Alaska Travels: Featuring Alaska Crab

For the last five years, Hy-Vee has partnered with Trident Seafoods to supply Hy-Vee with Alaska crab. Each year Trident and Hy-Vee have committed to a contest among Hy-Vee seafood managers to promote Alaskan crab. The winners of the contest get to travel to Seattle where Trident is headquartered and tour Trident facilities over the course of three days. I have been lucky enough to be able to take this trip 4 of the last 5 years, including this year.

Last week, we were treated to a tour of the F/V PINNACLE, an Alaskan crab boat. It was docked in Seattle because it only catches crab and was being prepped for the upcoming season. Most crab boats switch over to salmon tendering during the summer to make extra money, but this beautiful ship stayed home. Standing on the deck of the PINNACLE was a real treat. To see how the crab are caught on TV is one thing; to see how they are caught on the deck of a boat is another. I gained instant respect for crab fishermen the minute the crab boat captain Jim handed me a spool of rope that crab fishermen toss into crab pots hundreds of times a day.  Needless to say, the 100-pound spool left me wondering how these guys do this job under such adverse conditions. The pay is good, but the danger is real. Standing by the coiler you can see how so many things can go wrong when the wind is blowing and the waves are rolling.  We talked to crab captains and listened to their stories of past failures and successes. I found it interesting that they were just as interested in how we sell crab as we were in how they catch it. We are all part of a big seafood family and each of us has our role.

Trident does more than just catch crab; in fact they are actually much bigger in the salmon and pollock business. We toured their smoking plant where they make products for many companies. We toured their pier 91 plant where they process pollock and test new products and recipes. No trip to Seattle would be complete without visiting the famous Pike Place Fish Market. There we were treated to fish throwing and catching along with the market’s unique take on selling seafood!

Captain Dave took us on a tour of the boat docks where the boats were gearing up for the Alaskan salmon season. He also took us to the famous Ballard Locks where the fish swim up man-made ladders to get to Lake Washington from the sea! And, of course, we got to eat a lot of great seafood along the way.

Hy-Vee’s partnership with Trident has grown tremendously over the last five years. Our annual crab promotion is something that families look forward to during the holiday season. Crab fishing starts in October, and Hy-Vee’s crab promotion starts in December. The Alaska crab story is one that starts with Trident crab fishermen, continues with Hy-Vee fishmongers and ends with you eating the best crab in the world!

Take Charge of Your Health, Don’t Leave it to Salmon Else!

Looking for a healthier alternative to burgers and brats at your next summer barbecue? Bring a seasoned salmon filet or a salmon burger to throw on the grill and tell all your friends about the health benefits of seafood!

Salmon is one of the most praised fish of the sea because of its amazing nutritional content. A salmon filet is lower in calories, higher in protein and omega 3s, and lower in mercury compared to other fish of similar composition. (1)

The American Heart Association recommends consuming at least two 3.5-ounce servings of fatty fish per week because of the health benefits to the heart. These benefits include decreased risk of arrhythmia (which can lead to sudden death), decreased triglyceride levels and perhaps a slightly lower blood pressure.  This remarkable fish promotes good heart health by decreasing the risk of cardiovascular disease. (2)

Salmon is so versatile that anyone from beginner cooks to experienced chefs can learn to prepare it. Just starting out? Try picking up a frozen, seasoned salmon filet and just follow the directions on the package to throw it in the oven or on the grill and you’re done! Want something a little more decadent? Use smoked salmon to create a savory cream cheese and salmon pizza!

Your local Hy-Vee is here for any of your salmon recipe ingredient needs! We offer a wide selection of salmon, including fresh filets, breaded and seasoned filets, smoked salmon, salmon patties and frozen filets.

  1. United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service. Basic Report: 15076, fish, salmon, Atlantic, wild, raw. National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release. https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/4558?manu=&fgcd. Updated May 2016.
  2. American Heart Association. Fish and omega-3 fatty acids. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/HealthyEating/HealthyDietGoals/Fish-and-Omega-3-Fatty-Acids_UCM_303248_Article.jsp#.V73B3ybQCUl. Updated June 15, 2015

 

Hy-Vee Featured On SeafoodSource.com

Hy-Vee was recently featured on the popular seafood website SeafoodSource.com after Brett Bremser, executive vice president of perishables at Hy-Vee, spoke about the company’s sustainability efforts at the SeaWeb Seafood Summit earlier this month.

The website article references Midwesterners and their growing interest, knowledge and love for seafood. It also discusses Hy-Vee’s efforts to provide high-quality, sustainable seafood to customers in the heartland.

Read the article here or in its entirety below.

Midwestern consumers embrace Hy-Vee’s sustainable seafood offerings
By Brian Hagenbuch
Published on June 9, 2017

 

 

 

 

 

Despite living in the heart of red meat country, consumers in the Midwest United States are embracing a sustainable seafood campaign at Hy-Vee grocery stores, a chain with more than 240 employee-owned supermarkets throughout the Midwestern United States. 

Speaking at a session on business models that support small-scale fishing on Wednesday, 7 June at the SeaWeb Seafood Summit in Seattle, Washington, Brett Bremser, Hy-Vee’s executive vice president of perishables, said the supermarket chain started working with Fishwise in 2012 on a sustainable seafood procurement policy. But he said the real eye-opener came last year when Hy-Vee rolled out a multi-pronged marketing campaign for Fair Trade tuna.  

Bremser said the campaign was a success out of the gates, with Hy-Vee using its monthly magazine and Facebook page as well as a strong point-of-sale element to reach around three million customers and educate them on its sustainable seafood policy. 

“It’s hard to quantify what caused them to make their purchasing decision. Whether it was increased awareness through the point-of-sale and all the marketing, or whether it was all the messaging we did that resonated well with customers, but it was well over a double-digit sales increase in year one over what we were doing before,” said Bremser, adding that the uptick in sales easily justified increased costs.  

Bremser said there is a common misconception that consumer interest in traceability and sustainability is confined to the urban centers on the East and West Coasts of the United States.

“I think a lot of times people look at the Midwest and they think folks there really don’t care. That’s not true at all. They ask us a lot of questions about the sources because having more of an agricultural base, they understand animal welfare. They understand social welfare. I don’t think there’s probably anyone who is better aligned with that than Midwestern folks,” he said.

There have been challenges. Bremser said consumers get “scared” of seafood because it is more expensive than beef and pork and they do not know how to prepare it. To that end, Hy-Vee uses it’s some 400 staff chefs – the chain has in-store restaurants – to give seafood cooking classes. 

They have also ramped up their investment in educating counter personnel, going so far as to send associates to get a firsthand view of fishing operations on shrimpers in the Gulf of Mexico or salmon boats in Alaska.

“You can’t imagine how impactful that is, when the seafood manager comes back and says, I got to go to Alaska, I got to fish for that, and it was amazing and this is how it’s handled,” Bremser said.

Copper River Salmon

Hy-Vee Responsible Choice wild salmon, caught from Alaska’s Copper River, are some of the very first salmon to arrive in stores when the fresh wild season opens in mid-May. This yearly event attracts media attention and draws foodies from around the globe. The celebration kicks off with the first fish arriving in Seattle aboard an Alaska Airlines Boeing jet, a plane that features a huge mural image of salmon along the entire length of the jet.

The consumer demand for this product has grown each year with foodies eagerly waiting for the first salmon to arrive in their local Hy-Vee. The pure, pristine environment of the Copper River helps to create an omega-3 powerhouse. Copper River salmon begin their journey 300 miles downstream at the mouth of the Copper River, then make the long trek up through fast currents and unspoiled glacial-fed waters to reach their spawning grounds. This trek requires the salmon to store extra energy in the form of fat. The one-of-a-kind flavor and texture generates from this fat and makes any seafood lover’s mouth water. It is truly some of the highest prized salmon in the world.

The Copper River takes its name from the rich copper deposits found along its banks. This massive body of water has 13 major tributaries, is one mile wide and runs at seven miles per hour. The Copper River is the 10th largest river in the United States, and is home to some of finest, well-managed salmon stocks in the world. Alaska’s successful management practices are considered a model of sustainability for the rest of the world. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game monitors fish populations at several points along the Copper River and counts salmon heading up the river to ensure that an adequate number migrate to spawning grounds to reproduce each year. Policies like this have helped Alaska maintain one of the world’s most abundant sources of delicious wild seafood for generations to come. This is why we proudly place our Hy-Vee Responsible Choice label on wild Alaska salmon.

Alaska Pollock: The Forgotten Protein

When it comes to picking and choosing seafood, many customers look past this healthy, Responsible Choice protein. For many years, pollock was known as the cheapest option in seafood and was widely consumed by households, schools and local fish fries in the form of fish sticks and fried fish.

Alaska pollock is slowly gaining momentum and returning to the table in different forms. From surimi to trendy fish tacos, it is the most versatile of all whitefish varieties. Alaska pollock is easy to prepare, delivering a mild, appealing flavor with consistent snow-white flesh and a tender texture that has excellent flaking qualities, meeting the taste preferences of consumers who prefer more delicate fish. Alaska pollock is delicious poached, baked, broiled, steamed, sautéed or deep-fried, and can be paired with any number of flavors and ingredients.

Alaska’s most abundant seafood species, genuine Alaska pollock is a member of the cod family—not to be confused with Atlantic pollock, which is darker, oilier and ‘fishier’ tasting. The most versatile of the Alaska whitefish varieties, Alaska pollock holds its own in a variety of different preparations.

If you are looking for a low-cost, good-tasting, healthy protein, look no further than this Alaska species. Visit Hy-Vee today and select Alaska pollock and all the other ingredients you need for a delicious and healthy meal.

Responsible Choice Alaska Halibut

March typically kicks off spring and warmer grilling weather, but in
Alaska, this marks the opening season for harvesting Pacific halibut. Braving the elements of Mother Nature, Alaska halibut long-liners make their way out in the rough waters in hopes of landing this first-of-the-season catch.

Considered the “steak of seafood,” Alaska halibut has earned its reputation as the world’s premium whitefish for its firm white, flaky texture and sweet delicate flavor. Halibut is considered one the most versatile fish, and the thick, meaty texture can hold up to a number of cooking methods and sauces. When the season opens in March, seafoodies around the country look forward to adding this prized fish to their menus, fresh seafood counters and dinner tables.

When it comes to managing fisheries, no one does it better than the state of Alaska. Many years ago, the halibut season consisted of derby-style fishing methods, meaning there were predetermined, very competitive fishing periods that were 24 to 48 hours in length, sometimes in dangerous weather conditions. Now, the International Pacific Halibut Commission meets every year to examine scientific data in an effort to ensure that this fishery can maintain a healthy stock for future generations to enjoy. Due to these tight management practices, quotas and strict harvesting method, you find Hy-Vee’s Responsible Choice logo displayed on all of our fresh Alaska halibut.

Our Responsible Choice halibut is some of the freshest you can get in the Midwest.  All of our Alaska halibut is flown in overnight from Alaska to Des Moines International Airport, where it is then delivered to Hy-Vee’s PDI Distribution center in Ankeny, Iowa. The halibut then goes through our strict USDC Inspection Program before it is ready to be shipped out to stores that very day. Depending on your store’s delivery schedule, the halibut on your plate may be less than 72 hours from being out of the water. Now that is fresh!

Think Healthy, Think Local

Nestled in America’s Heartland – an area typically known for its endless rows of corn fields – lies one of the largest state-of-the-art aquaculture farms of its kind. VeroBlue Farms in Blairsburg, Iowa, raises one of the healthiest seafood species available today: “America’s Sea Bass” or barramundi.

When it comes to a farmed species, barramundi is just about perfect. VeroBlue’s proprietary aquaculture system creates a self-contained, nourishing environment where the fish grow firm and meaty for remarkably great taste, with no impact on the environment or disruption of nature. Using the natural elements of air, water and care, VeroBlue can replicate perfect growing conditions, allowing the fish to thrive. This provides seafood that’s delicious, healthy and extraordinarily sustainable. Because the fish are raised in VeroBlue’s ultramodern self-contained environment, they have no environmental impacts and receive Hy-Vee’s Responsible Choice logo of approval.

VeroBlue Farms’ land-based, farm-raised barramundi deliver a one-of-a-kind flavor that has quickly become a favorite of many fish lovers. Similar to wild-caught coho salmon, barramundi is also a natural source of beneficial heart and brain-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, making it one of the healthiest proteins to eat.

From the beginning, Hy-Vee has helped and supported this Iowa-based company by offering its sustainable barramundi to consumers. Consumers today want local, fresh and sustainable seafood options. VeroBlue’s facilities are less than 90 miles away from Hy-Vee’s fresh distribution center in Ankeny, Iowa.

Not only can you find this fresh, delicious fish behind the Hy-Vee seafood counter, but you can also find it featured on Hy-Vee’s Market Grille seasonal menu.

To learn more about VeroBlue Farms, click here to visit their website.

Seafood Education: Questions for the Fishmonger

Working as a Hy-Vee fishmonger for more than 20 years, I have received my share of customer questions. I thought I would take a moment to answer a few of the most common questions that we get day in and day out here at the Hy-Vee seafood counter.

  • Q: How much shrimp do I need for my party?
  • A: People will eat as much shrimp as you serve them. You can offer shrimp with almost every other appetizer and people will circle the shrimp like sharks! I suggest purchasing as much shrimp as your budget can afford, and call it good. I also suggest putting the shrimp out in stages, as opposed to putting it all out at once. This will help stretch your shrimp throughout the party as well, as guests will eat other items until the next plate comes out!
  • Q: What type of salmon do I want?
  • A: I think it depends on what types of salmon are available at that particular moment. If fresh, wild salmon is in season, then I tell customers to go wild! If we are outside of fresh salmon season, then I suggest Mt. Cook farm-raised King salmon. Another option is previously frozen Alaskan Sockeye. Of course, we always offer the Verlasso farm-raised salmon in portions and filets all year, and they are incredibly consistent in both flavor and texture.
  • Q: The sign next to the salmon says “color-added.” Is that bad?
  • A: When some people see “color-added” they think that the fish are injected with food coloring. I like to take the time to explain how the salmon actually have color added to them. Wild salmon get their color by eating krill and shrimp. Think about the color of cooked shrimp, and you will understand why salmon is red to orange in color. However, farm-raised salmon don’t get the luxury of dining on shrimp and krill. They get a food pellet that gives them everything a growing salmon needs except for a colorful flesh. The key component in shrimp and krill that gives them the vibrant color is called astaxanthin. This has to be added to the farmed salmon’s food pellets in order to get that orange color. If it was not added to their food, the flesh would be white to gray in color. The astaxanthin is added by either natural ingredients like algae and/or pulverized crustaceans, or by synthetic compounds. Either way, it allows the farm-raised product to closely resemble their wild counterparts.
  • Q: I heard on television or I read that….. (You can fill in the blank)
  • A: Every week we get people asking about a news report saying how bad a particular fish is, how bad fish from a particular country is, or how bad farmed anything is. Here’s my response: Hy-Vee hired its own U.S. Department of Commerce (USDC) lot inspector to ensure the quality, safety and integrity of the fresh seafood it buys. The USDC inspector is stationed onsite at the PDI distribution facility in Ankeny, Iowa, where he routinely checks incoming shipments of fresh seafood, ensuring that it meets Hy-Vee’s standards. Our purchasing and sustainability policy is the strictest around. Our seafood team at PDI is meticulous in its sourcing and accountability of our suppliers. Nothing gets past us. If we get tilapia from China, it has to be good. Just because the news report said all Chinese fish is bad, does not necessarily make it so. Our farm-raised fish and shrimp are raised by the best companies in the world for sustainability and environmentally friendly practices. I say TRUST us. We’ve got this. We worry about these things so you don’t have to.

Responsible Choice Lobster Tails

When it comes to sourcing Responsible Choice spiny lobster tails, Hy-Vee looks to the mecca of the Caribbean – the Bahamas. The Bahamas are known for their breathtaking beaches and crystal clear waters, but in these waters lies a rich, environmentally responsible source of spiny lobsters. These creatures play a huge role in the economy of the Bahamas and they rely on a strict management process to maintain this resource for future generations to enjoy.

Unlike American lobsters, spiny lobsters have a spiny hard shell for protection and lack large front claws. These warm-water lobster tails are smooth and have a spotted, greenish shell. Their soft texture and delicate flavor make them a favorite among chefs and foodies around the world.

In the Bahamas’ spiny lobster fishery, “condominiums” – or “casitas” – are placed by fisherman on the sea floor. Spiny lobsters seek shelter beneath this protective enclosure. Over time these man-made structures have become a permanent habitat for marine life, including the spiny lobsters. Divers from skiff boats dive down and lift up these condos and harvest lobsters that have a carapace length of at least 3.25 inches. Hooks are used to pull the lobsters out from under the condo. The lobsters are then carried to the surface where they are immediately placed in ice holds on the skiff. Once aboard the skiff, the tails are removed and they’re delivered to the mother-ship. Once full, the ship heads back to the mainland where they are processed, tested, cleaned, graded, frozen and then packed into 10-pound cases for delivery to the United States.

Upon arrival in the U.S., Hy-Vee requires that the lobsters are U.S.D.C. inspected to ensure that they are of the best quality before selling them to our customers to enjoy.

If you’re still in need of a dinner that will “wow” your valentine, stop at your local Hy-Vee seafood counter and ask for these fresh and delicious tails from Bahamas lobsters, which are featured in this week’s ad. You can even share the lobster’s story with your sweetheart and tell him or her that you made a Responsible Choice for them.