UN News recently visited such a project in the Portuguese capital Lisbon, where the UN Ocean Conference will take place at the end of June.
Sancho Pancho was created by Russian Daria Demidenko, who moved to Portugal in 2015. Her ingenious business idea involves turning leftover cuts of fresh fish into dog treats.
Ms. Demidenko started her business by collaborating with a Japanese restaurant and a number of fish markets in the Portuguese capital. She takes advantage of the parts that don’t make it to the plate, and cannot be used in producing high-end sushi and sashimi dishes.
Preventing food waste
Every day, pounds of fish heads, bones and skins literally end up in the trash, but Ms. Demidenko has revolutionized tackling such food waste by partnering with Sekai Sushi Bar, a Japanese restaurant in the central Santos neighborhood.
The restaurant receives about 10 kilos of salmon, tuna and white fish every day.
Sushi chef Sunil Basnet quickly cleans and prepares the fish, including treats such as a three-kilo croaker caught off the Portuguese coast.
Sekai’s owner Edilson Neves explained to UN News that an average of 30 percent of the fish cannot be used by the restaurant.
“The backbone, part of the tail, the edges, the sides, the part that connects to the stomach, some parts of the fish that are tougher, which also have more fiber and skin, in the end we don’t use them. We eventually reuse this 30 to 40 percent that would be lost Sancho Pancho†
The name of Mrs. Demidenko’s company, refers to the character Sancho Panza, from the classic novel by Miguel de Cervantes, Dom Quixoteand is also a personal tribute to one of her dogs named Pancho.
She told UN News about some of the special ingredients and dishes she managed to come up with using the leftovers.
“These biscuits are made with this type of white fish, which we cook first and then crush so that the bones have a much smoother texture,” she told us, pointing to one of the dog treats.
“We crush it, mix it with flour and make the biscuit. But there are also other types of waste, such as the skin of white fish or salmon, that you can dry out. This kind of snack goes into the machine, stays at 70˚C for 20 hours and then comes out drier, crispier, and we cut it up and make small chips out of it, salmon skin flakes.”
Scandinavian countries first
In addition to picking up leftovers at the Sekai restaurant, Daria has partnerships with other restaurants and fish markets in Lisbon.
She collects about 25 pounds of leftover fish per week. Her initiative was praised by senior fisheries expert at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), based in Rome, Márcio Castro de Souza.
“This initiative is very interesting and we have actually seen not only on an industrial scale but also small examples of how fish waste can be reduced.
“There are already several salmon producing industries in the Nordic countries that have already reached the level of using 100 percent of the whole fish. They don’t miss any. They make fillets, use their eyes to make fertilizer or generate essential oils, so there is already a whole production focused on zero waste,” he explains.
Other initiatives around the world include using fish skin to make wearable products; the use of fish scales in the manufacture of lipstick; and squid ink to color dishes such as pasta.
Snacks made with salmon skin are rich in omega 3 fish oil, which helps to keep the skin and coat of pets such as dogs and cats healthy.
In addition to reusing leftover fish, the Daria brand produces biscuits from leftover dehydrated rabbit and pork.
The maker of Sancho Pancho says it has already managed to make customers aware of the problems caused by food waste.
“Some customers have told us that they are learning from us, and they are now going to fish markets and butchers here in Portugal and are now taking some food waste home of their own. They don’t make snacks for sale, but they manage to make some food for their dogs, cats or themselves.”
Halving the world’s food waste by 2030 is one of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.
Goal 14 also includes sustainable management of marine life. Saving the oceans and protecting the future is the motto of the UN ocean conference, which will be held in the Portuguese capital from June 27 to July 1.