Chinese salmon filleters

Amazing, that it’s cheaper to send salmon around the world and back to have it filleted than just doing it here.

Pacific salmon swim as far as 2,000 miles to lay their eggs in rivers up and down the Northwest. Once caught, some make a longer journey: 8,000 miles round-trip to China.

Facing growing imports of low-cost seafood, fish processors in the Northwest, including Seattle-based Trident Seafoods, are sending part of their catch of Alaskan salmon or Dungeness crab to China to be filleted or de-shelled before returning to U.S. tables.

“There are 36 pin bones in a salmon and the best way to remove them is by hand,” says Charles Bundrant, founder of Trident, which ships about 30 million pounds of its 1.2 billion-pound annual harvest to China for processing. “Something that would cost us $1 per pound labor here, they get it done for 20 cents in China.”

I don’t know how many salmon filleters there are in the US, but I suggest they start learning new skills.

The Discussion: 19 Comments

That sounds real fishy.

July 16, 2005 @ 8:05 pm | Comment

Gordon. Pardon?

It seems as the world has turned once again. I used to work in the salmon industry in Alaska to support my education. Many years before I ever went to Alaska to work, Chinese laborers were hired to do the hand work to cut open and clean out the salmon. Ah, that cheap labor.

Some genius in the old days between 1910 and 1930s developed a machine to gut and clean the salmon. It was called the “IRON CHINK.” A reference as you rightly surmise to the Chinese who used to do the work.

Forward to the past, now Chinese cheap labor again allows Americans to have their salmon and eat it too.

July 16, 2005 @ 11:52 pm | Comment

See where labor unions get you?

July 17, 2005 @ 1:15 am | Comment

“Iron Chink” That’s a good one.

July 17, 2005 @ 2:19 am | Comment

Iron Chink? Thanks pete, I didn’t know any of that.

I suppose salmon cleaning stuff is inevitable as the US has long since moved up the value chain.

The only problem I’ve got with this (and I admit it’s a bit paranoid) is that if this work has to get shipped out to Asia, then why can’t the companies give this work to an American ally, even if it might cost a few cents more? Thailand, Phillipines, Vietnam?

July 17, 2005 @ 3:21 am | Comment

I would be more concerned about the freshness of the fish. Whats the turn around time on those bad boys?

July 17, 2005 @ 3:28 am | Comment

Crab shakers in Qingdao get $100 to $150 a month to extract meat from crab shells with pincers — one-tenth what it might cost in the U.S., says John Lin, who oversees new-product development at Pacific’s headquarters.

Damn unions! It’s their fault for making the cost of living in Washington so high that no one can afford to live on $100 a month!

July 17, 2005 @ 3:31 am | Comment

Haha, vaara, just don’t post here often enough these days man.

AM, flying the salmon in refridgerated bulk carriers there and back would only take a day or two. But I assume they freeze it somewhere along the line as the whole catch-China-return-US consumers cycle would have to be pretty efficient for chilled fish. Not that I’m an expert like…

July 17, 2005 @ 3:38 am | Comment

You lost me at the word “Frozen” I want my fish fresh!

July 17, 2005 @ 3:40 am | Comment

You are such a bourgeois capitalist roader and all round bad element American Man.

Anyway, frozen salmon isn’t your problem, it is the cook’s problem.

July 17, 2005 @ 3:53 am | Comment

Even the Great Helmsman enjoyed a touch of the old Salmon Carpaccio from time to time. When I give the “Help” a little free time, I dabble in the kitchen myself. Nothing serious mind you. Tonight it’s Tagine de Poulet ,White Truffle Couscous with Harissa. A lovely warm Pear Clafouti will follow.Bon Appetite!

July 17, 2005 @ 4:06 am | Comment

It is not how much money you get, it is what you get for your money. Most of America’s high wage rate and cost of living is due to inflationary costs, not to increased wealth. From an economic standpoint, there is no reason for incomes to rise at all, increase in wealth would allow a given money to purchase more goods and services. It is the purchasing power of money that is important. What quite often happens in inflationary economies is that one gets more momey, but actually is able to procure less for that increase, not more.

July 17, 2005 @ 4:14 am | Comment

It is not how much money you get, it is what you get for your money.

Bingo! Thanks to unions, American companies are getting ripped off in labor costs and that’s why their jobs are going to places like China, and Vietnam.

Is an uneducated individual really worth paying $14 / hour just to sit on an assembly line and push a button when they will do it in China for $14 / month?

Sorry to say, if I were business owner, I’d probably have my labor in China or Vietnam too. I mean, after all, businesses are in business to make money, right?

July 17, 2005 @ 8:01 am | Comment

Um… union representation in the U.S. is around 15% of the workforce (last time I checked; it’s probably less now) — a large proportion of whom are government employees. So blaming the eeeevil unions for the difference in wages between Chinese and American manufacturing workers is absurd.

But then I suppose your attitude toward this issue depends on whether you believe in profit über alles, or whether you think corporations have any sort of moral responsibility to support the families and communities that enabled their success in the first place.

Should the U.S. react to Chinese competition by relegating its blue-collar workforce to a Chinese standard of living?

July 17, 2005 @ 1:12 pm | Comment

vaara, having worked for one of the worlds largest corporations that has fallen victim to unions…I’ll go toe to toe with you.

Where do we start?

July 17, 2005 @ 2:27 pm | Comment

I’m with Vaara on this one. It’s a can-of-worms topic because it involves the entire phoilosophy of what business is and who it is for and what its goals are. To keep it simple, Vaara is exactly right saying that corporations have (or shold have) a larger responsibility than just keeping proices low, namely giving to their employees and communities. That used to be a large part of what American companies were about before globalization was everything.

I worked for a union-protected company for years and loved the benefits, which contrary to Gordon’s comments did not bankrupt the company or keep it from hiring. I see the steady erosion of the worker’s status as one of the great injustices, even tragedies, of the globalized society. If the answer to all of business’ problems is to constantly slash wages and benefits the the point where they’re 20 cents an hour, what kind of world will it be for those who don’t own the businesses? The way today’s corporation in set up, it almost guarantees that with more progress and modernization, the more fucked the workers will be, to the point of impoverishment. It’s a nasty formula and one day America is going to demand an overhaul.

July 17, 2005 @ 3:55 pm | Comment

I think your knowledge of business history in the United States is not based on evidence, but on propaganda. If you look at wage rates during the laissez faire period of American history (prior to 1905), real wages actually increased, not decreased. For some reason, you guys are assuming businesses are dictators and can asssess wages arbitrarily, they can not. Wages are a function of economics, labor is like all other factors of production and moves in concert with economic demands. With industrialization, more and more products are made, and with a given set of money available, the prices of the products fall in price, with people now able to procure more and more products.

Another problem that many assume (from what I see written), is that American companies use the same technology as their foreign competitiors. A Chinese factory uses far more labor than an American factory. As anexample, I have seen a Chinese factory where they use over 2,000 workers, that is (if we assume one dollar an hour) $2,000 an hour in labor costs. I know of an equivalent American factory where the labor for doing the same thing is about 10 (technology is a big thing), and even at $20 an hour, that is only $200 an hour. The American factory is lower in price than the Chinese. It is labor intensive industries that labor pricing that is a factor. In others, it is something else.

Another example, the Lenovo line in China is very inefficient compared to the Dell line in America. The other factor to consider, is that as long as labor is cheap in China, China will remain labor intensive.

It is true that the percentage of unionized labor is falling in the United States, but that is because the percentage of labor involved in manufacturing is falling. Most manufacturing plants in the rust belt are union, especially for the Fortune 500 companies, and they still are.

July 17, 2005 @ 6:48 pm | Comment

Shipping fish to China and back just for de-boning? That reminds me that during the San Francisco gold rush era, it was actually economically worthwhile to ship miners’ clothing to HAWAII for laundering.

Not sure what the miners wore in the meantime, shipping time being a bit longer in the Age of Sail …

July 18, 2005 @ 6:38 am | Comment

interesting commentary all around.

personally, i would prefer to keep american product on american soil. but, i can understand the economics of the situation from the company’s side.

i think… we as consumers have a certain amount of responsibilty too. let’s face it, the average american isn’t going to be willing to spend $29.99 on an item rather than $9.99 just to be assured that it’s a USA product which has been produced in the USA.

May 5, 2006 @ 10:12 am | Comment

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