By Dave Pashley, Processing Director and Plant Manager
In last month’s Wharfside, Diane Morrison defined “health” for us and our salmon definitely fit the definition. Marine Harvest salmon are healthy; packed with essential omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins. It is then the responsibility of my department to take healthy fish and process and package them safely.
To put what we do into perspective, we produce over 500,000 meals each and every day. Each meal has to be harvested, processed, and shipped in the safest possible way.
First, we harvest our salmon humanely and ensure each fish is “locked in time” so to speak – quality is maintained as the clock is now ticking. Only seconds after swimming in the net pen, our fish are placed into an ice-cold slurry, which helps to quickly lower the core temperature of the fish down to zero degrees Celsius in less than four hours. This quick chill slows the rigor process, slows the growth of food borne bacteria/pathogens, and slows the natural process of spoilage. This step is critical to the shelf life, quality, safety, and wholesomeness of the food we produce.
The fish are then quickly pumped from the harvest boat through the process flow at our processing plants without increasing temperature, without adding any food spoilage bacteria or pathogens, and without damaging them. To accomplish this, the process has to be fast. We use specialized equipment and trained staff to quickly eviscerate the salmon, grade them, box them on fresh ice, and load them into cooler trucks for the trip to Vancouver. The salmon have to maintain their cold temperature throughout the entire process: from harvest boat to box in a matter of minutes. On a typical work day, a truck of fresh salmon leaves the Port Hardy Plant every 60 minutes.
Exceptional plant hygiene is also a key factor in the process. Special footwear is provided to slip over your shoes upon entering the office area for a simple reason – to keep the outside out! Prior to entering the process areas, each worker or visitor receives clean coveralls, and personal protective equipment such as earplugs, hairnets, goggles, and gloves. Hand washing is mandatory and people have commented that we are tougher than a hospital operating room! This may seem cumbersome, but it is all done to ensure a safe and healthy product is delivered to our customers.
All equipment and surfaces are randomly sampled and swabbed for further analysis by internal and external laboratories looking for any bacteria or pathogens that may cause concern to human health or product spoilage. The plant is also equipped with metal detectors; that means every box is scanned before it leaves the line. We do not add anything to the salmon that doesn’t belong there.
Audits, audits and more audits! We are audited at random and (at minimum) annually by government and third party auditors that ensure we are walking the talk. Both plants, in Port Hardy and Klemtu, have passed the Canadian Foods Inspection Agency audits, the Food and Drug Administration audits, and most recently at Port Hardy Processing a third party audit for Best Aquaculture Practices – with flying colours.
To view the Marin Harvest video “From egg to plate” click here.