Hy-Vee Responsible Choice Initiative Sets a High Bar for Seafood Traceability

Up to 32 percent of seafood imported to the United States is caught illegally, according to a study published in the peer-reviewed journal Marine Policy in April 2014. Illegally harvested seafood, along with its many implications – nutritional concern, sourcing methods and environmental impact – is one of the reasons Hy-Vee is working to ensure it is part of the solution when it comes to responsible seafood.

Hy-Vee holds itself to high standards through the Responsible Choice initiative, especially dealing with transparency and traceability. Illegally harvested seafood is currently entering the U.S. through legitimate market channels, making it essential that Hy-Vee and all retailers implement and follow strict traceability measures. That is why Hy-Vee has committed to having its seafood traceable back to the point of harvest, either the source vessel or farm, by the end of 2015. And our progress is encouraging. As of January 2015, 79 percent of Hy-Vee’s fresh and private label frozen seafood met the goal of being responsibly sourced and traceable.

Through the Responsible Choice initiative, Hy-Vee has established strict criteria when it comes to traceability. But what does this actually mean? Traceable seafood can be tracked through each link in the supply chain to its original source. It is crucial to ensure food safety, logistical efficiency, sustainability claims, legality of catch or farm, and proper labeling.

Hy-Vee is able to establish and enforce its responsible seafood efforts with the help of our non-governmental organization partner, FishWise. The organization works with companies throughout the seafood supply chain to support conservation through environmentally responsible business practices.

To this end, Hy-Vee has taken several steps to ensure traceability remains a high priority by regularly collecting information about the chain of custody and sustainability attributes of seafood products from our suppliers; periodically conducting desktop audits of seafood items to ensure they are traceable from a Hy-Vee store back to the point of harvest; and working with vendors to meet our commitment to responsible sourcing and traceability.

Additionally, Hy-Vee has supported federal legislation aimed at minimizing the amount of illegal seafood imported into the United States. Hy-Vee recently sent letters to members of Congress urging them to pass legislation that would close U.S. ports to vessels suspected of carrying illegally harvested fish.

Hy-Vee continues to keep our customers and the environment top of mind. It is our job, and the responsibility of retailers like us, to ensure only a safe, quality selection of seafood is provided to our customers. The Responsible Choice initiative lays the groundwork and sets a standard for us to follow. Traceability is a key component in providing an environmentally responsible and safe product for our customers, and a commitment we are proud to keep.

Sources:
Ganapathiraju Pramod, Katrina Nakamura, Tony J. Pitcher, Leslie Delagran. Estimates of illegal and unreported fish in seafood imports to the USA. Marine Policy, April 2014.

Hy-Vee Commits to Healthy Oceans by Refusing to Sell Chilean Sea Bass

Hy-Vee has pledged to not source Chilean sea bass from the Ross Sea in Antarctica. Chilean sea bass is the market name for two different species: Antarctic toothfish and Patagonian toothfish. However, the only fishery in the world for Antarctic toothfish is in the Ross Sea.

Hy-Vee is taking this action in order to follow through with our commitment to help support healthy oceans. Hy-Vee is proud to give our word that we won’t be part of the developing problem and that we are actually part of the solution.

Toothfish are found throughout large areas of the sub-Antarctic oceans, but primarily in the southern parts of the Atlantic and Indian oceans. Toothfish are large, slow-growing species that dwell in deeper water depths of 5,000 to 6,000 feet. They play a significant role in the oceans’ ecosystems as both prey and predator. Toothfish are important prey species for killer whales, sperm whales and Weddell seals.

For nearly two decades, toothfish have been overfished in some areas. Most toothfish are caught using bottom longline gear. “Bycatch,” or non-target species accidentally caught during fishing operations, vary widely in toothfish fisheries that use bottom longline. In the Ross Sea, threatened or vulnerable species such as skates, rays and grenadiers are often caught. However, bird bycatch has been steadily decreasing in certain areas due to a number of initiatives, including seabird avoidance gear.

Aquaculture in Central Iowa

Barramundi FarmVeroBlue Farms is working to become North America’s largest land-based, indoor aquaculture company. Through its Iowa’s First Hub located in Webster City, Iowa, VeroBlue Farms is expanding its production of the barramundi fish species through a new urban farm with approximately 7.2 million pounds of production per year.

Barramundi is a freshwater fish species found in tropical and semi-tropical regions ranging from the Persian Gulf to China. It can be found as far south as Australia, and as far north as India. Barramundi scored extremely high on the NuVal scoring system (mid-80s or higher), and was rated as a Green “Best Choice” for sustainability by the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program.

Barramundi is known for its firm, white and succulent flesh. It has a moist, fine-grained texture and mild flavor. This nutritious fish is low in fat and high in protein. One barramundi fillet provides the same omega-3 content as approximately 17 steaks, making this fish one of the best sources to improve heart health.Barramundi Fish

Iowa’s First Hub is a family-run operation working to provide a fresh, sustainable product from America’s heartland. Using a recirculating system from VeroBlue Farms, referred to as opposing flows technology, the system utilizes air to circulate the water in the culture tank. The system is designed to create two opposing flows of water that create compressed air being introduced on each side of the tank. Check out this YouTube video for a virtual walk-through of the farm. For anyone interested in sustainable aquaculture and seafood, it gives a great perspective of the operation.

At Hy-Vee, we are proud to support one of Iowa’s aquaculture leaders providing farm-to-table seafood. It is exciting that the operation is located in one of our very own Hy-Vee communities, right in the heart of our home state. The fish are grown in an environmentally friendly and sustainable setting which allows us to consistently offer our customers a high-quality and fresh product year-round.

Responsible Choice Copper River Wild Sockeye Salmon

It’s a new year, and many people are making resolutions committing to healthier lifestyles. At Hy-Vee, we make it easy to find delicious, quality wild salmon. We have a large amount of Copper River sockeye salmon for our frozen supply this year, allowing us to offer it to you all year long. These amazing fish have extremely high fat content, high heart-healthy omega-3 content, a rich flavor and a deep ruby-red color. Copper River sockeye have a higher than average oil content due to the swift, cold waters where they live and thrive.

These fish originate from the world-famous Copper River, known for the best salmon available anywhere. Copper River sockeye salmon is Responsible Choice and a testament to our commitment to responsibly source all fresh and Hy-Vee brand seafood. It can be argued that Alaska’s Copper River sockeye are the finest sockeye salmon in the world.

The Copper River or Ahtna River is a 300-mile river in south-central Alaska in the United States. It is known for its extensive delta ecosystem, as well as for its prolific runs of wild salmon, which are among the most highly prized stocks in the world. It is the 10th largest river in the United States, as ranked by average discharge volume at its mouth.

In Alaska, sustainability of the seafood industry is so important that it’s written into the state Constitution. Not only does Copper River wild sockeye salmon meet Hy-Vee’s high standards for freshness, but it’s also fish you can feel good about eating. With the Responsible Choice label comes the confidence in knowing the fishery or farm uses sustainable catch methods.

Hy-Vee Reaffirming Pledge to Not Source Genetically Engineered Seafood

Genetically engineered (GE) or genetically modified seafood is created by splicing the genes from one or multiple species into the DNA of a farmed fish species, such as salmon, tilapia or carp. According to the Center for Food Safety, there are at least 35 species of GE seafood in development around the world, including salmon, trout, catfish, striped bass, flounder and others. In a 2010 poll commissioned by Food and Water Watch, it found that 91% of Americans do not want the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to allow GE fish and meat into the marketplace.1

A genetically engineered farmed Atlantic salmon currently pending approval by FDA contains DNA from two other fish species — Chinook salmon and an ocean pout — which enables it to grow at faster rates than traditional farmed salmon. Concerns around the AquAdvantage® Salmon product center on the risk to wild salmon populations. A recent study found that GE salmon can successfully breed with wild salmon species, creating hybrids capable of outcompeting native salmon for resources. Critics of GE seafood also argue that products are not sufficiently tested for safety, and carry allergy risks. More than 1.8 million people have submitted comments to the FDA opposing the approval of GE salmon during the last comment period.

It is Hy-Vee’s intent to sell high-quality seafood that not only is safe for consumption, but that also is harvested or raised in a manner that provides for its long-term sustainability while minimizing damage to the environment and other sea life. In order to protect marine resources and ensure future seafood supplies, we strongly believe that GE seafood has no place in our stores. Therefore, Hy-Vee will not purchase or sell genetically modified or genetically engineered seafood. We are confident this is the best decision for our customers as well as the environment.

Our commitment to not sell genetically engineered seafood is highlighted on the Friends of the Earth pledge website at www.foe.org/gefreeseafood.


1 Lake Research Partners, Commissioned by Food and Water Watch, 9/20/10. “Americans in near unanimity on their disapproval of genetically engineered fish and meat in the marketplace”’ – Retrieved from http://www.saynotogmos.org/ud2010/docs/fish_survey.pdf.

Responsible Choice Mahi Mahi from Ecuador

Mahi mahi has become a staple on restaurant menus and in grocery stores throughout the United States. Hy-Vee is excited to share this delicious fish with our customers by offering wild-caught Responsible Choice mahi mahi in our seafood cases daily. By selecting mahi mahi from Southstream Seafoods, Hy-Vee honors our Responsible Choice seafood initiative to provide a fresh and tasty product while also showing concern for food safety and the environment.

Hy-Vee’s mahi mahi is sourced from the coast of Ecuador using responsible catch methods essential to promoting environmental welfare. A special type of hook called a circle hook is used to catch the fish. Circle hooks, because of their shape, reduce the chance of catching non-target species like seabirds, sharks and sea turtles.

Over the past five years, management of the Ecuadorean mahi mahi fishery has improved significantly, adding measures such as size limits to prevent overfishing. Mahi mahi from Ecuador was recently upgraded from a Red “Avoid” to a Yellow “Good Alternative” according to the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program.

Once caught, the mahi mahi is frozen within hours to ensure quality texture and flavor. Each fillet is then hand-cut for portion and quality control. From there, the product is shipped to and packaged in Everett, Massachusetts, and Hy-Vee trucks transport the product to Des Moines, Iowa. The mahi mahi is carefully reviewed by our full-time U.S. Department of Commerce inspector to ensure all quality, wholesomeness and weight requirements are met.

Each delicious serving of mahi mahi is low in calories and saturated fat, with the majority of the calories coming from protein. Six ounces of the fish offers more than 30 grams of protein. As an added benefit, it is a good source of vitamins B-12 and B-6, phosphorus, potassium, niacin and selenium. Mahi mahi is known for its lean and large flakes, mild flavor and usage in fish tacos.

Hy-Vee: No Chilean Sea Bass from the Ross Sea

The Ross Sea in Antarctica is the least altered marine ecosystem on Earth, supporting exceptional abundances of organisms such as krill, penguins, fishes and marine mammals. It’s often referred to as the “Last Ocean” by scientists because of its remoteness and rich diversity of marine life.

This prolific ecosystem was essentially untouched by humans until 1996, when commercial fishing began for Antarctic toothfish, more commonly known as “Chilean sea bass.” The name “Chilean sea bass” is an acceptable market name for two different species: Patagonian toothfish and Antarctic toothfish. However, the only fishery for Antarctic toothfish is in the Ross Sea. Chilean sea bass are an important prey species for killer whales, sperm whales and Weddell seals.

Around 8% of the catch by weight in the Ross Sea Chilean sea bass fishery is “bycatch,” or non-target species accidentally caught during fishing operations. The bycatch often includes threatened or endangered species of grenadiers, skates and rays.

In support of the creation of a marine protected area in one of the world’s most isolated and pristine marine ecosystems, Hy-Vee pledged not to purchase Chilean sea bass from the Ross Sea. By signing the pledge, Hy-Vee supports creation of a Marine Protected Area to protect the area against commercial fishing and pollution. This initiative is broadly supported by governments, scientists, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the fishing industry.

Hy-Vee is proud to give our word that we won’t be part of that developing problem and are, in fact, part of the solution.

For customers looking for an alternative to Chilean sea bass, Hy-Vee offers an excellent sustainable substitute with Alaska sablefish.

Responsible Choice Walleye Available Seasonally at Hy-Vee

Walleye is a versatile, premium-quality, upscale delicacy and a Responsible Choice item for Hy-Vee customers. The fish has a lean, snowy white flesh, which flakes when cooked properly, and provides a sweet taste. We offer the fish in several different forms—fresh or frozen as a fillet or as a whole fish.

We source our walleye from La Nassa Foods, located in the heart of the Lake Erie fishing community in Kingsville, Ontario, Canada. La Nassa first opened nearly 30 years ago as a seafood retail store in downtown Windsor, Ontario. Today, La Nassa Foods is a leader in the processing and distribution of freshwater fish, processing the finest Lake Erie fish landed daily by its fishing fleet.

La Nassa delivers its products to True World Cold Storage, where Hy-Vee then picks up the products and brings the fish back to PDI in Ankeny, Iowa, for U.S. Department of Commerce (USDC) inspection and distribution. From the time it leaves La Nassa all the way to PDI and on to Hy-Vee stores, the walleye is temperature-controlled to provide the best possible quality.

Walleye is a seasonal item. The fish first becomes available in late May, but as the summer heat warms the lakes, the fish are driven down deeper to the cooler waters below. Walleye become available again in late September, October or even November, depending on temperatures and weather.

Responsible Choice walleye assures our customers that this choice is of the highest quality and that Hy-Vee and the companies we work with are committed to the global environment.

Hy-Vee Now Offers “Harmoniously Raised” Verlasso Salmon to Customers

salmon netting

Salmon, widely considered a “superfood” based on its abundant health benefits, is a popular item among customers. Hy-Vee now offers Verlasso salmon, an ocean-farmed, eco-friendly fish that is raised to promote balance between our nutritional needs and our obligation to the environment.

Raised in the Chilean ocean waters off the coast of Patagonia, Verlasso is considered a premium salmon, abundant in taste and nutrients. Salmon get omega-3s from their diets. In the wild, these omega-3s come from small oily fish like herring and anchovies. Verlasso’s sustainably farmed salmon are fed a diet in which omega-3s come from yeast, which reduces dependence on forage fish—and helps preserve their wild populations.

Verlasso Salmon

Verlasso Salmon

The company’s unique model of aquaculture, which includes fewer fish per pen, and thus a reduced impact on water quality and sediment, emphasizes balance with nature. In 2013, the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program rated Verlasso salmon as a “Good Alternative,” which is the first and only time an ocean-farmed salmon has been named to this list. Because of this classification, this item qualifies as a Hy-Vee Responsible Choice item. Currently this is the only farm-raised salmon that we purchase that can receive this logo.

“Harmoniously raised” is Verlasso’s approach to sustainable salmon farming. The goal is to maintain harmony and balance with nature, which means keeping the demand for salmon in line with more environmentally conscious fish farming techniques. The intention is to reduce depletion of precious resources, protect local biodiversity and ensure the prime health of Verlasso farmed salmon.

Verlasso is a brand and trademark of AquaChile. AquaChile and DuPont formed a collaboration that combines the expertise of the companies to identify how to raise fish sustainably to provide nutritious protein for a growing population.

From the Pacific to Your Plate: Ecuadorian Mahi Mahi meets Responsible Choice Standards

As one of the primary consumers of mahi mahi, other than people in areas of the Caribbean, U.S. residents have developed a taste for this lean, tropical fish. Hy-Vee is pleased to meet our customer demand by offering wild-caught mahi mahi in our cases daily. By partnering with Southstream Seafoods, Inc., Hy-Vee honors our Responsible Choice seafood initiative to provide a great-tasting product, while also paying close regard to food safety and the environment.

Founded in 1989, Southstream Seafoods was selected as Hy-Vee’s mahi mahi supplier for various reasons, including quality of product, responsible catch methods and management processes. Most important, Southstream, like Hy-Vee, recognizes consumer demand for confidence in quality and food safety.

Hy-Vee’s mahi mahi is sourced from the Ecuador coast using artisanal longlines, which are shorter than industrial longlines and thus prevent the accidental capture of non-target species like endangered sea turtles and sharks. The first step in the process, responsible catch methods are essential to promote environmental stewardship.

Once caught, the mahi mahi is landed alive and frozen within hours to maintain quality texture and flavor. Each fillet is then hand-cut for portion and quality control. From there, the product is shipped to and packaged in Everett, Massachusetts, and transported on refrigerated Hy-Vee trucks. Upon arrival in Des Moines, the fish is carefully reviewed by the full-time U.S. Department of Commerce inspector to ensure all quality, wholesomeness and weight requirements are met.

As an added benefit, once the mahi mahi hits your plate, it is low in saturated fat and a good source of vitamin B12 and B6, phosphorus, potassium, protein, niacin and selenium. It is known for its lean, firm and large flakes, mild flavor and usage in fish tacos.

Hy-Vee’s partnership with its suppliers extends beyond supply and demand. Our promise to provide a quality product you can feel safe feeding your family, while also remaining responsible stewards of the environment, is displayed through our Responsible Choice initiative. At Hy-Vee, we only partner with suppliers who exemplify the same sentiment as we hold that commitment to our customers with the utmost regard.