Illustration technique japonais ikejime

Ikejime: Technique that improves the quality and taste of fish

Mis à jour le
25 March 2020

Consumption patterns are constantly changing. Consumers are increasingly attentive to the freshness and origin of products. With the trend towards the consumption of raw fish (sushi, sashimi), consumers' expectations are tending towards ultra-freshness. Thus, new product offers are appearing in the seafood sector to meet these expectations. Find in this article the testimony of Stephanie Woods of France Ikeijme.

In 2015, Stephanie Woods created the company société France Ikejime in Saint-Guénolé, Brittany, France, specialized in Ikejime wholesale trade. After having lived 8 years in Japan, she wanted to launch in France in the top-of-the-range ikejime to find this exceptional taste of fish.

What is the ikejime method?

While in Europe buying live fish is not common, in Asia it’s a guarantee of freshness.

The slaughter technique called « ikejime » or ike-Jime (literally: "living death" in Japanese) is a Japanese technique that consists in quickly neutralizing the animal's nervous system when it comes out of the water and draining of its blood.

It helps topreserve the freshness of the fish after its death and its organoleptic qualities. The flesh can then be matured, just like red meat! The maturation will allow to soften the flesh and to refine the taste of the fish. Beware, if you eat the fish on the day of slaughter, the texture of the flesh will be ultra crunchy!

What tools are used for manual felling?

Professionals in the industry are aware that the stress, pain and conditions the fish live in at the time of slaughter, impacts the quality of the product. The technique of ikejime is precise and must be fast:

Présentation des quatre étapes de l'abattage à la méthode ikejime.

Description of the different stages of manual felling and the tools used. The order of these steps may differ depending on the technique used and the species.

    • 1-The Tegaki :

The fish is immobilized and with a quick gesture, the tegaki (metal hook) will puncture the brain of the animal.

    • 2-The metal rod :

A wire rope (or other material) slides horizontally from the head to the tail to destroy the spinal cord.

    • 3-Bleeding knife :

Bleedout is carried out by an incision on the animal.

    • 4-Storage in a cool place :

The fish is kept between 0-2°C. The temperature slows down the phenomenon of biochemical degradation of the flesh. This stage of maturation in a cool place will reveal the organoleptic qualities of the product.

How is the sector organised from fishing to slaughter?

The sector in a few figures

In France, this innovative sector has existed for 4-5 years. The global market represents 70 to 80 tons of ikejimé fish (2018 data), whether sold directly or after an auction.

There are different circuits of ikejime:

  • fish killed aboard a fishing boat "Ikejime at Sea"...
  • fish slaughtered on land within a period in the tank "Ikejime on land".

Presentation of the two circuits of ikejime: either the slaughter is done at sea, or the slaughter is done on land after a passage in a fish tank. Diagram of the different stages, from fishing to the slaughter of the fish, for the two ikejime circuits. Click on the diagram to enlarge it.

Ikejime ashore in 5 steps

Step 1 et 2 :

The fish are caught by line and kept alive on board the boat in fish tanks. This selective fishing allows live fish to be hauled in and minimizes the risk of damaging them.

Step 3 :

The first sale of live fish pcan be carried out ina auction or by mutual agreement (direct sale from a vessel to a buyer under a sales contract, reporting obligations and weighing). After their reception, a check is carried out before they are placed in fishponds pending transport to their place of slaughter. Tone, size and buoyancy are checked.

Step 4 :

Transport is a key stage ; it is carried out using vehicles with live tanks. It is necessary to keep the fish in good conditions and to respect animal welfare. Thus, the type of vehicle used will depend on the quantity of live fish to be transported, the species and the length of the journey to be made.

Step 5 :

Once at the fish wholesaler, he fish remain in the fish tank for a few days. This rest period is necessary to relieve stress. However, certain parameters may anyway create stress in the fish, such as the quality of the lighting, ambient noise, sampling frequency, etc.

Step 6 :

Slaughter is carried out according to the demands and resting conditions of the fish, so that they are delivered "ultra fresh" to the customer.

It is difficult to say that the ikejime slaughter method, following a resting period in the tank, is the best way to get quality fish in comparison to when they are slaughtered immediately in a boat were the flesh is of very good quality. It depends on the fishing technique used (angling, netting) and the tone of the fish when it is brought back on board.

According to Stephanie:"In the case of ikejime fish, the only guarantor of the quality of the fish is the person who performs the slaughter, as he alone can judge the tonicity of the fish" and "Generally speaking, the more a fish is rested, the better it is".

The rules for obtaining quality fish

Stephanie Woods tells us a few rules that must be respected in order to carry out a quality slaughter:

  • the fish must be reeled in alive; ;
  • the fish must be in good condition (no injuries, no prolonged stress or struggle) ;
  • a rest period in the fish tank must be respected ;
  • fast, precise slaughtering and consistent technique ensure consistent product quality.

The species of fish sold in ikejime are most often sea bass, red mullet, turbot or pagoda, pollack, sea bream and bluefin tuna. More and more other less noble species are valued andput on the menus of restaurants such as horse mackerel, old and pout…

What are the advantages of ikejime in catering?