One of the very first steps to creating Armorica was, unsurprisingly, finding a supply of cod livers. We really wanted to keep as much as possible in the UK. With cod being a popular fish to eat in the UK, you’d think this was easy. We certainly did, but we were wrong.
Cod livers are never landed by UK fishermen. The cod are gutted at sea and the waste (including the livers) is discarded overboard. This gives more storage space for fillets, and so earns the fishermen more money. After speaking with a number of fishermen and fish merchants, we found out that over the last few years fishermen did land cod livers to try and sell, but there were no takers. This meant the fishermen were very reluctant to bring any more livers to shore. To fishermen, cod livers are a waste product, should be treated as waste, and anything else, is a waste of time. Very few people would even entertain the idea of holding the livers for us.
After several weeks of speaking to what felt like every fisherman in every fishing port in Scotland, one fisherman said he would land us a small batch of cod livers. He landed us about 50kg of livers, which we used for the final stages of our process testing.
After several months of anxious fermenting, the oil was finally ready to filter off. This was followed by more anxious waiting for laboratory results to come back. Finally, we got the tests back, and we knew we had created something quite remarkable. The fermenting and filtering process worked amazingly, and the oil was in exceptional condition. There is/ has been a lot of speculation around the feasibility of fermenting cod livers. We know it it does work, and works well.
So close, yet so far.
This left one problem though. There was no way we could step up production if we could only maybe get 50kg of livers every now and then…possibly.
Again, we went around the fishing ports and merchants in Scotland. Even the fisherman who previously sent us the previous batch was unable to help. We were met with a wall of disinterest. It was beginning to feel hopeless. How had we come so far, and overcome so much only to not be able to find a source of cod livers, in a country that fishes so much cod?!
Finally, someone showed a hint of interest. Rather than the instant rejection of the idea, he wanted to know why we wanted the livers, what we were doing with them etc. He wasn’t a fisherman, but worked with a few fishing vessels in transporting their catches across the country. Quickly he was on board with the idea of a UK made cod liver oil, and suddenly we had not 1 but 2 small fishing vessels on board with us, and ready to supply the livers!
Where our cod livers come from
These 2 vessels sail from Peterhead, and catch the cod around the Shetland Islands, which forms the border for the Atlantic Ocean and North Sea. They sail for about 5 days at a time, and their sole catch is Atlantic Cod. Our small team in Peterhead are fantastic at keeping to high quality standards. They only keep livers from cod caught on the last day of fishing, to ensure they are fresh, and get them to us so quickly that the livers are with us and fermenting away before fishmongers get fish from the same catch out for sale.
And that is how we finally managed to find a supply of fresh cod livers. Ironically, this presented the opposite problem now. These 2 vessels can provide a lot more cod livers than we can get through!
From this experience, we can say with quite a high degree of confidence that our fermented cod liver oil is the cod liver oil made with cod livers caught in the UK!