ANCHORAGE - At fast food restaurants across the country, Alaska fish are showing up on the menu.
From new fish nuggets at McDonald's (the chain calls them “Fish McBites”) to whitefish or cod sandwiches at Burger King, Wendy's, and Arby's, seafood from the last frontier is now available to more customers than ever.
At the Wendy’s on the corner of Benson and Seward today, the drive-thru line was consistently backed up during lunch. They were selling out of their Pacific Cod Filet sandwich, which contains some Alaskan fish. The clerks working the window said they’re becoming more popular as the company’s ad campaign has ramped up.
“Ever since they put the commercials on, our fish has gone from, pshhh, hardly selling, to way selling a lot,” the drive through window attendant said. As a fresh batch of filets left the fryer—and went out the window to waiting customers—she said people have mentioned the “local” fish by name. “We're in Alaska!” she said. “We should get Alaska cod!”
The big chains are hoping that having wild-caught Alaskan seafood on the menu will boost slumping burger sales. It’s a tactic that’s worked before—behold the myriad ways chicken can be nuggeted, bite-sized, and fingerized—and after a test run of more fish on the menu during Lent last year (a time when many Catholics abstain from eating meat on Fridays), McDonalds and other chains are now rolling out the fish snacks on their full-time menu.
There's no doubt that Alaska fish is big news for the fast food industry. But the seafood industry said it's good news for them, too.
The Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute promotes fish from Alaska waters around the globe. In an interview today, they said nearly $1.5 billion worth of Alaska seafood is eaten in the U.S. each year. But large contracts with the fast food industry is netting even more profits for the state's seafood industry, contributing to a 22 percent jump in prices over the last three years.
But not everyone is taking the fast food fish bait.
“I think if they're going to have fish, maybe not have it coated, maybe not deep fried,” said Sonja Ellis today outside the Midtown McDonalds. “I don't know, maybe bake it or something.”
Other regular customers say fast food fish just isn’t appealing.
“If I want fish, I want like a fillet,” said Tor Daley on his way to lunch. “I'm glad they're not advertising something really good, like Copper River salmon or something,” he laughed.
It might not be for everyone, but for now, fish from local waters is leaving the Alaskan fish industry swimming in the green.