Cod is one of the world’s most popular fish but just using the fillets leaves up to 60 percent of each fish on the cutting room floor. Those fish parts present lots of opportunities. Cod skins, for example, contain 17 percent of valuable collagen which has hundreds of health and medical applications.

An Iceland company called Codland is turning the skins into collagen powder. Plans call for yearly output of about nine million pounds of skins which will yield about 900,000 pounds of collagen.  The company will sell the powder in bulk mostly to producers of so called functional foods and drinks. It also plans to expand to include other fish skins.

Lots of Alaskan cod skins also go to the collagen market, which market watchers predict will be worth up to $10 billion globally by 2023.

Cod skins isn’t new to the world. They’ve been extracting collagen with pollock and cod skins in Dutch Harbor for decades for use in the beauty and makeup industry in Japan.” 

Keith Singleton heads the value added division of Alaskan Leader Seafoods. The company’s four freezer longliners fleet mince its cod skins for pet treats.

“The market likes it and cats and dogs go gaga over it. It’s fun to watch them react to a dried cod skin. We cut ‘em up in little pieces and they love it.”

The fleet also grinds cod parts for kibble and wet dog food.

“It’s just one more usage with our pledge to have the vessels 100 percent utilized.”

Alaskan Leader’s more upscale pet product – Cod Crunchies – are made from fillet trimmings.  It won a first place last year in the Alaska Symphony of Seafood new products competition. Now the company has partnered with a major pet food maker to produce a private label. Singleton says it’s a one ingredient hit.

“The one ingredient that everyone likes is the protein. That’s what drives everything.” 

 Alaskan Leader also sells its cod livers for oil; Singleton says details of other things they produce are proprietary.

“Let’s put it this way – I think we’ve only got about 2 percent of the fish left that we haven’t found a market for yet.”