You either Absolutely Love Sushi or You Hate It, There Is Nothing in Between. Here Are a Few Interesting Facts About Sushi.
They say the perfect piece of sushi is the one that fits into your mouth, and we couldn’t agree more. However, there’s more to the sushi food industry than the perfect bite. Today, we’ll look into 15 Things You Didn’t Know about SUSHI.
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From Cat Food to Delicacy
In the 1960s bluefin tuna was considered cat food, fast forward to present day and tuna sushi is more like a status symbol than a kitty nibble.
So valuable in fact, that in 2013 a bluefin tuna weighing 489 pounds, was bought by a Japanese restaurant chain owner called Kiyoshi Kimura, for $1.76 million at the world-famous Tsukiji fish market. If you break it down it cost $178 a piece of this sought-after fish!
Global Demand for Sushi
Sushi popularity transferred from migrant Japanese farm and railroad workers in the 19th century to Japan’s corporate executives in the 20th. From there it became a global phenomenon through gastronomic curiosity and growing populations of Japanese ex-pats across the world.
Japanese food culture is a strong mix of fusion and borrowed flavours. As early as 1900, sushi rolls included ham and Western-style black pepper. At that time Tuna wasn’t a delicacy, and the fatty cuts that are now a luxury were served to cats because the Japanese consumer preferred lean fish.
As sushi popularity spread, each region added its own flavour based on local food tastes and ingredients. The most well known is the California roll consisting of avocado and crab introduced in the 1960s in Los Angeles.
Brazilian Japanese sushi makers replaced the avo with mango to meet the needs of the nations sweet tooth. And by 2003 there were more sushi bars in São Paolo than Brazilian barbecues.
Was Your Sushi Caught Using Slave Labour?
Thanks to the Monterey Bay Aquarium – the people who brought us all the Seafood Watch program – known best for its red, yellow and green sustainable seafood-rating scheme, we will soon know if the conditions of the people who caught the fish was acceptable too.
A new Seafood Slavery Risk Tool will force corporate seafood manufacturers to reveal the conditions of labour in their supply chain. This is a critical move as the seafood industry is notoriously at risk of forced labour, human trafficking and hazardous child labour. Be sure to keep an eye on labelling and only by slavery free fish.
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Shrimp Is Causing Havoc With Sushi
As delicious as shrimp is, the industry is hiding a bunch of dirty practices. Shrimp isn’t endangered, but in catching it, many species are becoming endangered in the process. Drag or trawl nets used to gather up shrimp also haul in many more other creatures.
This is called bycatch and is tossed back into the ocean mostly already dead or dying. For every 1 pound of shrimp caught, 5 pounds of other ocean animals are devastated.
Humans are also enslaved in the shrimping industry. Thailand’s shrimp industry has come under the spotlight for human slavery.
Fish Availability Is on a Serious Decline
The oceans resources are stuck in a “grab all you can” pillage culture. In the last 50 years the number of overfished species has tripled. Bycatch, which we just mentioned, is one of the leading reasons, where non-discriminant trawling leads to tons and tons of unwanted sea life being destroyed for nothing. This includes sea turtles, dolphins and orcas.
If this continues there won’t be any fish left for food or sushi. The World Wildlife Foundation and other organisations are constantly lobbying for stricter controls and education around these practices. As it stands the Pacific Blue Fin Tuna sits with only 2.6% of its historic population size remaining.
Spanish-American marine ecologist and explorer, Enric Sala, explains it like this” “The ocean is like a checking account where everybody withdraws but nobody makes a deposit. This is what’s happening because of overfishing. Many fisheries have collapsed, and 90 percent of the large fish, sharks and tuna and cod, are gone.”
If you want to educate yourself more about overfishing, check out Overfishing: How long until we run out of Fish.
What About Fish Farms?
So, if it’s the wild west out there in the wild, aren’t fish farms the way to go?
Well, farmed salmon now accounts for 70% of the market, and salmon aquaculture is the world’s fastest-growing food production system. But tuna and salmon are wild game fish who migrate hundreds and thousands of miles in their life cycle. Tuna can swim up to 80kms an hour, so keeping them penned up means a cruel life for them. Half of all penned tuna die in collisions.
Farmed fish flavour is also considered inferior, so sadly the unethical farming and pillaging of fish will continue as our love for exotic sushi fish prevails. The solution is to adopt locally sourced fish into your sushi and food menu and eat only sustainably and seasonally harvested fish.
You’re Not Always Eating What You Ordered
Even when you have done your homework and are ordering a more sustainable fish to your region you still might not be getting what you ordered, as reported by the New York Times.
A study conducted by UCLA showed that 47% of sushi fish surveyed in Los Angeles was mislabelled. Out of the 43 orders of halibut and 32 orders of red snapper, DNA tests showed the researchers were served a different kind of fish 100 percent of the time.
Watch the Documentary Film Sushi: The Global Catch
In 2004, when sushi lover and filmmaker, Mark Hall found a sushi restaurant in Poland, he knew that the global love for sushi was universal. But this also posed the question, what does all this sushi culture mean? The Global Catch is a film about the art, love and scene around sushi, and some of loves and losses due to the global frenzy for this fish-based food. It’s worth a watch and is a great expansion on a lot of the topics we have covered in this article.
What You Didn’t Know About Conveyer Belt Sushi
The first conveyor-belt sushi restaurant to open in Japan was in April 1958 in Higashiosaka. Since then, it is a way of life for all ages. In a study of sushi eating habits in Japan, 74% of all sushi is eaten at conveyor belt food restaurants or kaiten-zushi as it is locally called, this as reported by Nippon. In 2018 Japans conveyer belt sushi industry was valued at $6.4billion, that is over 400% of the entire sushi market.
Since 1958 conveyor-belt sushi chains like YO! Have made sushi commercial all over the western world. For 6 years from 2010, the international conveyor sushi belt market grew by 150%. In 2015 Yo! Sushi turned over £80 million and had branches in the United Kingdom, Republic of Ireland, Russia, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait and Australia.
The Market Size of Sushi
Before Covid, the sushi restaurant sector was a $22.5 billion industry in the US with 4,000 sushi establishments across the country. There has been a steady growth year on year since sushi first touched down in North America. There is an expected sales decline due to the global pandemic restrictions, but sushi is still as popular as ever.
If you really want to dive deeply into the world of sushi, we suggest you listen to “The Story of Sushi,An Unlikely Saga of Raw Fish and Rice” by Trevor Corson. It’s a great listen and you can claim your free download by heading to alux.com/freebook.
Why Is Sushi so Expensive?
Canadian Salmon costs a lot to get to Cape Town, for example, to be fresh and ready to serve as sashimi. The long and the short is that most of the expense is in the expense of importing exotic fish like salmon and tuna, but that’s not all.
Becoming a skilled sushi chef takes around 10 years to master, and the personalised production of each roll drives the price up. So, if you consider that your chef took as long as a surgeon to qualify, you can understand that this isn’t your grandma’s fish dish! G*d bless your grandma, we’re sure her cooking is great.
Sushi and Mercury Exposure
Yep, it’s true, sadly sushi can drive up your exposure to mercury. Studies have shown that tuna is the most commonly affected fish with high to dangerous levels of mercury. Tuna Sashimi and Tuna Rolls contained high levels of mercury and the highest levels of mercury are found in the endangered Blue Fin Tuna.
But that’s not the worst thing you will find in your sushi.
Seafood Industry Fears Hit From Japan’s Decision To Dump Nuclear Wastewater
Remember that epic first season episode of The Simpsons about the 3-eyed fish caused by the nuclear waste dumping. Well, that might not be such a laughing matter anymore.
In April 2021, as reported by the Global Times, Japan announced a decision to dump radioactive water from its disaster-stricken nuclear complex in Fukushima Prefecture into the ocean. This doesn’t just affect japan because the whole world is connected through the ocean. And that affects all our sushi!
Be sure to watch our video, 15 Things You Didn’t Know About The Simpsons, to see if any other of their predictions came true.
Sushi Becomes Child’s Play
Forget puzzle building or knitting while you stream your next Netflix marathon. How about sculpting some sushi, piece by piece of plastic rice.
Tokya-based plastic model makers Syuto have created sushi in kit form, complete with realistic looking plastic fish and 364 grains of rice to lovingly place one by one. If you’ve got $13 and a lot of patience you might have a new hobby on your hands.
Sushi Isn’t Actually Japanese
Shut the front door!
After all this talk of this Japanese cuisine, the truth is that historians believe that sushi actually traces its roots to the Mokong River region or Southeast Asia.
This rice growing area supported the early days of sushi around 2,000 years ago. Only later on in the 8th century did sushi land in Japan. Now you know!
What is your take on sustainable fish farms? We’d love your feedback.