the last wild food
February 4, 2019 8:21 AM   Subscribe

"How did the last fish you ate die? If you don’t already know, then I’ve got some bad news: the most likely answer is that it asphyxiated. Slowly. " And since we know that fish feel pain, and we should take suffering seriously, the Japanese fish-killing technique[demonstration] of ike jime, to reduce pain, preserve freshness and increase flavor, is catching on on the United States

Why isn't there more sushi-grade fish from the Gulf of Mexico?
The Art of Ike Jime: How to Properly Kill a Sushi-Grade Fish

The Practical Philosophy of Fish-Killing and The Ike-Jime Man

see also:
Japanese Fish-Killing: Ike Jime Smackdown Part 1
Ike Jime is a Japanese fish killing technique. The spinal cord and main blood vessels are severed at the head and tail, a long needle is pushed down the spinal cord, and the fish is placed in ice water to bleed out.

Several months ago, Dave Chang of Momofuku fame called me and said, “We have to investigate this Ike Jime thing. McGee says it’s bullshit.”

I am pretty sure McGee (that would be Harold McGee, master blaster of science in the kitchen) didn’t say that Ike Jime was bullshit, but rather that he couldn’t think of any reason it would make a difference in the taste of the fish.
Japanese Fish-Killing: Ike Jime Smackdown Part 2
The difference between the stripers was amazing. The un-bled striper’s flesh was obviously ruddy, had a metallic flavor and a mealy texture. The Japanese-bled fish was very clean tasting and didn’t have the mealy texture of the un-bled fish. It was good. The Ike Jime striper, however, clearly had a firmer, better texture. 100% of those present preferred it. If you look at the picture, you can see that the Ike Jime striper has more color than the Japanese-bled.
Ike Jime 3: Fish Killing 7 Ways
We all hated the taste and texture of stressed fish, every time. What does this tell us? Almost anything you can do to reduce the pre-slaughter stress on a fish is a good idea.

On day 1 Ike Jime clearly won. On day 2 it was middle of the pack. I suspect that the bruised fillet might have had something to do with this. The performance on day 1 really surprised us. We thought the immediate fillets would win or at least tie with Ike Jime, but Ike Jime had us beat. The Japanese bled fillet did well, but not well enough. Perhaps speed is the key –it is faster to do Ike Jime than to fillet. However, on small fish where Ike Jime is difficult, I think we could recommend Japanese bleed followed by immediate filleting.
Fish Anesthesiologists

Ike Jime 4: How-To Pointers
Ok. I know the blog has gotten a bit gruesome with all the fish killing. This will be the last Ike Jime post for a little while; but before we move on I wanted to post some pointers for those wishing to try the technique.
posted by the man of twists and turns (11 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
I'm pleased to see this. I've met a lot of people, anecdotally, who have stopped eating most/all red meat for ethical reasons, but still eat fish and seafood without (seemingly) nearly as much thought.

HOWEVER, while we're at it: wild fish populations are collapsing! Bluefin tunas are majestic, beautiful, and going extinct! I'm glad that consumer support of factory farming is weakening, but ... alarmed at how often I see fish and seafood touted as the "safe/ethical" form of meat eating.
posted by nakedmolerats at 8:56 AM on February 4, 2019 [8 favorites]

I used to be into fishing. It was never comfortable dealing with the catch though. I can't really eat seafood, so I tended to catch and return, but when I kept the occasional fish it was hard to feel like killing them was a harmless affair throughout which they felt no pain as such.

I will admit to laughing at all the attempts to nang the fish into calm though. If we're going to keep eating fish, we should find out how to slaughter them with as little trauma as possible, sure, but that the same technique might work to keep both uni students and fish docile is somewhat amusing.
posted by AnhydrousLove at 9:08 AM on February 4, 2019 [1 favorite]

My local zoo used to feed the polar bears by releasing live fish into the enclosure. At some point, they switched to tossing dead, frozen fish into the enclosure. I asked the keeper about it and he said they had to stop because some concerned citizens flipped out over the barbarity of it all. Because barbarity is only okay if you can't see it.
posted by Missense Mutation at 9:37 AM on February 4, 2019 [2 favorites]

Most of the remaining non-permanently-screwed stocks are small schooling fish (sardines, herring, mackerel, etc). Ike-jime as a method of reducing suffering in larger fish is noble and probably worthwhile, but you're not going to be doing it to every sardine. If we're to equate the suffering of a bluefin with that of terrestrial livestock, then we should also consider that of a sardine to be comparable to that of a bluefin. Disregarding the suffering of 90+% of the fish we catch in favor of that of the largest and most charismatic 10% seems to repeat same problem within fisheries that ike-jime sought to address within the realm of animal harvesting as a whole.
posted by Rust Moranis at 10:22 AM on February 4, 2019 [2 favorites]

I came in to ask about fish clubbing, but then Rust Moranis' comment got me pondering tiny clubs for sardines and now I cannot formulate an intelligent comment, because I keep laughing at the thought. I'm sorry, sardines. You should not be so tasty.
posted by figment of my conation at 11:39 AM on February 4, 2019 [1 favorite]

comment got me pondering tiny clubs for sardines and now I cannot formulate an intelligent comment,
It's like the Seinfeld episode about flying in the tiny instruments from El Paso to fix the injured squirrel. "Sardines, we had a deal! "
posted by The_Vegetables at 12:07 PM on February 4, 2019 [1 favorite]

I used to freeze fish slowly in their origin water before consuming when I was an avid my head it was just like going into a deep sleep or hibernation and so suffering was minimal. This was also recommended for sick pet fish that cannot recover. I don't know if I actually ever researched whether this truly minimizes suffering or not because I stopped fishing recently.
posted by Young Kullervo at 12:14 PM on February 4, 2019

This is interesting. I strongly prefer fish that are caught the same day I eat them, and I prefer to bring them home alive. I find they taste completely different. I didn't know this technique, but I can see that my more primitive method achieves some of the same goals. I'll have to try this way when I can get fish again (right now the weather is too bad).
posted by mumimor at 1:02 PM on February 4, 2019

The Humane Slaughter Association website discusses several fish killing techniques (percussive stunning, electrical stunning etc) but doesn't mention Ike Jime by name, although perhaps it falls under "gill cut without pre-stunning". Electrical stunning seems like it would be superior for killing large numbers of small fish.
posted by L.P. Hatecraft at 4:12 PM on February 4, 2019

"How did the last fish you ate die?"

Slapped against a rock. Stabbed in the brain is the other tried-and-true method. I'm pretty interested in Ike Jime, but don't really fish much any more since I live at the confluence of two fairly polluted rivers.
posted by aspersioncast at 4:29 PM on February 4, 2019 [2 favorites]

I’ve seen videos where high proof rum is applied to the gills before icing. Seems fairly quick.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 4:30 PM on February 4, 2019

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