Fish gelatin could be economically beneficial

Fish gelatin could be economically beneficial

New forms of food meet religious requirements

By: Nicholas Persac

Posted: 11/1/07

Although most wouldn’t think fish and Jell-O go well together, the
future of gelatin desserts may thrive by using fish by-products in the
production process.

Joe Regenstein, professor of food science at Cornell University, spoke
to a group of 30 students and faculty members Monday about the economic
potential of using fish by-products to make gelatin, which is usually
made from pork and beef by-products.

“If it’s made properly, we’re finding the flavor profile of the raw
material is actually better than the flavor profile of [gelatin made
using] pork and beef,” Regenstein said.

Regenstein said gelatin is used in a variety of products, including
gelatin desserts, marshmallows, nougats in candy bars, yogurts,
imitation margarin and ice cream. He said gelatin is also used in pill
capsules, for binding purposes in some foods and is sometimes used in
the photographic developing process.

“The economic driving force for fish gelatin is coming from the need to
have products that are able to meet religious needs, which gelatin as
normally produced will not generally meet,” Regenstein said. “Both the
Muslim and Jewish communities in the United States as a whole do not
accept the gelatin that is used for most of the products that contain

Regenstein, head of the Cornell Kosher and Halal Food Initiative, said
gelatin – typically made from either pork hide or beef bones and hide –
is not acceptable for members of the Jewish and Muslim communities who
follow the strict dietary laws of their faiths.

Regenstein said approximately one out of every four people on our
planet are Muslim and require food in accordance to halal. He said
there are between 6 million and 8 million Muslims who follow halal
guidelines in North America.

Regenstein said 99 percent of the 272,500 tons of gelatin produced in 2003 came from pork or non-religiously slaughtered beef.

“When we talk about globalization, the fact that we don’t talk about
halal foods in most cases is a major oversight,” Regenstein said.

Regenstein said Louisiana could benefit from producing fish gelatin and
profit from the $100 billion industry of producing kosher and halal
foods. He said fish bones, skin and scales – which are mostly wasted
by-products – are used to produce fish gelatin.

“If we’re going to harvest fish, we have to use them better,” Regenstein said.

Regenstein said the most common fish used to make fish gelatin is the
Alaskan Pollock, which accounts for one-third of fish caught in the
United States. The fish is typically used for fish fillets and
imitation crab, and the skin, bones and scales are generally not used.

John Finley, chair of the food sciences department, said the quality of
kosher gelatin being produced is not good. He said the large seafood
industry in Louisiana provides an opportunity to produce fish gelatin.

“They’re taking a waste product and making into a very, very
high-priced ingredient,” Finley said. “If we can get someone interested
in producing the kosher gelatin here, it’s a product that Louisiana
could sell at a very high price through the country. It’s a big
business opportunity for the seafood processors in the state.”