Alaska Pollock

Chances are you may have eaten Alaska pollock without even knowing it. That fish sandwich at your favorite restaurant or the imitation crab meat you put on your salad is likely made from Alaska pollock. Alaska pollock is often ranked as one of the top five seafood species consumed in the United States.

Alaska pollock has been the gold standard for sustainability for years. Since 2001, U.S. commercial landings of Alaska pollock have been well over 2.6 billion pounds each year on a sustainable basis. Pollock fishing has minimal impact on habitat. The fishery is a trawl fishery, meaning that large nets are pulled through the ocean above the ocean floor in an effort to avoid damaging the seabed. Pollock swim in giant schools well above the ocean floor. The pollock fishery is one of the cleanest fisheries in the world. Nearly 99 percent of the nets are filled with pollock, making for minimal by-catch.

I was lucky to be aboard a pollock trawler owned by Trident, one of Hy-Vee’s partners in sustainable Alaskan seafood.  The ship was the Island Enterprise. We visited with the captain and he showed us the sophisticated sonar and computer systems on board. All this equipment helps the trawler crew hone in on the pollock schools and helps them guide their nets to avoid bycatch. It also allows them to fish faster and more efficiently. The ship fished around the clock and only stopped to unload; we were lucky enough to catch it while it was in port for a few hours. This ship catches the fish and processes it onboard; the fish is frozen within hours of the catch.  When they are full they go to port, unload and go back out.

These efficiencies make it seem that the pollock don’t really have a chance, and the reality is they don’t.  If not for a strong commitment to sustainability, the pollock stocks could easily be wiped out by these large ships. But thanks to great management by the state of Alaska, these massive boats can pull in large amounts of fish year after year. Pollock is the most important fish that you probably didn’t know about! Maybe you’ve eaten it and never thought twice about it.

You can cook a raw piece of pollock like you would cod or haddock. You will be surprised at what great natural flavor it has. It’s delicious in fish tacos. And when you’re enjoying it, know you are eating a fish that is sustainably harvested in a way that preserves the species and the ocean it’s caught in.

Eat Your Fish!

Cod is the perfect way to get your foot in the boat with seafood. It lacks that particular “fishy” taste that many people find unappealing about seafood. So if you or someone you’re cooking for isn’t a big “fish” person and doesn’t like the smell or taste, this may be the fish to try!

Cod is an excellent mild fish that provides many benefits for your body, including being linked to the reduction of heart disease. (1, 2)

Omega-3 fatty acids are found in fish and are associated with a lower risk of stroke and keeping cholesterol under control, particularly by reducing LDL cholesterol, or the “bad” cholesterol. (1, 2)

Cod is also rich in vitamins B6 and B12, which keep the homocysteine levels low in our bodies. This is linked to reducing the risk of heart-related problems. (3)

If you suffer from sunburns during the sunny months, cod may help provide protection against those burns with its anti-inflammatory properties. It’s a natural sunscreen! (4)

Stop by your local Hy-Vee today and view our assortment of cod. A dietitian is around the corner if you have any questions about your cod or seafood purchase.

But there are still more fish in the sea to try! Once you get your feet wet with cod, you will be dying to move on to other varieties fish.

  1. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. 7 things to know about omega-3 fatty acids. US Department of Health & Human Services, National Institutes of Health. https://nccih.nih.gov/health/tips/omega. Updated September 24, 2015.
  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.
  3. National Institutes of Health. Vitamin B6 dietary supplement fact sheet. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminB6-HealthProfessional/. Updated February 11, 2016.
  4. Kiecolt-Glaser JK, Belury MA, Porter K, Beversdorf DQ, Lemeshow S, Glaser R. Depressive symptoms, omega-6:omega-3 fatty acids, and inflammation in older adults. Psychosom Med. 2007 April; 69(3): 217-24.

Salmon Is In the Home Stretch

The annual Alaska salmon run is in the home stretch and the time to buy fresh Alaska salmon is nearing the finish line. Summer is a great time to enjoy the bounty of Alaskan salmon. The spring brings us Copper River sockeye and king salmon, June and July bring the bounty of Bristol Bay sockeye and late July and early August bring keta salmon to the table. So here we are in late August and the sockeye are harder to find and the keta have moved up the rivers.  So where does a fresh salmon aficionado turn to this time of year?  Coho salmon is the cure for your Alaska salmon addiction.

The coho is the late summer run that is worth the wait. Every salmon species has its unique traits and the Alaska coho is no different. Typically coho salmon can be caught from late June through early October, but the biggest commercial runs occur in mid-August and September. I remember catching coho on July 4 in Alaska, but they were just beginning to show up in the area at that time. Since it comes late in the summer, the coho helps fill the demand for Alaskan salmon as sockeye and keta end their runs.

Coho salmon are similar to king salmon in taste, color and texture. Coho can be distinguished by their orange red meat color. They are the second-largest salmon, behind just the king salmon, so they make excellent steaks and fillets. They have a relatively high fat content which makes them great for grilling and smoking. They are my second-favorite salmon next to the king.  You should start to see this outstanding fresh salmon at your local Hy-Vee. The end of summer also means we’re nearing the end of fresh salmon. Nothing compares to fresh Alaskan salmon, and this may be your last chance to get some before fall closes the door on the great Alaska salmon run.

From Shrimp Farm to Shelf

As a supplier and importer of frozen shrimp for Hy-Vee, I am familiar with the process involved in getting a bag of shrimp on the grocery shelf.  However, it takes a trip to the source to be reminded of the amazing process involved in growing and harvesting the shrimp in that bag.  I was fortunate to recently visit Thailand to see that process firsthand.

Along with our sourcing team, I recently visited the Surat Thani province of Thailand, which includes a large coastline on the Gulf of Thailand.  The lush landscape, mountains and expansive views of acres of water reminded me of some of the best tropical regions I have visited.

This province has proven to be a fertile area for shrimp farming for many years and includes a proud tradition of family-owned shrimp farms.  The farmers in this region regularly meet to share best practices for their farming techniques and to discuss advancements in the industry, such as third-party sustainability certification.  The farmers have been committed to encouraging high-quality and sustainable farming practices.

We met with many shrimp farmers in the region, including a farm owned and operated by a husband and wife.  The farmers proudly walked us through the various processes and farming techniques each use for their farms, and shared with us the challenges they have faced to maintain consistent and high-quality crops.  These farmers want their crops to be not just viable, but thriving.

The process begins with the shrimp growing in nursery ponds after they first hatch, which is the most sensitive time for the shrimp and when they have the highest risk of dying.  The farmers have worked over the years to develop techniques to improve the survival rate of shrimp during this phase, including covering the nursery ponds and monitoring the water temperature and pH with sophisticated devices.

After growing in the nursery pond for two weeks, the shrimp are transferred to the larger growing ponds, where they can grow for up to 120 days to sizes as large as 1.2 ounces per shrimp (13 to 15 shrimp per pound).  The rapid growth of these shrimp is aided by a circulating water system, multiple aerators, timed feedings to ensure the shrimp receive the necessary nutrition, and testing of the water quality throughout the growth process.

The farmers know that quality is key to their long-term viability, and quality begins with ensuring shrimp grow in the right conditions.  The farms we visited all have their farms audited and certified annually by the Global Aquaculture Alliance to ensure they are following Best Aquaculture Practices, which is the industry-leading standard for shrimp aquaculture.

When the shrimp are ready for harvesting, the manual process begins. It involves pulling nets through the pond several times and manually scooping up the shrimp with buckets.  The harvest of each pond can take up to 4 hours, and many farms have 50 or more ponds at each location.

Once harvested, the shrimp are first inspected and sorted at the farm for quality.  The shrimp are then iced and transported to the plant, where they are further inspected, peeled or cooked, frozen and packed into Hy-Vee’s retail bags.

With the worldwide demand for seafood growing and limited ocean resources to meet that growing demand, high-quality aquaculture is growing in importance.  The Surat Thani farmers are seeing this increased demand for their product, and are building more ponds and farms to meet this demand.

Seeing firsthand the best practices these farmers follow to ensure their shrimp meets and exceeds the quality expectations for Hy-Vee is always worth the effort and time, and renews my appreciation for the dedication to quality these farmers demonstrate.  Hy-Vee’s commitment to placing a quality product on the shelf truly begins with these farmers.

Arctic Circle Salmon

The Copper River and Bristol Bay are world-class Alaska salmon fisheries. This week, your local Hy-Vee is featuring keta salmon from a fishery north of the Arctic Circle called Kotzebue Sound.

Fed by the pristine waters of the Noatak, Selawik and Kobuk Rivers, the nutrient-rich Kotzebue Sound provides an ideal habitat for ocean-caught keta. The Arctic keta fishery located here is integral to the community of Kotzebue, largely comprised of the Inupiat people, who have inhabited the region of Kotzebue since at least the 15th century. Kotzebue residents depend on subsistence fishing for their personal use and commercial fishing for income. Fishing has traditionally been the lifeblood of the community, and salmon are revered as a most precious resource.

 

Hy-Vee has partnered with Copper River Seafoods to help support the community and livelihood of the native residents by promoting this sustainable resource of wild keta salmon.

Arctic keta salmon are distinguished by their exceptionally high-quality taste, bright color, firm texture and high omega-3 fat content.  It’s the ideal salmon for those who prefer a milder flavor salmon and will complement any marinade or sauce.

Stop at your local Hy-Vee and try some of the finest keta salmon Alaska can provide. Every purchase will help support the fishermen of Kotzebue and their community.

Photo credit: Alsaka Seafood Marketing Institute & Copper River Seafood

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.