Tuna Processing

Watch a video on canned tuna processing.

Tuna is delivered to our cannery either directly from the fishing vessel or from reefer ships delivering from foreign fishing companies. The majority of the tuna delivered is frozen, and to maintain quality is moved promptly from the vessel into cold storage facilities at the cannery.

During the unloading, the fish are grouped according to size and weight. The quality assurance provides uniformity in thawing and precooking. As soon as the catch is unloaded, it’s time for quality control. Bumble Bee specialists inspect the vessel and the condition of the fish delivered.

To begin processing, tuna are moved from the freezer to thawing tanks. These are large water tanks where the tuna is uniformly thawed to prepare for initial cleaning. The tuna is then loaded into metal racks, which are wheeled into large steam pressure-cooking chambers called retorts. Tuna is baked for a prescribed time and temperature, depending upon the size of the fish. This steam baking removes excess oils and prepares the tuna for the easy removal of skin and bones. After baking, the racks of tuna are moved to a temperature-controlled room for cooling. Once the tuna is cooled it is sent to the cleaning tables where the separation of edible meat (loins) from skin and bones begins. There are two stations used for preparing Albacore tuna – one for skin removal and another for deboning. These extra steps are taken to assure premium-quality canned tuna.

The cleaned loins are then moved to the canning process. Cans are automatically filled with tuna and move in a single line from the filling machine to the vacuum sealer. Next, the cans of tuna automatically receive the appropriate measure of salt, vegetable broth, water, or oil. Lids are then automatically clinched on the top of the can before entering the vacuum sealer, where the air is withdrawn and the lid hermetically sealed. The cans proceed through a water bath for cleaning off oil residue, and then are placed back into retort baskets. After the prescribed cook time and temperature, the sterilized canned tuna is removed from the retort and moved to a cooling area. When the cans have cooled they are labeled. The day following packing, quality control personnel cut open representative samples from the previous day’s pack and grade them for the following: vacuum, appearance, smell, texture, style of pack, cleanliness, and flavor. The results of the cuttings determine if the product is marketable as Bumble Bee. If the product receives Q.A. (Quality Assurance) approval, it is sent to the warehouse for shipment to the marketplace.

Throughout the entire process, important quality control measures are taken to meet Bumble Bee standards – one that is equal or superior to any premium brand for consistency in appearance, cleanliness, smell, and flavor. Bumble Bee Solid White Albacore Tuna sets the standard of quality for white meat tuna, and as a result it has enjoyed the Number 1 position in the marketplace.

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