Hy-Vee’s takeaways from the Seafood Expo North America conference

The 2016 Seafood Expo North America was held March 6-8. Hy-Vee seafood experts made the trip to Boston to experience the second-largest seafood industry trade show in the world.

The Hy-Vee and PDI teams had productive meetings with many of Hy-Vee’s current and potential new seafood suppliers, gathering information and establishing relationships for the future.

There were thousands of suppliers available for conversation, which was an excellent opportunity for Hy-Vee to make connections. The conference featured more than 20 educational sessions presented by top seafood industry experts, covering the most important and timely issues relevant to today’s seafood business environment.

One of the most notable breakout sessions was titled, “New Tools for Seafood Businesses to Understand Human Rights Risk and Improve Social Compliance.” Moderated by FishWise, Hy-Vee’s nonprofit partner in sustainable seafood, the session addressed human rights and labor violations – globally and domestically – and the challenges the seafood industry faces. Human trafficking and forced labor in seafood production are increasingly reported despite the development of ethical standards, audits and certifications. Hy-Vee and other attendees heard from a diverse panel of industry and human rights experts working to address social issues in the seafood sector.

The Hy-Vee seafood team enjoyed the time in Boston and had the opportunity to thank our seafood suppliers – in person – for their help with reaching our Responsible Choice commitment. Our team looks forward to working with the new vendors we met and offering new information and potentially new products to our customers.

To find out more about the show, visit the Seafood Expo website: http://www.seafoodexpo.com/north-america/conference

Hy-Vee’s fresh and private label frozen seafood is 100% responsibly sourced

In 2011, Hy-Vee ambitiously committed to sourcing our fresh and frozen seafood from environmentally responsible sources and to improving the traceability of our seafood by the end of 2015. In keeping with our sustainability mission to promote the well-being of our customers, employees, communities and the global environment, we recognized our responsibility to work with others to improve the sustainability of global fisheries and aquaculture.

To better achieve this goal, we partnered with FishWise, an environmental nonprofit that promotes the health and recovery of ocean ecosystems and the people that depend on them through environmentally and socially responsible business practices.

We are proud to announce that as of December 2015, 100% of Hy-Vee’s fresh and private label frozen seafood met the goal of being responsibly sourced. This is a 38% increase from when we publicly announced the responsible sourcing commitment in January 2014.

“When we hold ourselves accountable, we force ourselves to be great,” said Nate Stewart, former vice president of perishables and current senior vice president of Hy-Vee’s northern region. “Our customers are smart, and we have to earn their trust every day. We owe it to them to uphold our standards and provide them with what they deserve, which is safe and sustainable seafood.”

Hy-Vee has transitioned 4.9 million pounds of seafood to environmentally responsible sources since the partnership with FishWise began in 2011. Here are some of the important sourcing transitions we have made over the past five years:

  • Salmon: All of Hy-Vee’s fresh and private label farmed salmon is responsibly sourced and is Seafood Watch Green- or Yellow-rated. We also offer Green-rated wild Alaskan salmon.
  • Shrimp: By engaging in certification strengthening and encouraging shrimp farmers to improve, we were able to source 100% of our fresh and private label frozen farmed shrimp from responsible sources.
  • King Crab: In 2012, Hy-Vee transitioned sourcing to 100% Alaskan king crab and started the highly successful annual Alaskan king crab leg promotion.
  • Yellowfin Tuna: Hy-Vee’s transition to handline fisheries and MSC-certified fisheries for imported yellowfin tuna resulted in 100% responsibly sourcing of Hy-Vee’s fresh and private label tuna.

Being an industry leader in sustainable seafood means extending our work beyond our direct procurement and engaging with other major retailers, environmental and social NGOs and industry to address the issue of traceability and illegal fishing in global seafood supply chains. In support of legal and traceable seafood in the United States, we publicly supported the passage of federal legislation that addresses illegal fishing and cracks down on human trafficking. Following the FDA’s recent approval of genetically engineered (GE) salmon, we reaffirmed our stance against GE seafood and promised our customers that GE seafood has no place in our stores. Hy-Vee will continue to strive to deliver high quality, responsibly sourced seafood to our customers. We will continue to participate in the leading conversations that are helping to drive improvements industry-wide. When you purchase Hy-Vee seafood, you are supporting best practices that will help to ensure a healthy supply of seafood for generations to come.

Seafood Waste: In Numbers

It’s a hard number to stomach, but nearly half of the edible U.S. seafood supply is lost each year. Most of the waste stems from consumers, while additional waste is due to bycatch – catching unintended species of fish, turtles and other creatures and discarding them. A smaller percentage is lost in distribution and retail operations.

These findings come from new research by the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future (CLF), published in the November issue of Global Environmental Change.

“Food waste in general is a source of concern at Hy-Vee,” said Pat Hensley, senior vice president of governmental affairs. “We’re continuously working to combat the issue. Our focus is on working with our suppliers and employees to match supply and demand and to identify other methods of reducing shrink. Given the value of seafood, both economically and a source of healthy protein, anything we can do to reduce waste is time well invested.”

Hy-Vee is not alone in its concerns about the sustainability of the world’s seafood resources. In the U.S. and around the world, people are being advised to eat more seafood, but overfishing, climate change, pollution, habitat destruction and the use of fish for other purposes besides human consumption threaten the global seafood supply.

The Johns Hopkins study analyzed the seafood waste issue by focusing on the amount of seafood lost annually at each stage of the food supply chain and at the consumer level. It found that the amount wasted each year is roughly 2.3 billion pounds. Of that waste, the study found that 330 million pounds are lost in distribution and retail, 573 million pounds are lost when commercial fishers catch the wrong species of fish and then discard it (bycatch) and a staggering 1.3 billion pounds are lost at the consumer level.

For more information, you can read details of the study here: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0959378015300340 and here http://www.jhsph.edu/news/news-releases/2015/nearly-half-of-u-s-seafood-supply-is-wasted.html

Hy-Vee Continues To Support Its Ross Sea Pledge Despite Protection Plan Setbacks

In late October at its annual meeting, the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources failed again — for the fifth time — to pass a plan to protect key areas in the Ross Sea and in East Antarctica. CCAMLR is a regional fisheries management organization in the Antarctic Ocean comprised of representatives from 25 different countries. In order for conservation measures like protection for the Ross Sea to pass, all 25 countries are required to reach a final consensus.

The Ross Sea is one of the last remaining sections of ocean that has not been harmed by overfishing, pollution or invasive species. The proposed measure would have provided long-term protection of many species, including penguins, seals, and whales and their critical habitats. In addition, the protected areas would act as a living laboratory for scientists to conduct research in this near-pristine ecosystem.

The good news is that China issued a statement of support for a revised Ross Sea Proposal, marking the first time China has not actively blocked the plan. Russia also issued a statement saying it is committed to an inter-sessional discussion of the proposal.

According to an Australian Broadcasting Corporation news article, U.S. State Department delegate Evan Bloom said despite the setback, the joint revised proposal from the United States and New Zealand made progress by getting China on board for the first time with only Russia remaining opposed. Bloom hopes to work with Russia and other countries to try to “finish this off next year,” he said.

Hy-Vee continues to support the creation of a marine protected area in the Ross Sea, and will continue to refuse purchasing Chilean sea bass sourced there. Hy-Vee stands true to its commitment to the Ross Sea. By signing the Ross Sea Pledge, Hy-Vee has given its word that it won’t be part of that developing problem and is, in fact, part of the solution. 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 and the fishing industry.

By taking a hands-off approach to that species from the Southern Ocean, Hy-Vee joins others in working to reduce the level of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing in the Southern Ocean.

October is National Seafood Month

October is National Seafood Month, and it’s a great time to celebrate ocean-friendly seafood while focusing on some of the key issues behind responsible seafood. It’s also an opportunity to illustrate U.S. fisheries’ successes and challenges as we turn the corner on ending overfishing and begin to rebuild fish stocks.

Hy-Vee offers customers smart seafood choices from environmentally responsible fisheries, allowing customers the health benefits of eating a diet rich in seafood.

In the U.S., roughly half of the seafood we eat is farmed, but aquaculture isn’t well understood by the vast majority of consumers. That’s unfortunate, because even if the oceans were being fished sustainably, we can’t meet the current seafood demand. Responsible aquaculture is the only way to do it. Next time you’re shopping at Hy-Vee, consider one of the Responsible Choice farmed seafood items, the majority of which are rated as a Green ‘Best Choice’ or Yellow ‘Good Alternative’ by the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program.

Responsible Choice LabelSeafood products bearing the “Responsible Choice” symbol meet Hy-Vee’s Seafood Procurement Policy and are caught or farmed in a responsible manner. Specifically, these options are rated as either Green “Best Choice” or Yellow “Good Alternative” by the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program, or are certified to an environmental standard benchmarked to at least these ratings. Hy-Vee features more than 100 items bearing the label. Look for this symbol to ensure you’re making a responsible choice when purchasing seafood.

Hy-Vee’s Responsible Choice initiative is a commitment to protecting the environment.

We encourage you to do your own research as well. Visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch website to learn more about the impact fishing and aquaculture have on the environment.

Hy-Vee-backed bill to combat illegal fishing passes U.S. House

Legislation designed to crack down on illegal fishing that threatens seafood sustainability in some U.S. waters has cleared an important hurdle but faces another before becoming law.

Hy-Vee is among a contingent of retailers, environmental groups and industry leaders supporting House File 774: the Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated Fishing Enforcement Act of 2015.

The measure passed on a voice vote July 27 and now heads for consideration in the United States Senate.

The bipartisan legislation is designed to:

  • Strengthen enforcement by building domestic capacity for monitoring and identifying illegal fishing.
  • Create stiffer penalties for vessels caught illegally fishing in U.S. waters
  • Implement legislation needed for the U.S. to ratify the United Nations Port States Measures Agreement, an international treaty to close ports to foreign vessels engaged in illegal fishing and help prevent illicitly caught seafood from entering legitimate seafood markets. Fourteen of a required 25 countries must ratify the agreement, which the United States Senate approved in April 2014.

To learn more about ways to address illegal fishing, visit FishWise’s Traceability & IUU Fishing Resources.

Hy-Vee’s Responsible Choice Initiative Praised by Greenpeace; Ranked Among the Best in the US

Greenpeace released its 2015 Carting Away the Oceans (CATO) report on July 14, ranking Hy-Vee at third out of the 25 largest supermarket chains in the U.S. Greenpeace evaluates and ranks supermarkets in the CATO report based on their efforts to protect both the oceans and seafood industry workers since 2008.

Hy-Vee moved up to the top three this year, finishing in the “good” category and scoring above a 7 out of 10 for the first time. Hy-Vee was evaluated on the sustainability of its seafood in four key areas: policy, initiatives, labeling and transparency and Red List inventory. This is only the second year Hy-Vee has been included in the report.

Hy-Vee was praised by Greenpeace for its efforts to address illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing through political advocacy and participation in industry and NGO-led conversations to identify solutions.

Greenpeace congratulated Hy-Vee on its Responsible Choice canned skipjack and albacore tuna products, which are produced exclusively with tuna caught using environmentally friendly methods. You can read more about Hy-Vee’s canned tuna in this Seafoodies post.

Hy-Vee’s decision to discontinue Chilean sea bass – due to concerns about overfishing and bycatch of threatened or endangered species – also helped improve its ranking, as it’s the only of the top retailers to do so. Hy-Vee’s stance against genetically modified fish was also highlighted as a notable achievement.

Greenpeace writes: “After its ‘Carting Away the Oceans‘ debut last year, Hy-Vee doubled down on its strong performance, coming in third place overall and entering the good category for the first time. Hy-Vee means business about sustainable seafood. … Hy-Vee dropped Chilean sea bass, issued a strong public statement against GMO seafood, is on track to hit its 2015 sustainability goals and twice weighed in at key moments to address Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated fishing in the industry by sending letters to Congress.”

Whole Foods ranked first in the report, while Wegmans came in at second. Since the report’s inception, many large retailers including Hy-Vee have developed robust seafood policies. In the CATO Report’s ninth edition, 80 percent of the retailers profiled received at least a passing score of 4 out of 10.

To view the full report, Carting Away the Oceans 9, click here.

Sharks in the News

Sharks have been in the news lately, causing fear among many people. But the reality is that just as sharks seem dangerous to us, they are in danger themselves. Sharks are crucial to healthy ocean ecosystems but many species are now endangered as a result of overfishing. In an effort to support healthy oceans, Hy-Vee has committed to not sell shark meat to its customers.

Sharks have been on Earth for at least 400 million years (Worm et al 2013). In general, sharks grow slowly, mature late and produce few young over a long lifespan. These biological characteristics make them especially vulnerable to fishing pressure.

Every year approximately 100 million sharks are killed in commercial fisheries. There is increasing global demand for shark fins, endangering certain species like scalloped hammerheads.

Even when consumers make the choice to not eat shark, it’s important to ensure they are choosing to eat responsibly caught fish. More than half of the sharks caught each year are caught as bycatch in non-directed fisheries where they are not the species being targeted.

Declines in shark populations contributes to changes in abundance of their prey and can upset the balance of ocean ecosystems. Sharks are key predators and therefore have an important role in healthy ocean ecosystems, according to the NOAA.

The Discovery Channel’s annual “Shark Week” began Sunday, July 5. For more information, including ways in which you can help save sharks, visit http://www.discovery.com/tv-shows/shark-week.

Seven Foundations of Hy-Vee’s Seafood Procurement Policy

Hy-Vee’s Seafood Procurement Policy guides our efforts to improve our seafood departments. It states that it is Hy-Vee’s intent to sell seafood that is not only safe for consumption but 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.

There are seven foundations of Hy-Vee’s Seafood Procurement Policy:

  1. Safety, Quality and Freshness. Our procurement practices are designed to ensure safety, quality and freshness are of the highest priority.
  2. Legal Compliance. Hy-Vee will never knowingly buy or sell seafood that has been harvested, transported or otherwise handled in an illegal manner.
  3. Supplier Integrity. We will only do business with suppliers of high ethical standards with a proven commitment to the quality, safety and sustainability of their seafood products.
  4. Quality Information. The concept of seafood sustainability is complex. Decisions on what constitutes sustainable seafood will be made based on fundamentally sound, high-quality data, science and research from a variety of credible sources.
  5. Education and Communication. Hy-Vee will keep our customers, employees and stakeholders informed about our efforts to improve the sustainability and overall quality of our seafood supply.
  6. Transparency. Information on our seafood supply will be transparent, traceable and readily available to our customers.
  7. Partnership. Hy-Vee will work in partnership with our customers, suppliers, other retailers and interested stakeholders to continuously improve the sustainability of the seafood supply chain.

To ensure consistency with these seven foundations, Hy-Vee works with employees, suppliers, regulatory agencies and others to guarantee seafood quality, safety and sustainability.

Our Seafood Procurement Policy outlines our long-term mission to improve our seafood. We are currently focusing on improving our fresh and private label frozen seafood, but we are also looking ahead to identify other areas where we can transition more of our seafood items to be sourced from environmentally responsible partners.

Key takeaways from the Seafood Expo North America conference in Boston

The 2015 Seafood Expo North America was held March 6 to 8. The conference featured more than 20 educational sessions presented by top seafood industry experts, covering the most important and timely issues relevant to today’s seafood business environment.

The hottest topic at the show this year was seafood traceability and efforts to address illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing. The Presidential Task Force on IUU and Seafood Fraud unveiled its action plan to implement the Task Force’s 15 recommendations, while three other conference panels and sessions were focused on traceability and IUU. This reinforces that Hy-Vee’s Seafood Procurement Policy is on the leading edge of efforts by retailers to improve traceability in their seafood supply chains.

Another topic that generated much discussion was the future of retailer seafood commitments. Many retailers, including Hy-Vee, have responsible seafood commitments with a goal of year-end 2015. Once that deadline has been met, future areas of retailer commitments may include responsible commitments for all shelf stable seafood, pet food, fish oil supplements, delis, sushi counters and more.

We foresee that future commitments may also include more vigorous actions to protect human rights. Recent articles have shown that human rights violations are an ongoing problem in the seafood industry, which is exacerbated by a lack of traceability in seafood supply chains.

The 2015 Seafood Expo North America was the largest ever with more than 200,000 square feet of exhibition space. The Hy-Vee, PDI and FishWise team had productive meetings with many of Hy-Vee’s seafood suppliers, discussing everything from shrimp to lutefisk.

For more information, visit the Seafood Expo website: http://www.seafoodexpo.com/north-america/conference.