Cannery A to Z: O is for Oil

View of the drumming room, where smaller drums (42 Gallons) are filled with fish oil.  Steveston BC, Fall 1943. CFC-3-8-6

It’s natural to assume that only canned fish was produced at the Gulf of Georgia Cannery in Steveston, but did you know that it was turned into a Herring Reduction Plant in 1940?

From 1940 to 1979, the Herring Reduction Plant at the Cannery reduced herring into fish meal as well as fish oil, the latter of which was added to animal feed. This was a complicated process that involved separating the oil from the rest of the liquid that came out of the crushed fish, and cooling it before filtering out anything that wasn’t pure oil.

In the end this fish oil was a clear and odourless liquid that could be blended for a nutritional boost of vitamins A (which came from herring) and D (which came from dogfish) for animal feed. Making fish oil didn’t last for long at the Cannery, since other ways to make fish oil were found that were faster and easier. One of the most interesting parts of making fish oil was what happened when it cooled. Dropping the temperature would reveal any parts of the oil that weren’t pure by turning them into solid clumps called stearin. Maybe you’ve noticed stearin appearing in an olive oil-based salad dressing left in your own fridge. Not to worry, these clumps aren’t dangerous – but in the Cannery’s Herring Reduction Plant they would be removed (and could actually be used for other products, like makeup) before the oil was ready for the final stages.

Photograph of three halibut oil barrels, Gold Seal brand produced by Canfisco. CFC-3-8-8
Posted by m.horita
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