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Citrus-fed buri brands go head-to-head

The Yomiuri Shimbun

Atsushi Hamashima serves a Buri-Oh yellowtail set meal in Nagashima, Kagoshima Prefecture.

By Kazuhiro Shiraishi, Isamu Hamamura/Yomiuri Shimbun Staff WritersYellowtail fish, or buri, become fatty as winter approaches. Delicious whether eaten raw or simmered, yellowtail is also reasonably priced, with farm-raised fish typically costing less than varieties caught in the wild.

Amid fierce competition among production areas, such as Kagoshima and Oita prefectures, yellowtail fed with food that contains citrus fruits are being marketed in an effort to differentiate the fish from competition among other yellowtail farming areas.

Kagoshima Prefecture topped the farm-raised yellowtail production rankings in 2016 with 28,800 tons, followed by Oita Prefecture with 17,200 tons, according to Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry statistics.

The pioneering brand of such “fruit-reared fish” is Yuzu Buri-Oh developed by the Azuma-Cho Fishery Cooperative in Kagoshima Prefecture.

Other producers in the Kyushu region followed suit, producing fruity fish with their indigenous citruses: Kabosu Buri in Oita Prefecture as well as fish fed with Hebesu, an indigenous citrus produced in Hyuga, Miyazaki Prefecture, and fish fed with a brand of Chinese citron called Natsuka produced in Hirado, Nagasaki Prefecture.

‘Yellowtail king’ deserving of royal name

NAGASHIMA, Kagoshima — “Buri-Oh” (Yellowtail king), a brand of buri yellowtail, farmed by the Azuma-Cho Fishery Cooperative in Nagashima, is shipped to about 30 countries. The rich fatty meat can truly be called a royal dish that is worthy of its name. About 630 cooperative members engage in operations from the farming of young fish to shipment.

The cooperative’s sales department chief Yasuhiko Nakazono, 51, said: “The members are united by commitment to strict quality control. We have acquired a production capacity and competitive power that are unparalleled in other prefectures.”

Buri-Oh is unquestionably a delicious fish. At Nagashima Tairiku Ichiba Shokudo, a restaurant near the port in the northern part of the town, freshly farmed buri is served. People sometimes form a line in front of the restaurant before its opening at 11 a.m.

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  • The Yomiuri Shimbun

    An official of the Oita prefectural fishery cooperative promotes Kabosu Buri sashimi during a sampling event in Oita Prefecture.

The sashimi served at the restaurant has a lustrous and luscious texture. In another dish, buri meat is simmered on the bone with soy sauce to make an umami-rich dish that goes perfectly with rice.

Atsushi Hamashima of the restaurant said, “We have lots of customers coming from both inside and outside the prefecture, so we have realized how great, the Buri-Oh brand is.”

The cooperative teamed up with Kochi University and has been producing Yuzu Buri-Oh, whose diet includes yuzu citrus fruit, for about 10 years. It sells about 3,000 Yuzu Buri-Oh toward the end of the year by mail order. The fish is popular for its fresh taste and mild odor.

About 2.7 million aquacultured buri, including Buri-Oh, died in 2009 and 2010 due to red tide algal blooms, with the damage amounting to about ¥5 billion. The cooperative overcame the crisis by improving the fish food and their product eventually became a regular favorite.

“Buri-Oh is good enough to be served anywhere in the world,” Nakazono said with a smile. “It’s the world-beating buri.”

Fruit rind feed key to Kabosu Buri’s benefits

OITA — The recommended way to serve Oita Prefecture’s “Kabosu Buri” yellowtail, which is fed with powdered kabosu citrus rind, is either raw or in a shabu-shabu style.

“Kabosu Buri is a triple threat with a good taste, good aroma and good appearance,” said Yoshikazu Kiyabu, 46, a senior researcher at the Oita prefectural government’s agriculture and fisheries research and guidance center.

It used to be hard to ship buri to distant consumers because the chiai, the strip of dark meat running along the fish’s body between the lighter back and belly portions, quickly takes on a bloody appearance that makes the fish look bad, thus reducing its commercial value. To delay the color change as long as possible, the center took notice of the antioxidant effects of vitamin C and polyphenol. Kabosu, a specialty of Oita, is rich in those substances.

During three years of aquaculture testing from 2007, the amount of kabosu blended with the feed was adjusted. A fillet stored in a refrigerator usually changes color in about 36 hours. With the use of kabosu feed, discoloration was held off for about 72 hours. It was also confirmed that more of the kabosu’s flavor remains when the rind is blended into the feed than when only kabosu juice is used.

The Oita prefectural fishery cooperative and other relevant organizations set standards for a definition of Kabosu Buri as follows. Feed containing 0.5 percent kabosu rind should be given a total of 25 times, the chiai color should be checked before shipment, and so on. Four companies in three cities — Saiki, Usuki and Tsukumi — located in the southern part of the prefecture facing the Bungo Channel, currently produce Kabosu Buri. The shipping season is from November to March. The shipment this season is expected to be a record high of about 640 tons.

Juho Suisan President Kensho Sasaki, 67, one of the aquafarmers in Usuki producing Kabosu Buri, said: “I fell in love with this fish that has a simple taste without a strong odor. The brand motivated me to do a better job in this industry.”

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