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I was wondering if the difference between cheap fish fingers and high quality ones could also include what parts of the fish get filleted and frozen.

In particular, I'd like to know if it's possible that fish heads may still play a role despite the fish being usually described as "filleted" - can its meat be part of the obtained frozen fish meat that is used for the production of fish fingers, or it is necessary that for a beheading process to occur? Can we effectively end up eating it?

I'm from Italy and Italian law seems to point out that "preliminary operations", including beheading, may be done in the ship itself, as long as the fish gets frozen right after. However, this doesn't imply anything about the necessity of beheading itself, but rather the possibility for this preliminary operation to happen. However, I'd be interested in general, not just Italy; I just tried to look it up as a reference since I can't seem to find any law that describes the necessary steps for the entire process, nor do I find anything other than filleting in Wikipedia or any other website.

It may be a trivial question, but I keep wondering about it. Any help appreciated!

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    Are you asking about the legal requirements for labeling a food as "fish fingers"? If so, you should specify a particular jurisdiction, and the question might be more on topic at Law.
    – Sneftel
    Commented Jul 15, 2022 at 12:23
  • I have no data but ... there are parts of the world where the heads are specifically salable and command a good price, particularly in parts of Asia. It's quite possible that those heads are sold in those markets instead of being processed.
    – FuzzyChef
    Commented Jul 15, 2022 at 16:11
  • @Sneftel not exactly. I was basing my thoughts on law since I thought it would be pretty much the discriminant factor for something like that weird to happen, but when I said "effectively end up eating it" I meant as if it's something done at all in practice. I mean, I may include 60% of orange juice in an orange soda, but it's so unlikely it's basically impossible to happen. But it's still possible, I guess (?) Commented Jul 15, 2022 at 16:15
  • In that case I'm not really sure what you're asking. In particular, I don't understand the connection you're drawing between fish heads (the portion of the fish anterior of the gills) and filleting (the removal of muscle meat from bones).
    – Sneftel
    Commented Jul 15, 2022 at 16:53
  • A couple of guesses: Are you asking whether fish fingers can contain bones? Whether they can contain muscle meat from in front of the gills?
    – Sneftel
    Commented Jul 15, 2022 at 16:55

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In general, meat products (including fish) can be cut, or conglomerated. Cut implies butchering, and subdividing into pieces, conglomerating is what Macdonald's does when they put a slaughtered chicken in a centrifuge and spin it to separate the meat from the bones and cartilage, and then forms the meat into Mcnuggets. Still a partially amusing image in my head. But back to the original question.

Cheap usually means conglomerated (see Mcnuggets). That or fish that nobody wants, and is therefore very cheap to begin with. And in the case of fish, I believe the fish heads are considered to be more valuable for making stock, than to try to remove the meat for conglomeration. There could always be exceptions. In Florida for example, grouper cheeks are considered prime meat and command a higher price. If it says 100% fillet, then I would expect it to be illegal to use conglomerated meat, but if they leave out the 100%, it's not a guess as to why.

Addendum: Just like chicken feet make the best chicken soup, fish heads make the best fish stock. Some Asian restaurants that I frequent make lots of fish stock, and buy fish heads in bulk from the seafood processing plants.

For ground beef, technically a form of conglomeration, most companies use the cheapest cuts of beef to make them. I have not heard of beef being spun in centrifuges. From what I know, the offal, which is considered to be the parts no one wants to eat, is made into hot dogs. The offal is ground so finely that you can't discern what the original parts were. Then the trimmings and scraps, which are the next step up from offal, are made into the cheapest quality/priced ground beef. There, conglomeration takes on a whole new meaning, as waste from multiple slaughterhouses are combined and ground. I have been told that many frozen burgers are made from that type of conglomeration, and that is why you see gigantic, nationwide recalls if contamination occurs. If your butcher/grocer grinds their own beef, then it will be made from some trimming and scraps, but also better cuts, simply because they can only generate a small percentage of trim and scraps.

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  • Head meat in some fish is very tasty, but often hard to get at except the cheeks, which I agree on many fish is the best part.
    – GdD
    Commented Jul 18, 2022 at 11:00
  • Sorry for the late best answer selection, I haven't been well (clearly a result of cheap fish fingers /s). I really like the answer and it's just what I was looking for; I find that conglomeration thing funny as well! Commented Jul 27, 2022 at 17:47
  • I didn't think about the quality of head meat, my mother loves it while I, despite loving all types of sea fish and having grown in a seafood culture, find the thought of eating such meat disgusting, reason why I automatically thought it was second quality meat. Still, I wonder about the rest of the head, which is what made me wonder "what about the eyes?"... And btw: it happened to me that I found cartilage/bones in McD's hamburgers... Guess conglomeration doesn't work that well? My brother went to USA and told me McD's restaurants here have better quality standards... How bad can they get?! Commented Jul 27, 2022 at 18:15

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