Zero waste: the Portuguese company turns leftover fish into dog treats |


UN News recently visited one such project, in the Portuguese capital, Lisbon, where the UN Ocean Conference will be held at the end of June.

Sancho Pancho was created by Russian Daria Demidenko, who moved to Portugal in 2015. Her ingenious business idea is to turn leftover fresh fish into dog treats.

Ms Demidenko started her business by partnering with a Japanese restaurant and some of the Portuguese capital’s fish markets. It uses the parts that don’t make it to the plate and can’t be used to produce high-end sushi and sashimi dishes.

UN News/Leda Letra

Sancho Pancho, a small business that turns fresh fish scraps into dog treats, is based in Lisbon, Portugal.

Fight against food waste

Every day, pounds and pounds of fish heads, bones and skins literally end up in the trash, but Demidenko has revolutionized the approach to this food waste by partnering with Sekai Sushi Bar, a Japanese restaurant in central district of Santos. .

Every day, the restaurant receives about 10 kilos of salmon, tuna and white fish.

Sushi chef Sunil Basnet quickly cleans and prepares fish, including treats like a three-kilogram croaker caught just off the Portuguese coast.

Sekai owner Edilson Neves told UN News that on average 30% of the fish cannot be used by the restaurant.

“The backbone, part of the tail, the edges, the sides, the part that connects with the stomach, some parts of the fish that are tougher, have more fiber and skin too, you end up not use them. This 30 to 40% that would be wasted, we end up reusing them through Sancho Pancho”.


30 to 40% of the fish that would be wasted, Sancho Pancho ends up reusing it.

Sancho Pancho

30 to 40% of the fish that would be wasted, Sancho Pancho ends up reusing it.

Healthy snacks

The name of Mrs. Demidenko’s company alludes to the character Sancho Panza, from the classic novel by Miguel de Cervantes, Dom Quixoteand is also a personal tribute to one of his dogs, named Pancho.

She told UN News about some of the special ingredients and dishes she managed to come up with using the leftovers.

“These cookies are made with this type of white fish, which we cook first and then grind, so the bones have a much smoother texture,” she told us, pointing to one of the treats for dogs.

“We mash it, mix it with flour and make the cookie. But there are also other types of waste, such as white fish or salmon skins, that you can dehydrate. This type of snack goes into the machine, stays for 20 hours at a temperature of 70˚C then comes out drier, more crispy, and it is cut into pieces and made like small crisps, flakes of salmon skin.


With leftover white fish, Daria produces dog treats enriched with sweet potatoes.

Sancho Pancho

With leftover white fish, Daria produces dog treats enriched with sweet potatoes.

Scandinavian countries in the lead

In addition to picking up leftovers at the Sekai restaurant, Daria has partnerships with other restaurants and fish markets in Lisbon.

She picks up about 25 kilos of fish scraps a week. His initiative was hailed by Márcio Castro de Souza, senior fisheries expert with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), based in Rome.

“This initiative is very interesting and in fact we have seen, not only on an industrial scale, but also small examples of how to reduce fish waste.

“There are already several salmon production industries in the Scandinavian countries that have already reached the level of 100% use of whole fish. They don’t miss any. They make nets, use their eyes to make fertilizer or to generate essential oils, so there is already a whole production focused on zero waste,” he explained.

Other initiatives around the world include using fish skin to make wearable products; use fish scales in the manufacture of lipstick; and squid ink to color dishes like pasta.

Consumer awareness

Salmon skin snacks are rich in omega 3 fish oil, which is helpful in keeping the skin and fur of pets like dogs and cats healthy.

In addition to reusing leftover fish, Daria’s brand produces cookies from leftover dehydrated rabbit meat and pork.

The creator of Sancho Pancho says she has already succeeded in raising customers’ awareness of the problems caused by food waste.

“Some customers have told us that they are learning from us, and they now go to fish markets and butchers here in Portugal and also take food waste home themselves. They don’t make snacks to sell, but they manage to make food for their dogs, their cats or for themselves.

Halving global food waste by 2030 is one of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

Goal 14 also involves the sustainable management of marine life. Saving the oceans and protecting the future is the motto of the United Nations Ocean Conference, which takes place in the Portuguese capital from June 27 to July 1.

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