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How a Belfast smokehouse is turning salmon into a profitable delicacy — Midcoast — Bangor Daily News — BDN Maine

How a Belfast smokehouse is turning salmon into a profitable delicacy — Midcoast — Bangor Daily News — BDN Maine

Linda Coan O’Kresik | BDN

Linda Coan O’Kresik | BDN

Mary Shutters weighs salmon to be packaged within the processing room of Ducktrap River of Maine in Belfast. Ducktrap River of Maine is marking its 40th yr of smoking fish on the Maine coast with a $5 million enlargement that may improve its manufacturing capability by 75 %. With 160 staff, its one of many metropolis’s largest employers and poised to develop.

By Abigail Curtis, BDN Employees •
October 11, 2018 1:00 am

Up to date: October 11, 2018 2:25 am

Lately, it appears as if simply mentioning the phrase “salmon” in Waldo County can set off fisticuffs, as feelings proceed to experience excessive about whether or not or not Belfast is a great place for a multimillion greenback land-based salmon farm.

However inside metropolis limits, one other firm is quietly turning salmon and different fish into each a delicacy and a revenue. Ducktrap River of Maine is marking its 40th yr of smoking fish on the Maine coast with a $5 million enlargement that may improve its manufacturing capability by 75 %. And it doesn’t matter what occurs with the proposed land-based salmon farm, at Ducktrap, salmon is king.

That’s as a result of salmon, each wild-caught and farm-raised, makes up the lion’s share of the fish that is processed on the venerable Belfast smokehouse. Each week, the corporate processes greater than 100,00Zero kilos of fish, and about 80 % of that is salmon, the succulent, oily fish that is shipped to Waldo County from everywhere in the world.

A few of that salmon just lately made its approach by means of one of many firm’s chilly manufacturing flooring. Women and men garbed in rubber boots, protecting fits and hair nets made positive the brined and cold-smoked salmon was sprinkled with a considered quantity of dill and different spices earlier than being weighed and packaged for distribution. New machines have automated a lot of the method, slicing and weighing the pink, herb-topped fish that raced on a conveyor belt by way of the room, though individuals have been nonetheless current each step of the best way.

Linda Coan O’Kresik | BDN

Linda Coan O’Kresik | BDN

Don Cynewski , common supervisor, pulls out a tray of cold-smoked Chilean farm raised salmon at Ducktrap River of Maine in Belfast. Ducktrap River of Maine is marking its 40th yr of smoking fish on the Maine coast with a $5 million enlargement that may improve its manufacturing capability by 75 %. With 160 staff, its one of many metropolis’s largest employers and poised to develop.

“This is definitely a step up, with more modern technology,” stated Don Cynewski, common supervisor of the corporate.

The brand new machines are situated on the coronary heart of a state-of-the-art, 50,00Zero-square-foot smokehouse that just lately opened in a Belfast Enterprise Park facility that had been vacant since 2016, when Little River Attire closed for good. The most important enlargement ought to permit Ducktrap to extend its manufacturing capability by 75 %, the overall supervisor stated, including that it couldn’t open quickly sufficient.

“For the last couple of years, we’ve had to turn away business. We were at capacity, and employees have been having to work on Saturdays,” he stated. “This investment is great for the next 10 years in Belfast.”

Globally, demand for salmon has been rising in the course of the previous a number of many years, he stated, with the smoked salmon market maintaining tempo. Ducktrap of Maine, owned by Norwegian-based worldwide agency Marine Harvest, is positioning itself to maintain up with the rising starvation for smoked salmon and different fish. Opening the brand new manufacturing facility is simply the newest chapter in Ducktrap’s 40-year historical past, one which has been marked with ups and downs however has seen regular progress prior to now 10 years.

Linda Coan O’Kresik | BDN

Linda Coan O’Kresik | BDN

Ducktrap River of Maine is marking its 40th yr of smoking fish on the Maine coast with a $5 million enlargement that may improve its manufacturing capability by 75 %. With 160 staff, its one of many metropolis’s largest employers and poised to develop.

Turbulent historical past

The corporate was began by Des FitzGerald, a Maine man with a dream and a plot of land on Kendall Brook in Lincolnville. He needed to farm trout, and in 1978 constructed a number of water runs and commenced trout farming on a small, native scale.

Fitzgerald named the corporate the Ducktrap River Fish Farm after the river into which Kendall Brook flowed, however quickly discovered that trout farming additionally was engaging to the otters, raccoons, skunks and owls that shared the neighborhood with him.

“The animals kept getting into his trout farm,” Cynewski stated. “So he started smoking trout.”

FitzGerald despatched away for a booklet from the federal government on how one can construct a smoker and smoke fish, in line with the corporate’s historical past.

He constructed a small smokehouse, buried an previous wooden range within the floor beneath it and set to work. Because it turned out, he was higher at smoking the fish than farming it, and the product caught on regionally, then past.

Ducktrap grew all through the 1980s and in 1991, the manufacturing was moved to a then state-of-the-art facility in Belfast, which allowed it to extend capability and maintain high quality excessive.

Linda Coan O’Kresik | BDN

Linda Coan O’Kresik | BDN

Ducktrap River of Maine is marking its 40th yr of smoking fish on the Maine coast with a $5 million enlargement that may improve its manufacturing capability by 75 %. With 160 staff, its one of many metropolis’s largest employers and poised to develop.

Nonetheless, within the 2000s, Ducktrap fell into some arduous occasions, Cynewski stated. The corporate had been bought to a huge American agribusiness agency in 1999, and in 2001, that firm merged with Fjord Seafood, a Norwegian-based enterprise.

By then, Ducktrap was closely concerned in farming Atlantic salmon in pens off the coast of Washington County, and the aquaculture aspect of the enterprise was proving to be troublesome, Cynewski stated. At one level, 100,00Zero farmed salmon escaped, and $10 million value of fish died over one frigid, pricey winter.

Lawsuits have been filed, and it simply appeared like the corporate couldn’t shake a run of dangerous luck, hassle and instability.

“It seemed like every five or six months, we were having another crisis in the salmon farming operation,” Cynewski stated. “The early 2000s were pretty bleak.”

In 2007, Fjord was considered one of three seafood corporations that merged to type Marine Harvest, which has operations in nations everywhere in the world. That’s when issues started wanting up for the smokehouse on the Maine coast, the supervisor stated, including that Ducktrap divested itself of the aquaculture aspect of the enterprise and targeted on smoked seafood.

“We were five or six years trying to get everything stabilized,” he stated. “The focus was on cutting costs and becoming profitable.”

Linda Coan O’Kresik | BDN

Linda Coan O’Kresik | BDN

Within the processing room of Ducktrap River of Maine in Belfast. Ducktrap River of Maine is marking its 40th yr of smoking fish on the Maine coast with a $5 million enlargement that may improve its manufacturing capability by 75 %. With 160 staff, its one of many metropolis’s largest employers and poised to develop.

From Maine to the world

In the present day, Ducktrap employs 160 full-time staff and is the second largest smokehouse within the nation. It goals to be a a part of the worldwide financial system whereas nonetheless maintaining its Maine roots intact and altered its identify to Ducktrap River of Maine to attempt to capitalize on that connection.

“I think Maine has a great reputation in the United States. We try to lean on that,” Cynewski stated. “There is a lot of truth to the idea that people in Maine are hardworking and conscientious. We have people that work hard and care about what they’re doing. Des did a great job creating a great brand. We always say we try not to screw it up.”

As a result of cold-smoked fish is a uncooked meals product thought-about just like sushi by meals security regulators, staff have to take cautious precautions when getting ready the product.

Frozen fish is first thawed for a day earlier than being brined in a salt answer. Then, it’s positioned within the cold-smoke kilns at 82 levels or so Fahrenheit for eight to 10 hours, and is smoked over regionally sourced hardwoods and fruitwoods, Cynewski stated.

Altogether, it’s a three-day course of to convey the fish from frozen to completed. Smoked salmon from Ducktrap could be discovered everywhere in the nation, at shops together with Hannaford, Dealer Joe’s and Entire Meals Market, the corporate’s single-largest buyer.

Natalie Williams | BDN

Natalie Williams | BDN

Belfast, ME — October four, 2018 — Tracey Larby seasons smoked salmon within the processing room of Ducktrap River of Maine in Belfast. Ducktrap River of Maine is marking its 40th yr of smoking fish on the Maine coast with a $5 million enlargement that may improve its manufacturing capability by 75 %. With 160 staff, its one of many metropolis’s largest employers and poised to develop.

Linda Coan O’Kresik | BDN

“You would have a hard time finding a Whole Foods without Ducktrap in it,” Cynewski stated.

A number of the salmon smoked at Ducktrap is sourced from Chile, though the corporate additionally will get the fish from Norway, Scotland, Iceland and Canada. Trout comes from Colombia, Chile and Argentina, the place the Maine smokehouse is the only buyer at one trout farm.

With a Norwegian father or mother firm and gross sales across the nation and past — 95 % of the product smoked in Belfast is bought outdoors of Maine — there’s no denying the truth that Ducktrap’s smoked fish is a world enterprise.

And but, to date Ducktrap appears to have prevented the furor over a proposed Norwegian land-based salmon farm that has roiled the town of Belfast since plans for it have been introduced early this yr. The rhetoric outdoors the smokehouse might get heated about salmon farms and internationally owned firms, however inside it’s enterprise as ordinary.

“We’re salting the fish, smoking it, slicing it,” Cynewski stated, including that he loves the corporate he’s labored at for many years. “It’s a nice combination of a very professional operation, with owners from Norway and product from around the world, and yet I come to work every day in jeans.”

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