“It is disturbing to me, but we have always had to turn our hand to make fashion. That’s how we have survived as a people, and I would really like the government to understand that while we are passing the IMF tests, our people have to be passing the survival test”
JLP Leader Andrew Holness during the Press Briefing on Friday March 20th 2015 talking about Fish Back
Prime Minister Andrew Holness was certainly a very interesting person when he was in opposition. This is because many of his comments made back then are still relevant in 2016.
Once such interesting tidbits was when during his contribution to the 2015/16 Budget Debate on Thursday March 19th 2016, he’s brought a basket of basic food items (Henry, 2015, March 22) which he called the “Jamaica food basket” to Gordon House which represented JA$3000 worth of food. He then proceeded to show his fellow parliamentarians how much the buying power of Jamaican household had with JA$3000 now as compared to 2012.
On drawing the parallel, he also drew for two (2) other baskets that showed the buying power that a Jamaican person had since the years 2013 and 2014. In these additional baskets, there were less food items and the cost of what could be purchased for JA$3000 was significantly higher.
But when he made that infamous statement about substituting different types of meats that caught everybody’s attention, I was quite amused myself.
He’s mentioned that oxtail and chicken were no longer affordable with JA$3000 and instead Jamaicans had to be resorting to eating Fish Back, to quote Andrew Holness: “Mr Speaker, the impoverishment of our people has gotten worse since 2012. People are no longer talking about oxtail and curry goat. As a matter of fact, chicken back is now priced way above the means of many Jamaicans. What many are forced to buy these days is Fish Back”.
The genius of Andre Holness’s arguement back then was that it exposed how out-of-touch the PNP was to the suffering of Jamaican people. This as many of them had probably never eaten Fish Back, muchless knew that Rainforest Seafoods had been selling the product (Davidson, 2015, March 29) for the past ten (10) years.
This sounds a lot like my situation while doing my Professional Diploma in Teaching at MICO University College, as I’ve stopped buying meat altogether (Deer, 2015, April 4) as I seek to find ways to make food last longer by using preservation methods (Deer, 2015, September 21) to reduce spoilage.
But what exactly is Fish Back?
Andrew Holness and Fish Back – Jamaicans find creative replacement for Chicken Meat
Back then, Andrew Holness provided a very pointed explanation during the Press Briefing on Friday March 20th 2015 at the Jamaica Labour Party’s (JLP) headquarters on Belmont Road, St Andrew, on his Fish Back comments.
According to Andrew Holness, Fish Back is really left over fish fillets, mainly the head and tail and fins, which are packaged and resold for $40 per pound: “Fish Back is the remains of processed fish, where the filet has been taken off and what’s left is called ‘Fish Back’ or cuttings, mainly the head, the tail and the fins, and it is now becoming part of the protein diet in our meals”.
He also produced a receipt from local seafood distributor, Rainforest, which thanks to his cheeky advertisement on their behalf, has seen a boom in the sale of Fish Back, as apparently many Jamaicans did not know that it existed.
Rainforest Seafoods General Manager Ernie Grant, during an interview with the Jamaica Observer (Davidson, 2015, March 29) confirmed this, revealing that the cutting left over from making fish filet is what constitutes Fish Back, quote: “So that carcass has a fair amount of meat left on it. In some countries they pull that meat out and use it for further processing, to make sausages, fish fingers, fish nuggets; they grind it up and make all sorts of things. So we in Jamaica, through our plant at Slipe Road, we bring the whole fish in, our staff do the fillets, the cutting, and the steaking. With that done, we have these byproducts, but instead of dumping them we have found a market for them through our retail store and through wholesalers”.
These leftover scraps from the fish are seen as less desirable and like Chicken Back, which is now being imported since January 2016 to ease a local shortage (Deer, (2016, January 13), is often used in making soups or eaten in various forms, such as curry or jerk (Davidson, 2015, March 29) as pointed out by Rainforest Seafoods General Manager Ernie Grant.
Some even roast it in foil paper with whole fish, as pointed out by Rainforest Seafoods General Manager Ernie Grant, quote: “A lot of people use it in different ways; some say they stew it, a lot of people use it to make soup, some people just fry it. One customer of ours says he puts it in foil and roasts it like a whole fish”.
So that’s what happens to the unused cutting from a fish to make fish fillet. What happens to the internal organs of the fish during fish processing in Jamaica as well as excess Fish Back that people do not purchase?
Rainforest Seafood and Fish Back – Fish Fillet for the Rich Fish Fingers and Fish Nuggets for the Poor
In fact there is demand for Fish Back, both locally and in the Caribbean. Counted as offal, some 50,000 pounds is sold every week along with other remains from the fish to suppliers who use it to make other products, making more money for Rainforest Seafoods.
The Fish Back that cannot be sold is ground up at their facility at Slipe Road to make fish nuggets and fish fingers, with the fillet being sold to the more affluent customers, to quote Rainforest Seafoods General Manager Ernie Grant: “Our processing plant at Slipe Road gives us that facility to offer these byproducts to the wider market to make it affordable for them to get a healthy protein”
Dear reader, now you know where fish Fingers and Fish Nuggets come from; it’s the same Fish Back and fish offal that Andrew Holness made popular in his contribution to the 2015/16 Budget Debate on Thursday March 19th 2016.
Now that we’re in 2016 and Andrew Holness is Prime Minister, it would be interesting to see if after the Tax Break is implemented, of the buying power of the Jamaican consumer would have improved.
I suspect, however, even after the Tax Break, Fish Back will still be replacing Chicken in the traditional Rice and Peas as a staple for Sunday Dinner in Jamaican households.
- Henry, B. (2015, March 22). Holness explains ‘Fish Back’. Retrieved from http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Holness-explains–fish-back–_18611974
- Davidson, V. (2015, March 29). Fish Back not new. Retrieved from http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/news/Fish-back-not-new_18657598
- Deer, L. (2015, April 4). Cooking at Easter at MICO – How to make a Kidney Egg Carrot Cheese Sandwich and Frozen Gum Bear Bag Juice. Retrieved from http://mythoughtsontechnologyandjamaica.blogspot.com/2015/04/Cooking-MICO-Kidney-Egg-Carrot-Cheese-Sandwich-Bag-Juice.html
- Deer, L. (2015, September 21). Preserving Food at MICO – How to make Vegetables, Eggs and Shorty Bread last forever. Retrieved from http://mythoughtsontechnologyandjamaica.blogspot.com/2015/09/How-to-make-Vegetables-Eggs-Shorty-Bread-last-forever.html
- Deer, L. (2016, January 13). How Min. of Agriculture Chicken Importation, Jamaica Broilers and Caribbean Broilers production to ease 2016. Retrieved from http://mythoughtsontechnologyandjamaica.blogspot.com/2016/01/Ministry-Agriculture-Chicken-Importation-2016-Chicken-Shortage.html