How Fresh is Your Fish?

An American chef reveals what it really means for a fish to be fresh in today's market

Tony Maws, an American chef and restaurateur, urges the public to realize that when it comes to fish, “fresh” is not always related to how recently a fish was caught.

Marketing techniques have consumers equating fish that “came in this morning” to an implied acceptable level of quality that may not always hold true. Maws suggests that, because of this, though most people prefer fresh fish to frozen, few are aware of how fresh their fish really is.  

Maws first debunks the myth of freshness as a temporal quality by stating that most consumers would not want to eat a fish caught the same day it is sold. This is because fish go into a state of rigor mortis after they are caught, which gives their flesh a chewy toughness that makes for an unpleasant meal.

Further, many fishing boats go out for more than a day at a time, and so your “fresh fish” may have actually been sitting on a boat deck, exposed to the elements of the open sea for up to a week.

For Maws, a fish’s freshness depends on its quality, not when it is caught. Maws elaborates on this by distinguishing the difference between wild and farm-raised fish is determining freshness. Though fish farming procedures may vary according to location, in general, wild fish often has more translucent, shimmering flesh than its factory-farmed counterpart, which can appear dull and unappealing in the market.


So, what does this mean for fish consumers around the world? Fish lovers should not shy away from buying their favorite fish, but should remain aware of how a fish’s flesh can reveal its quality. Make sure to choose a shiny, “gleaming fillet with crystalline flesh” when preparing your favorite fish dish this summer.