A fishy odor permeates the lab, but don’t let it distract you from the important work going on here. Christina DeWitt, director of OSU’s Seafood Lab, is testing Pacific whiting and a new product (NanoIce, Inc.) meant to get fish colder faster to improve their quality. The Seafood Lab offers commercial firms like NanoIce third-party evaluations of their products under development. In one of the few labs in the country dedicated exclusively to seafood research, DeWitt and her colleagues aim to make seafood safer to eat and add value to processing.
“It’s critical to keep fish cold from the boat to the processing plant,” DeWitt says. If research can find ways to make this so-called “cold chain” more cost-effective and safer, it could mean more profit for fishermen and processors. “What’s exciting is that right now Pacific whiting is our largest resource off the Oregon coast. But it’s our least valuable resource with respect to the price per pound that producers can get,” DeWitt says. “We’re looking at ways to increase that value.”
In another part of the lab, a blocky machine with long metal spikes injects brine into fish. DeWitt uses it to investigate the biochemical changes that occur in brined whole muscle foods treated with high hydrostatic pressure, to help protect fish muscle and improve the texture of cooked fish.