Japan’s chocolate-fed yellowtail

MATSUYAMA, Japan – With Friday’s debut of “choco-buri” yellowtail, Valentine’s Day chocolates now have some fishy competition.

These buri yellowtail, which have been jointly developed by the Ehime prefectural government and a local firm, are farm-raised using feed mixed with chocolate.

By taking advantage of the antioxidant properties of polyphenol in the cacao used to make chocolate, it is possible to extend the freshness of choco-buri compared to regular farm-raised yellowtail.

Through February 14, choco-buri is on the menu at the Kurasushi conveyor belt sushi chain across the nation. After that, the fish will be sold at supermarkets in Ehime Prefecture.

Farmed yellowtail generally has a higher fat content than the wild-caught fish, so they usually oxidise faster, which reduces their shelf life. This is a disadvantage as the period they can stay fresh for consumption lasts only two days or so. This challenge prompted the prefecture’s fishery research centre to try to delay the deterioration by feeding yellowtail antioxidant ingredients, and polyphenols contained in chocolate were found to be effective.

‘Choco-buri’ yellowtail are farm-raised using feed mixed with chocolate

The prefecture already has released on the market mikan-buri, farm-raised by taking advantage of the antioxidant effects of mikan orange peels. The dark red meat areas of mikan-buri start discolouring rapidly about 96 hours after being harvested.

When yellowtail are given feed that contains 10 per cent chocolate starting 20 days before shipment, such discoloration has been successfully delayed until about 120 hours after being harvested. This achievement can help expand sales destinations for the prefecture’s farmed yellowtail to places where Japanese food is booming, such as North America and the Middle East.

Uwajima Project Co, which developed the chocolate-fed fish with the prefectural government, aims to sell more than 200,000 choco-buri a year, worth about two billion yen. While the retail price is about 1,200 per kilogramme yen, 50 yen to 60 higher yen than that of regular yellowtail, the company already has significantly increased its production target for choco-buri as requests for transactions have been rising from retailers, among others.

“They don’t have a chocolate flavour, but with their mild taste, I recommend them as sashimi or in shabu-shabu,” said Uwajima Project President Kenichi Kiwada.

“We also aim to expand their consumption in summer because they remain fresh for a longer time,” he added.

A prefectural fisheries official said that while yellowtail appeared to have difficulty eating feed mixed with orange peels, perhaps because of the rinds’ bitterness, they ate the chocolate-mixed feed well.

A hopeful Ehime Governor Tokihiro Nakamura said, “Given the rush of inquiries from across the country, if all goes well, they will become a top-class brand among fishery products farmed in the prefecture.” – Text and Photo by Japan News Yomiuri