Great Lakes Whitefish: How does it compare to other popular fish species?

With the Lenten season fast approaching, consumers might consider locally caught Great Lakes whitefish as an alternative to other popular fish species.

Popular fish samples used by the MSU Dept of Food Science and Human Nutrition Sensory Evaluation Lab during research on fish preference.

Popular fish samples used by the MSU Dept of Food Science and Human Nutrition Sensory Evaluation Lab during research on fish preference.

During the Lenten season, positioning any fish product in the market place is very competitive. One must understand the positive attributes of the fish you wish to market and how it compares to competing products. Michigan Sea Grant Extension worked on a Great Lakes whitefish marketing study with support from a Fisheries Extension Enhancement Grant through the National Sea Grant Program. One part of this project included sensory analysis of Great Lakes whitefish to help better position this important commercial fish in the marketplace.

With the increase of imported aquaculture products, the Great Lakes commercial lake whitefish industry was in need of information on how their product stands up against the major retail fish products of farmed Atlantic salmon, catfish, and tilapia. Sensory analysis provided much needed information to help better position Great Lakes lake whitefish in the market place. To answer this question, Michigan Sea Grant and Michigan State University Extension conducted a sensory analysis study to determine consumer preferences for lake whitefish as compared to farmed Atlantic salmon, catfish, and tilapia. The Michigan State University Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition Sensory Evaluation Laboratory carried out this research.

One hundred fifteen coGreat Lakes whitefish fillets image.nsumer panelists participated in the product testing. For all the tests, one-half ounce samples were prepared from the loin section of the fish fillets. Each section was cooked in a microwave without any additional seasoning. The consumer panel gave similar ratings to Great Lakes whitefish when compared to tilapia and catfish in the areas of cooked appearance, flavor, and overall acceptability. On cooked texture, Great Lakes whitefish scored the same as tilapia and Atlantic salmon. Atlantic salmon did score higher than Great Lakes whitefish in cooked appearance, flavor, and overall acceptability.

Salmon, catfish, and tilapia are in the top ten species consumed in the United States. They are also the top three fish species in retail value in the United States. Since Great Lakes whitefish compared favorably with these top selling fish species, it can compete with their qualities in the market place and consumers should give our local Great Lakes whitefish a preference during the Lenten season and year round.