Has the quality of farmed cod improved over the last 15 years? During the course of this winter, Nofima scientists and the restaurant industry will find out.

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Reduced cod quotas are increasing the interest in farmed cod. In order to provide the growing industry with knowledge about quality, economy and the market, Nofima is starting a dedicated project on farmed cod.

Just over ten years ago, there was a great deal of optimism regarding cod farming, but low prices and other challenges led to the industry’s disappearance. Despite this, Nofima has continued to run the cod breeding programme during the course of these difficult years.

Fifth generation

For over 20 years, the institute has been researching and breeding a very good broodstock which produces roe and fry that are sold to fish farms. In addition, there is a private company engaged in broodstock and the sale of fry. Today, the fifth generation of farmed cod is swimming around in the net-pens, and these fish are considered livestock – technically speaking, domesticated. In this project, the fifth generation will be slaughtered and compared with the first generation. 

In recent years, cod quotas have been historically high, but a marked reduction is expected in the coming years. This increases the interest in cod farming. Another factor is that fish farms can offer fresh cod all year round. Traditional cod fishing mainly takes place during the winter months, which means that there is limited supply of cod in the autumn. 

Research is being disseminated to the industry

The new industry requires more knowledge, which is why Nofima is now starting the project.

“Our social mission is to deliver research-based knowledge to the industries, and this is why we believe it is important to spend money on research into the quality, economy and market for farmed cod. Research that we can disseminate to cod farmers and management as soon as it is ready”, says Division Director Magnar Pedersen.

Scientist Morten Heide will lead this project. He has a lot of experience as a market researcher and has worked extensively with the whitefish industry and also farmed cod during the previous initiative.

“Our first step will be to test the farmed cod at restaurants in Tromsø. Chefs will taste, be interviewed and also fill out forms regarding taste, texture, shelf life and other quality parameters. We will then compare these results with a similar survey conducted 16-17 years ago and see how the quality and perception of farmed cod has evolved”, says Morten Heide. 

Economy and quality

The project will also map the economic aspects of cod farming, and includes trials to determine the shelf life and quality of the fish. 

“Economy turned out to be a bottleneck in the previous round of cod farming. In particular, there were problems regarding a large percentage of relatively small fish that achieved low prices. Low growth and lower yields than in salmon farming also pushed up production costs. Therefore, it will be important to investigate whether these conditions have improved through breeding and production process improvements”, says economics researcher Øystein Hermansen.

“We want to find out if farmed cod differs significantly from wild-caught cod. We do this by measuring the proportion of fillet, head, liver and back, looking at the quality of whole fish and fillets – colour, fillet gaping and pigmentation defects, and conducting a simple sensory assessment of the quality characteristics during cold storage. We will focus especially on fillet gaping and odour”, explains senior scientist Sjurdur Joensen.

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