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In Their Words : The Story of BC Packers

Farm Animals Ate Fish

Reduction is a process that turned fish such as herring into fish meal, fish oil and concentrated protein called solubles.

Fish meal is fish turned into powder. Fish oil is the oil from the body of the fish. Solubles are high-protein liquids from the body of the fish. Herring is a small, oily, protein-rich fish that was made into meal, oil and solubles.

These three products were used by the agriculture industry to feed farm animals such as poultry and cattle. At least some of the herring oil was used in the manufacture of paints, lubricants and other industrial materials. Almost every ounce of the herring fish could be used in things so common to people's everyday lives!

Herring were turned into meal, oil and solubles in factories called reduction plants. Herring reduction plants were part of large canneries such as BC Packers' Imperial Plant in Steveston. Work in herring reduction plants was heavy and difficult. Only men were employed in herring reduction plants. The machinery in these plants was used year-round to process all of the fish waste generated in the cannery and other processing areas.

Herring reduction was a wintertime activity. Unlike salmon canning it only required a handful of workers in the factory. More workers were needed to unload the herring and to warehouse and ship the final products.

The basic process of herring reduction was simple - separate liquids from solids, then remove the water from each. It may have been simple, but the process needed an incredible collection of enormous machinery to move, cook, press, fluff, dry, shake, grind, settle, steam, spin and evaporate millions of little silver herring. So many things happened to a herring on its way through the reduction plant that it was unrecognizable by the end – just dry meal, purified oil and sticky solubles!

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