and, less frequently, the bones, are removed. This entails a considerable loss in weight as well as of nutritive material. It has been stated on good authority that in dressing fish the following percentages are lost: Large-mouthed black bass, sea-bass, cisco, kingfish, mullet, white perch, pickerel, pike, tomcod, weakfish, and whitefish, each, 17½ per cent.; small-mouthed black bass, eel, Spanish mackerel, porgy, and turbot, each, 13½ per cent.; butter-fish, 12½ per cent.; shad, 11 per cent., and brook-trout, 16½ per cent. More recent figures for loss in weight in dressing are as follows: Bullhead, 50 per cent.; buffalo-fish and lake sturgeon, 40 per cent.; carp and sucker, 35 per cent.; fresh water sheepshead, 23 per cent.; grass pike, black bass, white bass, yellow perch, and salmon, 15 per cent.; and eels, 10 per cent.

Fresh water and salt water fish alike are offered for sale as taken from the water, or preserved in various ways. Large quantities of fish are dried, salted, and smoked, the processes being employed alone or in combination. These methods insure preservation, but modify the flavor. Several fish products are also prepared by these processes. For example, caviar, prepared very largely in Russia, and now made to a large extent also in the United States, is usually prepared from sturgeon-roe by salting. The methods of salting and packing vary somewhat and give rise to a number of varieties.

When fish is salted or otherwise cured there is a considerable loss in weight due to removal of the entrails, drying, etc. Codfish loses 60 per cent. in preparation for market. If the market-dried fish be boned, there is a further loss of 20 per cent. The loss in weight of pollack is 60 per cent.; haddock, 62 per cent.; hake, 56 per cent.; and cusk, 51 per cent. The canning industry has been enormously developed in recent years, and thousands of pounds of fish, oysters, clams, lobsters, shrimps, etc., are annually preserved in this way. Various kinds of fish extract, clam-juice, etc., are offered for sale. There are also a number of fish pastes—anchovy paste, for instance—and similar products which are used as relishes or condiments. Preservatives such as salicylate of soda are employed to some extent with fish, and especially oysters, for shipping. The extended use of such materials is not desirable, since some of them are justly regarded as harmful.

Oysters and other shellfish are placed on the market alive in the shell, or are removed from the shell and kept in good condition by chilling or other means. In the shell oysters are usually transported in barrels or sacks. Shipment is made to far inland points in refrigerator cars, and to Europe in cold-storage chambers of vessels. Oysters are often sold as they are taken from the salt water. However, the practice of ‘freshening,’ ‘fattening,’ or ‘floating’ is very widespread—that is, oysters are placed in fresh or brackish water for a short period, in which they become plump in appearance, owing chiefly to the water taken up by their tissues. They have a different flavor from those taken directly from salt water. Lobsters, crabs, and other crustacea, though sometimes boiled before being marketed, are usually sold alive. Turtle and terrapin are usually marketed alive. Turtle soup, however, is canned in large quantities. Frogs, valued for their hind legs, are marketed alive or dressed in all seasons, but are in the best condition in fall or winter.

The average composition of the principal fish, crustacea, etc., used for food is shown in the table below. That of others less frequently eaten is similar.

Fish usually contains less fat than is found in meat. There is, however, much difference in the fat content of the various kinds of fish. They may, indeed, be roughly divided into three classes: The first class would include those containing over 5 per cent. fat; the second those containing between 2 and 5 per cent.; and the third those containing less than 2 per cent. The first group would include such fish as salmon, shad, herring, Spanish mackerel, and butter-fish; the second, whitefish, mackerel, mullet, halibut, and porgy; the third, smelt, black bass, bluefish, white perch, weakfish, brook-trout, hake, flounder, yellow perch, pike, pickerel, sea-bass, cod, and haddock.


Composition of Fish, Mollusks, Crustaceans, etc., Considered as Food.


KIND OF FOOD MATERIAL  Refuse 
(bone,
skin,
etc.)
Salt  Water   Protein  Fat Carbs[1]  Mineral 
matter
Fuel
value
per
 pound 









Fresh Fish  Per ct.   Per ct.   Per ct.   Per ct.   Per ct.   Per ct.   Per ct.   Calories 
Alewife, whole 49.5 ............ 37.5  9.7 2.5 ............ 0.8  285
Bass, large-mouthed black, dressed 46.7 ............ 41.9 10.3  .5 ............ .6 215
Bass, small-mouthed black, dressed 46.4 ............ 40.1 11.5 1.3 ............ .7 270
Bass, sea, dressed 46.8 ............ 42.2 10.1  .2 ............ .7 195
Bluefish, dressed 48.6 ............ 40.3  9.8  .6 ............ .7 205
Butterfish, dressed 34.6 ............ 45.8 11.7 7.2 ............ .7 520
Cod, dressed 29.9 ............ 58.5 10.6  .2 ............ .8 205
Cod, steaks  9.2 ............ 72.4 16.9  .5 ............ 1    335
Cusk, dressed 40.3 ............ 49   10.1  .1 ............ .5 190
Eel, salt-water, dressed 20.2 ............ 57.2 14.6 7.2 ............ .8 575
Flounder, common, dressed 57   ............ 35.8  6.3  .3 ............ .6 130
Hake, dressed 52.5 ............ 39.5  7.2  .3 ............ .5 145
Haddock, dressed 51   ............ 40    8.2  .2 ............ .6 160
Halibut, dressed 17.7 ............ 61.9 15.1 4.4 ............ .9 465
Herring, whole 46   ............ 37.3 10   5.9 ............ .8 435
Mackerel, dressed 40.7 ............ 43.7 11.4 3.5 ............ .7 360
Mackerel, Spanish, dressed 24.4 ............ 51.4 15.8 7.2 ............ 1.2  595
Mullet, dressed 49   ............ 38.2  9.8 2.4 ............ .6 285
Perch, white, dressed 54.6 ............ 34.4  8.7 1.8 ............ .5 235
Perch, yellow, dressed 35.1 ............ 50.7 12.6  .7 ............ .9 265
Pickerel, dressed 35.9 ............ 51.1 11.9  .2 ............ .9 230
Pike, dressed 30.5 ............ 55.4 13    .4 ............ .7 260
Pollack, dressed 28.5 ............ 54.3 15.5  .6 ............ 1.1  315
Pompano, dressed 45.5 ............ 39.5 10.2 4.3 ............ .5 370
Red snapper, dressed 48.9 ............ 40.3  9.6  .6 ............ .6 205
Salmon, California (sections)  5.2 ............ 60.3 16.5 17 ............ 1    1,025  
Salmon, Maine, dressed 23.8 ............ 51.2 14.6 9.5 ............ .9 675
Shad, dressed 43.9 ............ 39.6 10.3 5.4 ............ .8 420
Shad, roe ............ ............ 71.2 23.4 3.8 ............ 1.6  595
Smelt, whole 41.9 ............ 46.1 10   1   ............ 1 230
Sturgeon, dressed 14.4 ............ 67.4 15.4 1.6 ............ 1.2  355
Tomcod, dressed 51.4 ............ 39.6  8.2  .3 ............ .5 165
Trout, brook, dressed 37.9 ............ 48.4 11.7 1.3 ............ .7 275
Trout, brook, whole 48.1 ............ 40.4  9.8 1.1 ............ .6 230
Trout, lake, dressed 35.2 ............ 45   12.4 6.6 ............ .8 510
Turbot, dressed 39.5 ............ 43.1  7.9 8.7 ............ .8 515
Weakfish, dressed 41.7 ............ 46.1 10.2 1.3 ............ .7 245
Whitefish, whole 53.5 ............ 32.5 10.3 3   ............ .7 320
General average of fresh fish as sold 42   ............ 44   10.5 2.5 ............ 1    300
Preserved Fish
Mackerel, “No. 1,” salted 33.3  7.1 28.1 14.7 15.1  ............ 1.7  910
Cod, salted and dried 24.9 17.2 40.3 16    .4 ............ 1.2  315
Cod, “boneless codfish,” salted and dried ............ 21.5 54.4 22.1  .3 ............ 1.7  425
Caviar ............ ............ 38.1 30   19.7 7.6 [2]4.6   1,530  
Herring, salted, smoked, and dried 44.4  6.5 19.2 20.2 8.8 ............ .9  45
Haddock, “findon haddie,” salted, smoked, and dried 32.2  1.4 49.2 16.1  .1 ............ 1    305
Halibut, salted, smoked, and dried  6.9 12.1 46   19.1 14 ............ 1.9  945
Sardine, canned ............ 53.6 24   12.1 ............ 5.3  955
Salmon, canned  3.9 59.3 19.3 15.3 ............ 1.2  1,005  
Mackerel, canned ............  1.9 68.2 19.9 8.7 ............ 1.3  735
Mackerel, salt, canned 19.7  8.3 34.8 13.8 21.3 ............ 2.1  1,155  
Tunny (horse-mackerel), canned ............ ............ 72.7 21.5 4.1 ............ 1.7  575
Haddock, smoked, canned ............  5.6 68.7 21.8 2.3 ............ 1.6  505
Mollusks
Oysters, solid ............ ............ 88.3  6.1 1.4 3.3 .9 235
Oysters, in shell 82.3 ............ 15.4  1.1  .2  .6 .4  40
Oysters, canned ............ ............ 85.3  7.4 2.1 3.9 1.3  300
Scallops ............ ............ 80.3 14.7  .2 3.4 1.4  345
Long clams, in shell 43.6 ............ 48.4  4.8  .6 1.1 1.5  135
Long clams, canned ............ ............ 84.5 1.3 2.9 2.3  275
Round clams, removed from shell ............ ............ 80.8 10.6 1.1 5.2 2.3  340
Round clams, canned ............ ............ 83   10.4  .8 3   2.8  285
Mussels 49.3 ............ 42.7  4.4  .5 2.1 1    140
General average of mollusks (exclusive of canned) 60.2 ............ 34    3.2  .4 1.3 .9 100
Crustaceans
Lobster, in shell 62.1 ............ 31.1  5.5  .7 ............ .6 130
Lobster, canned ............ ............ 77.8 18.1 1.1  .6 2.4  395
Crawfish, in shell 87.7 ............ 10    2    .1  .1 .1  45
Crab, in shell 55.8 ............ 34.1  7.3  .9  .5 1.4  185
Crab, canned ............ ............ 80   15.8 1.5  .8 1.9  370
Shrimp, canned ............ ............ 70.8 25.4 1    .2 2.6  520
General average of crustaceans (exclusive of canned) 73.7 ............ 20.7  4.3  .4  .2 .5 100
Terrapin, Turtle, etc.
Terrapin, in shell 79   ............ 15.6  4.5  .7 ............ .2 115
Green turtle, in shell 76   ............ 19.1  4.5  .1 ............ .3  90
Average of turtle and terrapin 77.5 ............ 17.4  4.2  .7 ............ .2 105
Frogs' legs 32   ............ 57   10.2  .1 ............ .7 210
General average of fish, mollusks, crustaceans, etc. 44   ............ 42.5 10   2.5  .1 .9 295


When judged by its composition, the place of fish in the diet is the same as that of meat; that is, it is supplementary to cereals and other vegetables, most of which, as wheat, rye, maize, rice, potatoes, etc., are rich in carbohydrates, which are not present in appreciable amounts in the flesh of fish. Preserved fish, as a rule, show a small percentage of refuse, with the exception of a few kinds which are preserved whole. The percentage of actual nutrients is much larger than in the corresponding fresh fish, owing to the removal of a large part of the refuse and more or less water. The gain in nutrients is mostly represented by protein, which is the most valuable nutrient. Canned fish, which is in effect cooked fish, compares favorably as regards composition with the fresh material. Generally speaking, the amount of refuse is small, since the portions commonly rejected in preparation for the table have been removed before canning. Shellfish resemble meat and food fishes in general composition. They contain, however, an appreciable amount of carbohydrates. Judging by the relative amount consumed, oysters are the most important of the shellfish. Speaking roughly, a quart of oysters contains on an average about the same quantity of actual nutritive substances as a quart of milk, or three-fourths of a pound of beef, or two pounds of fresh codfish, or a pound of bread.

A number of experiments have been made with man to learn how thoroughly fish is digested and to compare it in this respect with other foods. It has been found that fish and lean beef are about equally digestible. In each case about 95 per cent. of the total dry matter, 97 per cent. of the protein, and about 95 per cent. of the fat were retained by the body. Other experiments of the same character indicate that salt fish is less thoroughly digested than fresh fish. The nutritive value of shellfish, as of other fish, depends to a considerable extent upon their digestibility; but so little is known upon this point that nothing more can be said with certainty here than that oysters belong to the more easily digestible class of foods. So far as can be learned no experiments have been made which show how thoroughly crabs, clams, and other crustacea, turtle and terrapin, and frogs' legs are digested. Inspection of a considerable number of dietary studies of families of farmers, mechanics, professional men, and others, carried on in different regions of the United States, shows that out of the 20 per cent. of the total food and the 43 per cent. of the total protein obtained from animal sources, only about 2 per cent. of the total food and 4 per cent. of the total protein is furnished by fish, shellfish, etc., showing to what a limited extent this valuable food is used in the average household. It is not improbable that in communities where fishing constitutes the principal industry much larger quantities are consumed. It has been found that the laborers employed in the fisheries of Russia consume from 20 to 62 ounces of fish daily. This, with some bread, millet meal, and tea, constitutes their diet throughout the fishing season. These quantities are unusually large, but no bad effects are mentioned as following the diet.

There is a widespread notion that fish contains large proportions of phosphorus, and on that account is particularly valuable as brain food. The percentages of phosphorus in specimens thus far analyzed are not larger than are found in the flesh of other animals used for food. But even so, there is no experimental evidence to warrant the assumption that fish is more valuable than meats or other food material for the nourishment of the brain. The opinion of eminent physiologists is that phosphorus is no more essential to the brain than nitrogen, potassium, or any other element which occurs in its tissues. The value commonly attributed to the phosphorus is based on a popular misconception of statements by one of the early writers on such topics. It should be stated that most physiologists regard fish as a particularly desirable food for persons of sedentary habits, since it is easily digested and not too hearty. While, so far as can be learned, such statements do not depend upon experimental evidence, they are thought to embody the result of experience.

In cooking, fish may be boiled, steamed, broiled, fried, baked, or combined with other materials in some made dish. When boiled, it is stated that the loss in weight ranges from 5 to 30 per cent., a loss that consists largely of water—that is, the cooked fish is less moist than the raw. Little fat or protein is lost. So far as known, experiments have not been made which show the losses l' other methods of cooking. It is, however, probable that there would be usually a very considerable loss of water.

In view of statements of a popular nature which have been made on the dangers from eating poisonous fish or from ptomaines contained in fish, a few words summarizing the actual knowledge on these topics seem desirable. There are several species of fish which are actually poisonous. Few of them, however, are found in the United States, and the chances of their being offered for sale are very small. Such fish are mostly confined to tropical waters. Fish may contain parasites, some of which are injurious to man. These are, however, destroyed by the thorough cooking to which fish is usually subjected. Occasionally cases of ptomaine poisoning have been traced to eating fish or fish products. Fish which has been frozen and, after thawing, kept for a time before it is cooked is especially likely to contain injurious ptomaines. Canned fish should never be allowed to remain long in the can after opening, but should be used at once. There is some possibility of danger from the combined action of the can contents and oxygen of the air upon the lead of the solder or the can itself. Furthermore, canned fish seems peculiarly suited to the growth of microorganisms when exposed to the air. Finally, fish offered for sale should be handled in a cleanly manner and stored and exposed for sale under hygienic conditions. Oysters when ‘floated’ or ‘fattened’ should never be placed in water contaminated by sewage. Severe illness and death have resulted in a number of cases from eating raw oysters contaminated with sewage containing typhoid fever germs.

For further information, consult the authorities referred to under Food; also Atwater, “The Chemical Composition and Nutritive Value of American Food Fishes and Invertebrates.” Report of Commissioner of Fish and Fisheries, 1883 (Washington, 1885); United States Department of Agriculture, Office of Experiment Stations, Bulletin 28 (revised); Langworthy, “Fish as Food,” in id., Farmers' Bulletin 85 (Washington, 1899).


AMERICAN FOOD-FISHES

NIE 1905 Fish as Food - American food-fishes.jpg
COPYRIGHT, 1902, BY DODD, MEAD, & COMPANY JULIUS BIEN & CO.LITH.N.Y.
1 SALMON 110  NATURAL SIZE  - SALMO SALAR 4 BLUEFISH 15  NATURAL SIZE  - POMATOMUS SALTATRIX
2 RED SNAPPER 15 - NEOMÆNIS AYA 5 SHAD 15 - CLUPEA SAPIDISSIMA
3 HALIBUT 112 - HIPPOGLOSSUS HIPPOGLOSSUS 6 BLACK SEABASS 14 - CENTROPRISTES STRIATUS


  1. Carbohydrates
  2. Including added salt.