Dishes with Swedish bream get the green light from chefs and school students alike. In addition, the climate footprint is only one third compared to salmon. (Photo: Linda Prieditis)
Press release 2022-11-23: Rough fish. Resource fish. Bony fish. This dear child has many names. The common bream, which has traditionally had an undeservedly bad reputation, is now making its return to the Swedish market. Axfoundation, the County Administrative Board of Stockholm and the Swedish Inland Fishermen’s Federation (SIC), together with partners throughout the food chain, are spearheading the initiative concerning underutilized fish. After the successful introduction of minced bream to restaurants, Swedish fish cakes are now finding a home in freezer cabinets.
– Together with our partners, we’ve proven that it’s possible to develop large-scale infrastructure for previously rejected Swedish freshwater fish, as well as deliver good, nutritious, and sustainable solutions, says Veronica Öhrvik, Project Manager for the Underutilized Fish Species project at Axfoundation.
Today, more than 70% of the seafood eaten in Sweden is imported, despite the fact that there are plenty of fish in Swedish lakes. Furthermore, only four species account for as much as 64% of Swedish consumption. It is mainly salmon, shrimp, herring and cod that find their way to Swedish dinner tables, according to recent statistics from the Norwegian Seafood Council.
– It’s crazy that we currently eat so few fish species in Sweden and import such large quantities when there is plenty of variation in Swedish waters, says Öhrvik, who wants to go to bat for bream.
So far, however, carp fish such as bream have not been considered commercially viable. Bream has mainly been a bycatch when fishing for zander, and released back into the water or decomposed for biogas without touching our plates. According to Öhrvik, this is a huge waste of resources:
– By taking advantage of good but underutilized species, it’s possible to contribute to more balanced fishing and, at the same time, increase accessibility to nutritious and sustainable seafood. It can also reduce Sweden’s dependence on imports of fish and shellfish.
Some of the reasons that fish species such as bream have not been made us of previously include weak demand, skepticism about new species, and a lack of infrastructure. To overcome the challenges, Axfoundation, the County Administrative Board of Stockholm and the Swedish Inland Fishermen’s Federation brought together actors at all levels – researchers, food managers, fishermen, wholesalers, and grocery stores – to chart the availability of underutilized fish species in Swedish lakes, evaluate their potential as food products, develop a value chain, and ultimately introduce appealing products to food services and grocery stores. Started back in 2019, the Underutilized Fish Species project has now delivered bream-based minced fish and fish cakes, which were developed at Torsåker gård, Axfoundation’s Center for Future Food.
The conclusions of the project and recommendations for upscaling have now been compiled in the report Bream Instead of Salmon? The report shows, among other things, that Swedish minced bream has a low carbon footprint compared to many other animal protein sources. Only legumes perform equally or better. On the other hand, frozen salmon was found to have three times the carbon footprint.
– One serving of Swedish bream is completely in line with One Planet Plate, which means that the meal has a carbon footprint within the planetary boundaries, and this makes it easy to make the right choices in everyday life, says Öhrvik at Axfoundation.
The minced bream is made from bream from Lake Mälaren and Lake Vänern, which has a green light in the WWF Fish Guide. It is sold through food services by actors such as Martin & Servera and Menigo, and has been given a thumbs-up by chefs as well as schoolchildren. Since November, consumers are able to purchase frozen bream & broad bean fish cakes, which are sold by the grocery retailer Axfood under the Garant brand. The product carries the Från Sverige label, which means that it is caught, processed, and packaged in Sweden.
Sustainability, nutritional content, and flavor form the basis of everything we do, and this also applies to minced bream and fish cakes. Because no matter how sustainable a product is, if it tastes like cardboard, no one will want to buy it anyway, says Linins Mörner, Program Director Future Food at Axfoundation.
Fish cakes made from Swedish bream and broad bean are available from November in the consumer freezer and are sold by the grocery player Axfood under the Garant brand.
Swedish minced bream is available for foodservice and has been tested for several different products. Among other things, bream fritters at the restaurang Urban Deli to Roslagsberger from the kitchen at Tiohundra in Norrtälje.
Fishing and seafood consumption in Sweden
- In Sweden, an average of 12 kg of seafood is consumed per person per year, which corresponds to 230 grams per week. This is below the Swedish National Food Agency’s dietary recommendation of 2-3 servings (about 250-375 grams) per week. (RISE and the Swedish National Food Agency)
- Large-scale fishing is the single greatest threat to marine biodiversity. (IPBES)
- Farmed fish is usually put forth as a solution to provide a growing population with seafood. However, farmed fish are often raised on feed that largely consists of imported soy and wild-caught fish. (NOFIRMA)
- Ten fish species account for 75% of global seafood consumption. (RISE)
Only four species – salmon, cod, herring, and shrimp – account for as much as 64% of seafood consumption in Sweden. (Norwegian Seafood Council)
- Over 70% of the fish sold in Sweden is imported, mainly from Norway. (RISE)
- Swedish lakes contain plenty of sustainable and nutritious fish. Bream is mainly a bycatch when fishing for zander, which means it is released back into the lake. (Swedish Agency for Marine and Water Management)
- In some small eutrophic lakes, bream is fished as part of so-called reduction fishing to restore eutrophic lakes. Every year, several tons of bream and roach are decomposed for biogas because there is no infrastructure to use the fish for food.
The Underutilized Fish Species project
- The Underutilized Fish Species project has been run over 2019-2022 with the goal of developing sustainable, nutritious, appealing food from untapped fish species.
- Axfoundation, the County Administrative Board of Stockholm and the Swedish Inland Fishermen’s Federation are spearheading the project. Others partners who participated in the project include Axfood, Chipsters, Eldrimner, Fiskano, Fisk Idag, Grönsakshallen Sorunda, Matlust in Södertälje, and Stockholm’s Fish Auction. The project has been co-financed by the European Fund for Rural Development.
- Developed and launched sustainable, nutritious, and tasty food products based on bream in the form of minced bream for food services as well as bream & broad bean fish cakes for consumers.
- Further developed regional infrastructure and machinery to take advantage of resource fish from Swedish lakes.
- Increased income for small-scale inland fishermen through supplementary income sources.
- Enabled Sweden’s food managers to comply with the Swedish National Food Agency’s requirements for frequent servings of healthy, sustainably produced seafood to the country’s schoolchildren, within the cost framework of public meals.
- Increased knowledge and acceptance of the use of underutilized fish in Sweden.