Sterling White Halibut - Sustainably Farmed Atlantic Halibut

By offering these fish we are supporting the Sustainable Development Goal 14

Life below water. Maintaining an endangered species, taking pressure off wild stocks.

Because of their high quality, Atlantic halibut have been overfished in the past. Unfortunately for this slow growing large, long-lived fish this has proved disastrous. Atlantic halibut are on the endangered species list so farming is not only ecofriendly but is a lifeline for the species. There is NO QUOTA for wild halibut fish. 

Deep water farmed halibut gets the highest rating of 1 in the Good Fish Guide. Sterling have Global GAP approval. We have 5 year old females, typically 4-4.5kgs size. Their age and size is important for flavour and firm texture.

For information : Small halibut at 1-3kgs are males which need to be removed from the farming process as they stop growing at 3kgs. They are cheap but have thinner flatter fillets and lower yields. We do not supply juveniles.

Sterling White Halibut –a premium farmed fish

Sterling are the largest and leading producer of farmed Halibut in Europe with the highest standards.  Raised in the pure clear water of Ryfylke Fjiord, halibut are not easy to farm and Sterling have made great progress developing breeding stock with egg to adult growing techniques.

They are a small team of people who really care about their fish.

Feed is sourced from certified sustainable fisheries and the diet is very carefully monitored. The feed industry is making good progress in removing fish protein from feeds.

Fish feed to fish yield is now 1.1 to 1. Far, far better than any type of meat.

These are well fed fish with nice fat fillets. Sterling Halibut is not available from any wholesalers in the UK. They only supply Fundamentally Food.  

Halibut are deep water North Atlantic fish and need cold deep and dark conditions. This Norwegian fjiord is 200metes deep, with strong currents and year round, low temperatures. The perfect location for healthy fish. How to keep bottom living flat fish in deep water pens??

The halibut hotel… the fish feed every few days and spend most of the time lying on these shelves. They are monitored and when they start to swim around again it’s time for food saving feed cost and pollution.

What’s so special about Sterling White Halibut ?

FRESH… FRESH… FRESH

Fish spoil due to bacterial spoilage and enzymatic breakdown of the flesh. Here’s why the highest standards and modern techniques practiced by Sterling White Halibut make a difference to freshness, quality and long life. This is why premium farmed is better quality than wild caught.

Day minus 5 

Fish are collected from the deep water pens in the fjiord by gently scooping with air suction into a specially constructed Well Boat. Transferred to waiting cages and feeding is suspended. 

Why ? To empty the gut and reduce bacteria so that when gutted, bacterial contamination is minimal giving extended shelf life and a cleaner tasting fish.  Gentle handling avoids bruising of flesh and keeps fish stress free.

Day Zero  

The tanks are slowly pumped with CO2 and temperature is reduced to 2 deg C. As the oxygen level and temperature falls the fish go to sleep. They are then killed by pumping Co2 into the tank and bleeding from the gills.

Why ?  This is a stress free way to kill big fish – demonstrated by the time taken to reach rigor mortis – 30 hours. vs. 1-2 hours for fishery or line caught fish. Just like meat, the lower the stress levels at death, the longer it takes to get to rigor mortis, the better the flesh quality. 

The fish are bled from the gills, gutted and chilled to 0 deg in ice slurry.

Why? Very important for shelf life to chill fish very quickly after death. This significantly slows the enzyme action responsible for spoilage. Bleeding immediately after death stops blood clots forming in the flesh and is more hygienic.  Swift gutting stops bacteria from the gut invading the flesh giving longer shelf life.

Day 1

Packed in ice and transported to airport and flown to Heathrow Airport on same day passenger flight. 

Why? Cargo on already scheduled flights has lower environmental impact than cargo planes. Transport by truck takes 3-4 days from Norway. Wild caught may be in ice up to 7 days at sea.

Day 2

Collected by Fundamentally Fish chill van, checked, repacked and re-iced. Held at 0.3 to 1 deg C. Direct from the grower, no wholesalers. Fresh not frozen. We have full traceability.

Day 3

Onwards. We hold bagged fish in ice in our fridge. In storage, the average flesh temperature is 0-1 deg C. We are happy to keep the stock and send to you as you need it. We will have full batch tracability and harvest date. We occasionally freeze whole fish on arrival to ensure supply continuity. Defrosting takes 72 hours at 2 Deg C so the texture is unaffected.

Shelf life – time to rethink the 4 day rule.

Sterling White Halibuts treated this way, and held at 0 to 2 deg C. throughout the chill chain, bagged whole in ice, have been tested and have a shelf life of up to 3 weeks. We recommend you use within two weeks from harvest. Just like meat, fish flesh develops flavour as it ages. Traditionally, chefs apply the four day rule due to rapid spoilage from high bacteria counts which means fish will spoil before they can mature. These fish can be held to allow full flavour.  This is a significant advantage over wild caught or farmed fish with lower standards.

You may notice that Sterling White Halibut have a lot of slime. This is naturally produced by mucus glands in the skin and protects the fish skin from abrasions (they are sea floor dwellers), it also prevents parasites from taking up residence and it has antibacterial properties. Lots of slime is the sign of a fresh and healthy fish.  Sterling White Halibut are regularly tested and are also parasite free.   

Sustainability  - Fresh Ingredients for the 21st Century

Working directly with the best specialist growers we provide a small but very high quality range. By choosing this premium farmed fish, produced with quality as first principle, you not only offer your customers a superb product but one which has been produced in a way which does not harm the environment and which may also offer a lifeline to this endangered species in the future.  Customers and restaurant inspectors want to hear about sourcing, and a proven claim of ‘sustainably produced’ is clear and easy to communicate.  ‘Responsibly sourced’ claims carry no guarantees.

About wild caught Atlantic Halibut – Buyer Beware

Wild Halibut live in the very Northern part of the Atlantic and are mainly landed at Lerwick, Shetland. There is no quota, they are all tragic bycatch as these creatures are on the EU red list of endangered species. They are supposed to be returned if alive, not landed.

Trawlers are out for 4-5 days and the onward transport takes another two days to market. On reaching a kitchen, they may be up to 10 days old, will have drowned in nets and have been very stressed at death.

Halibut are very slow growing and do not mature until 8-10 years old. That’s why the wild populations are so vulnerable to overfishing. Bycatch halibuts get caught from age 2 years upwards, well before maturity and stocks are collapsing as a result.  Pacific Halibut from North Pacific/Alaska regions has been subject to rigorous catch quotas over the years and is not endangered but will always be sold frozen, in portions.

Large amounts of the cheaper, but inferior quality and different species; Greenland Halibut (often called mock halibut or chicken halibut) are caught wild in Icelandic waters under quota between June and July, frozen on board ship and stored to be released throughout the year to keep price stability. They are usually defrosted and sold through markets or direct to processing.

They look very similar to Atlantic Halibut in appearance but with different eye orientation. Usually less than 4kg and quite small/compact they are sold with heads off so it is very easy to pass off these lesser fish for true Atlantic Halibut. Often sold as simply ‘Halibut’ they are priced at £12-15/kg, cheaper than farmed or true wild Halibut.

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