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Q: sushi ingredients--"crab" ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   3 Comments )
Subject: sushi ingredients--"crab"
Category: Family and Home > Food and Cooking
Asked by: daveburnham-ga
List Price: $25.00
Posted: 01 Aug 2005 15:50 PDT
Expires: 31 Aug 2005 15:50 PDT
Question ID: 550569
Why does imitation crab exist?  Is it purely economic? If so, how can
something that is so extensively processed be inexpensive? How does an
ounce of each compare in value?
Subject: Re: sushi ingredients--"crab"
Answered By: crabcakes-ga on 01 Aug 2005 16:42 PDT
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
Hi Daveburnham,

  Why does imitation crabmeat exist?

    It seems that the Japanese have been using an imitation crabmeat
called ?kamaboko? for at least 500 years! Americans caught on several
centuries later.

   According to AboutSeafood, artificial crabmeat is loved and eaten
due to its price and nutritional content. ?Why does the food industry
experiment with surimi? Because not only is surimi versatile, it also
tastes good and is healthy. Three ounces of imitation crabmeat made
from Alaska pollock surimi supplies 25% of the U.S. recommended daily
allowance of protein, at a bargain price of 85 calories, less than one
gram of fat and no cholesterol. Americans worry about their fat and
cholesterol intake. So American food producers are learning what the
Japanese have always known -- fish protein is the key to a low fat,
high-energy diet.?

?In 1980, American fishermen finally began taking native Alaska
pollock away from the foreign boats. American trawlers capitalized on
their Magnuson rights by catching, then selling full net bags of
Alaska pollock to foreign processing ships at sea. Under these "joint
venture" arrangements, a Korean "mothership" might buy fish from six
or more American trawlers. American boats flourished under this system
and the "JV" fishery took off. In 1980, American trawlers caught and
sold 11,000 tons of Alaska pollock while the foreign ships caught the
remaining 948,000 tons allowed by the quota for free. In 1985, the
Yankees sold 370,000 tons to the foreign motherships while foreign
trawlers netted 771,000 tons for themselves. By 1987, American boats
took 1,015,000 tons of Alaska pollock -- leaving foreign trawlers only
4,000 tons to catch on their own before that year's quota was

But, while Alaskan trawl fishermen prospered from joint ventures, the
Alaska pollock remained a stranger to American dinner tables. Then, in
the early 80s, the Japanese began exporting an imitation crab product
to the United States. The main ingredient of this "crab" was minced
Alaska pollock meat, known in Japan as Alaska pollock "surimi."

?In 1982, the Alaska Fisheries Development Foundation, a non-profit
organization which promotes under-used species of Alaska fish, noticed
the Japanese imitation crab and proclaimed, "we can do that." The
Foundation set up demonstration projects and shared the results with
domestic seafood producers. American consumers have since embraced
imitation crab. Consumption has grown from 20 million pounds in 1982
to 150 million pounds in 1989.?

?Americans eat surimi once it has been converted into imitation crab
or lobster (there are other "imitation" products, but crab and lobster
are by far the most popular). These products are made by blending egg
white and natural flavors with Alaska pollock paste, then cooking and
adding shellfish texture. Imitation shellfish is tasty, but it is just
one of surimi's interpretations.?

Today, in the US, Alaska pollock or walleye pollock is the fish often
used for imitation crabmeat. Pollack fish are plentiful and basically
Sugar and sorbitol are added before freezing. Egg white, starch and
vegetable oil are added to improve gelling and texture. For flavor,
artificial and natural flavors are added. This final mixture is called
?surimi?, meaning diced fish in Japanese.

?Imitation crab meat is a seafood product made by blending processed
fish, known as surimi, with various texturizing ingredients,
flavorants, and colorants. First invented in the mid-1970s, imitation
crab meat has become a popular food in the United States, with annual
sales of over $250 million. Surimi is the primary ingredient used to
create imitation crab meat. It is mostly composed of fish myofibrillar
proteins. These proteins are responsible for the quintessential
characteristic of surimi that makes imitation crab meat manufacture
possible, namely the ability to form a sturdy gel. The gel can be
shaped and cut into thin strips which, when rolled together, mimic the
texture of real crab meat.?

?These flavorants can be natural or artificial, but typically a
mixture of both is used. Natural flavoring compounds include amino
acids, proteins, and organic acids, which are obtained through aqueous
extraction of edible crabs. Artificial flavors can be made to closely
match crab meat flavor and are typically superior to naturally derived
flavorants. Artificial flavoring compounds include esters, ketones,
amino acids, and other organic compounds. Additionally, seasonings and
secondary flavorants are added to the meat to improve the overall
This Thompson-Gale site goes into great detail explaining the
imitation crabmeat manufacturing process.

?Surimi is a seafood where washed or cleaned groundfish is minced and
cooked with special recipes in order to make a product which imitates
the taste and texture of various shellfish, especially crab. This is a
value-added product which turns a lower valued species and byproducts
into a higher valued product for use in restaurants and retail

?A 3 1/2 ounce portion provides 90-100 calories, one to two grams fat,
approximately 10 grams carbohydrate, 500 to 100 miligrams sodium.
Again the amounts vary according to the process.?

The following site outlines each step in the imitation crab manufacturing process:

What is surimi?
?Surimi (white pollack meats) is produced with skinless Pollack
fillets using conventional Japanese factory method. Fillets are
minced, washed twice, refined into two grades and dehydrated.
Cryoprotectants are added and Surimi (white pollack meats) blocks are
flash frozen to a core temperature of -24 degrees C (-10 F). All
product is stored at temperature of -30 degrees C (-22 F) or below.?

 Of course pricing or real crabmeat fluctuates, but artificial
crabmeat is much cheaper. (No shells from which to pick the meat). 
This online market sells both artificial crabmeat and real.

Imitation Crabmeat costs $2.99 USD per pound

or $1.99 USD for 8oz.

One pound of real crabmeat costs $11.99 USD

or $17.99 per pound for real lump/ backfin crab.

?"I've noticed that twice in the last two months, two of the grocery
stores in my area have ran (sic) specials for 1lb. imitation crab meat
$1.00 each?

If your imitation crabmeat glows in the dark (Phosphoresces), do not eat it!
?Imitation crabmeat glowed in the dark in Yakima, Washington. The
grocery store had purchased two and a half-pound packages of imitation
crabmeat, cut and repackaged them into consumer size portions. V.
logei was isolated from this crabmeat.?

I hope this has satisfactorily answered your questions. As a crabmeat
lover myself, I found this question fascinating to answer! If this is
not the information you were seeking, please request an Answer
Clarification, before rating, and I will be happy to respond.

Sincerely, Crabcakes

Search Terms
Imitation crabmeat
economics + crabmeat + artificial crabmeat
daveburnham-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars and gave an additional tip of: $10.00
Thank you very much!!  This is exactly what I wanted to know.  Wow!  -Dave

Subject: Re: sushi ingredients--"crab"
From: crabcakes-ga on 01 Aug 2005 19:17 PDT
Thank  you for the 5 stars and the nice tip! Both are appreciated!

Regards, Crabcakes

PS. Remember, Chesapeake Bay crabs (real) are the BEST!
Subject: Re: sushi ingredients--"crab"
From: pinkfreud-ga on 01 Aug 2005 20:17 PDT
Great answer! And who better to provide this information than Google
Answers' own "crabcakes"?

There is another excellent reason for the existence of imitation
crabmeat. It can enable people who are allergic to the real thing to
enjoy a tasty simulation of crab.

I have a friend who is severely allergic to genuine shellfish, and he
is very pleased to be able to use imitation crabmeat, which typically
does not affect those who have a shellfish allergy.
Subject: Re: sushi ingredients--"crab"
From: crabcakes-ga on 03 Aug 2005 14:27 PDT
Thank you Pink! The allergy connection completely escaped me!

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