The Perfect Oyster

Oysters have been a favorite delicacy for centuries. Today, oysters often are enjoyed in restaurants, but they also are available at your local Hy-Vee grocery store. The demand for these tasty mollusks has never been stronger. Because of increased demand, cultured or farmed oysters help support and take some of the pressure off of wild stocks.

Seafood lovers often look for a clean-tasting oyster, especially when eating them raw. This is what you’ll find in our Responsible Choice Gold Band Oysters from Motivatit Seafoods. The Motivatit company was founded in Houma, Louisiana, by Ernest Voisin in 1971. Today, the Voisin family continues to operate the business. The company has 16,000 acres of natural water bottom, spread throughout the Louisiana coastline. Its fleet consists of 20 to 30 boats ranging in size from 20 feet to 80 feet.

Gold Band Oysters are harvested, processed and shipped fresh and quicker than those of any other company in the industry. The award-winning pre-shucked Gold Band Oysters are made possible by their patented, USDA-approved High Pressure Processing technology. The process reduces harmful bacteria to non-detectable levels and uses no heat, therefore the process has little effect on the taste or texture of the oyster. Prior to the process, gold plastic bands are heat-shrunk around each oyster to assure that the oyster’s liquid remains within its shell. This process undergoes quarterly tests through private laboratories to assure the validity of its results.

Gold Band Oysters make it easy for any consumer to open and enjoy. There is no need to become an expert in shucking; simply cut the bands and grab a butter knife to pop open and enjoy. When looking for that perfect oyster this holiday season, stop in your local Hy-Vee seafood market and look for the oysters wrapped in gold!

http://www.theperfectoyster.com/

Heading To The Source

To see how a product truly comes together from boat to dinner plate, one must see the process firsthand by being present when the fish comes in.

Last month, I made the journey north to one of the most famous fisheries in the world: the Copper River in Cordova, Alaska. Its population is under 2,000 people and is only accessible by plane or boat. Cordova is the mecca of sustainable wild salmon.

img_2596The shorelines of the community were not filled with million-dollar homes or 5-star resorts, but instead multimillion-dollar fish processing facilities, one of which processes and packs Hy-Vee’s Responsible Choice fresh salmon. I was lucky to witness a fresh run of wild Alaska coho salmon being processed, much of which later made the journey to our distribution center in Ankeny, Iowa, and then out to Hy-Vee customers in our eight states.

Watching the process from start to finish – and realizing the amount of time and effort that goes into handling product – is truly a sight to see. I’m a seafood buyer, and seeing the pride that these workers take in what they do gives me a great feeling about doing business with them.

Part of my days were spent at the docks with fisherman, listening to some of their wild stories as they maintained their nets and boats. Even after just a short amount of time on the docks, you can sense the camaraderie that the fishermen share. All are competitors when it comes to catching fish, but are friends who would help out each other in a time of need. One fisherman was familiar with Hy-Vee; he is a Minnesota native who lives in Cordova six months out of the year just to fish salmon.

img_2601The life of an Alaska salmon fisherman is not something anyone can just walk in and do. There are only about 540 commercial fishing permits available. Many of these permits have been passed on to younger generations from their grandparents and parents. It is not unusual to see a fisherman’s young son or daughter take over the reins of the family’s quota and boat. Permits do occasionally go up for sale, and can cost $200,000 or more. That is a huge investment for a business where the returns are unknown, as so many variables stand in the way – including weather to reduced quotas. Salmon fishing isn’t an easy job. Most of the vessels are operated by a single person. The operator’s job experience and good fortune undoubtedly affect the amount of money he brings home.

My evenings were spent around a dinner table at the homes of several local fishermen, which is an experience I will not soon forget. I was able to get a peek inside their lives and their reasons for doing what they do. Listening to their stories gave me a whole new perspective on what life is like outside of the Midwest. Wild salmon fisherman have a strong work ethic and spend endless hours managing, harvesting and maintaining their “harvest” – in this case wild salmon. It’s really somewhat similar to that of a cattle or agriculture farmer here in the Midwest. The only difference is that they are out pursuing “the last of the hunted proteins,” and if the fish aren’t there or the weather is too bad to fish then they come home empty-handed. The unknown never stops them from going back out, as they know that one good trip could result in a bountiful payoff.

It’s hard to fully grasp all that goes into a wild fishery. My goal for this trip was to obtain a better understanding about what makes this fishery one of the finest. The amount of knowledge and understanding that one gains in a trip like this is truly priceless.

Introducing Fair Trade Certified™ Tuna: Q&A with Fair Trade USA

By Ashley Apel

Hy-Vee is transitioning 100% of its private-label fresh and frozen tuna to Fair Trade Certified™. To help celebrate this monumental commitment, we asked Ashley Apel, Seafood Program Senior Manager at Fair Trade USA, to share her thoughts on the importance of responsibly sourced seafood.

Fair Trade Certified Tuna

  1. What is Fair Trade?

    Fair Trade is all about taking care of people and our planet. When you purchase products with the Fair Trade Certified™ logo, you’re not only getting a high-quality product, you’re supporting a system in which farmers, workers and fishermen are fairly compensated, fragile ecosystems are protected, and communities are empowered to build sustainable businesses. It’s a win-win.

    There are two important mechanisms that bring Fair Trade to life. The first is the Fair Trade Standard. To earn certification, each fishery must meet a set of rigorous, independently audited criteria that work to protect fundamental human rights of fishermen, enable transparent supply chains and protect the environment. The second important thing to remember is the Community Development Premium. For every pound of tuna sold, fishermen earn an additional amount of money that is earmarked for critical community projects, as identified by the fishermen themselves. This allows fishing communities to invest in the causes that matter the most to them, like education and health care.

  2. What products does Fair Trade USA certify?

    Fair Trade USA certifies more than 30 different categories, from tea, coconut and spices to grain, sugar, produce and even apparel and home goods. You can now find Fair Trade Certified™ products in nearly every aisle of the grocery store.

  3. Why does Fair Trade matter so much in seafood?

    Recent investigations have exposed a number of environmental and social abuses in the seafood industry. Roughly 30% of the world’s fisheries are overfished, according to FAO. If unchecked, many varieties of seafood we’ve come to know and love may go extinct. Human trafficking and forced labor are also major issues in parts of the industry. An increasing number of reports show that individuals, particularly in Southeast Asia, are lured onto fishing vessels with promises of steady jobs and higher pay, only to find themselves working around the clock in dangerous conditions, often without pay. Some have even lost their lives.

    fttuna1Fair Trade USA’s seafood program is really the first of its kind to address both social and environmental challenges in the seafood sector. Standards for marine resources ensure that fisheries are managed legally and responsibly, preventing further overfishing. At the same time, social and human rights standards prohibit forced labor and empower fishermen with better working conditions, improved terms of trade, and add additional income to invest in their businesses and communities.

    Fair Trade Community Development Premiums can also help foster collaboration among previously isolated groups of fisherman. Premiums encourage fishermen to work together to identify and execute projects like health clinics or schoolhouses. This cultivates a sense of community that in turn makes fishermen less vulnerable to exploitation by outside parties.

    The tuna Hy-Vee buys comes from small villages in Indonesia. Fishermen and community members have used Fair Trade Premiums for safety improvements at fishing docks, education scholarships, uniforms, and school supplies for local children, planting trees, turtle conservation projects, renovations to village mosques, community waste systems and funds to support grieving or ill families.

  4. What does Fair Trade aim to do in fishing communities?

    The goal of the Fair Trade seafood program is to build more resilient livelihoods in fishing communities. It’s about improved working conditions and wages for fishermen, so they can better care for themselves and their families. It’s also about helping fishermen gain greater access to capital in the form of Community Development Premiums, as investments made with this extra income can improve community welfare.

    Finally, Fair Trade focuses on environmental stewardship in fishing communities. Our NGO partners and field staff on the ground work with fishermen to improve their fishing practices and preserve marine ecosystems, ensuring that fishing remains a viable profession for generations to come.

  5. What do you want shoppers to know when they see tuna with the Fair Trade Certified™ label?

    Every dollar we spend is a vote for the kind of world we want to live in. When you purchase Fair Trade Certified™ tuna, you’re voting for sustainable livelihoods, thriving fishing communities, and healthy marine populations. You’re voting for safe working conditions, equal rights for women, and prohibitions of both slavery and child labor. Most people want to make a positive difference in the world, and with Fair Trade it’s easy. Fair Trade Certified™ tuna empowers shoppers to turn the tides for fishermen, one purchase at a time.

Alaska Cod: Wild, Natural & Sustainable

In the month of October, Hy-Vee is celebrating CodFest with customers. One of the most popular North Pacific ground fish, Alaska Cod is the highest-quality cod available. Harvested throughout the Gulf of Alaska, Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands, Alaska Cod is available fresh in the fall and winter, and frozen year-round.

Alaska has pioneered the standard for sustainable, eco-friendly fisheries. Alaska’s cod fisheries are Green rated by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch program, indicating that Alaska cod is a “Best Choice” for consumers to purchase because it’s from fisheries that are well managed and caught using methods that cause little harm to habitats and other wildlife. By proactively ensuring a healthy, wild and sustainable harvest, Alaska is protecting its superior seafood for future generations.

With a slightly sweet flavor and a moist, firm texture, Alaska Cod adapts easily to most cooking methods. It can be roasted, poached, steamed, sautéed or deep-fried for fish and chips. Alaska Cod is also perfectly complemented by a wide array of sauces, herbs, spices and coatings. It’s available in fillets and in portions. Alaska Cod can star on its own in the center of the plate, but it’s also excellent as an ingredient in salads, appetizers and chowders.

Visit your Hy-Vee seafood counter today and ask about wild Alaska Cod.

A Fresh Take On Fish

What do you consider “fresh” fish? Is it a fish you caught in the lake and took home and cooked? Is it a fish you purchased at the fish market on the coast? Is it fish you purchased at your local fishmonger? How about frozen fish in your fishmonger’s freezer section?

Maybe you don’t think of frozen fish as “fresh.” But it was caught by fishermen who employ flash-freezing techniques at sea. The fish is caught, then immediately processed and flash-frozen at its peak freshness. It then makes its way to the fishmonger’s freezer for you to take it home, thaw it in the refrigerator and serve it at its peak freshness. Only fish caught that day are considered fresher than frozen fish.

Commercial fisherman go out to sea for days, maybe even weeks. So is that fresh? How about the fresh, not-frozen fish at the seafood counter? That fish comes from the fisherman who then sells his fish to a processor who then packs and ships the fish by truck or air to the fish market. Is this fresh? Technically it is because it has never been frozen. But it could be several days and maybe even a week since it was swimming in the water.

Hy-Vee is too far from a coast to be able to fetch same-day-caught fish. Since we are not close to any ocean, we have to rely on frozen fish to maintain quality. Our fresh fish has to be flown in and is then inspected for quality and freshness. After that, it’s sent to Hy-Vee stores to be bought by you. Hy-Vee has been selling previously frozen fish in the fish case for years.

All of our shrimp, crab and lobster come in frozen and we thaw them for sale. It’s the only way for those items to maintain quality. Wild-caught salmon comes in fresh during the season from May through October. Outside of those months, you are usually going to get previously frozen fish. Farm-raised fish comes in fresh in most cases, but it sometimes comes in previously frozen as well.

In my opinion, frozen fish is often a better choice.

By freezing fish on board the fishing vessels, fishermen lock in the quality at its peak. Plus, it does not require expensive shipping to get the fish to its final destination. It can be trucked to the store rather than flown. That means that your fish will be less expensive than fresh-flown fish.

There are times when customers just want to have that fresh Alaskan King salmon, and you can get it. However, when I traveled to Alaska and caught my own salmon, it was immediately flash frozen in a vacuum-packed sealed bag. When I pulled that fish out six months later and thawed it in the fridge, it still smelled like the sea and was as flavorful as the fish we ate that day we caught it.

Here are some recommendations for your next trip to the Hy-Vee fishmonger:

  1. Read the signs and know what is fresh and what is previously frozen. Not all frozen fish is better than fresh. Ask your Hy-Vee fishmonger for suggestions and information on when to buy frozen fish and when to buy never frozen fish.
  2. Know your seasons for fresh fish. Know when to expect fresh, flown-in fish and when to expect previously frozen fish in the case. Ask the fishmonger when they get deliveries and show up on those days.
  3. Thaw frozen fish in the refrigerator. Remove it from the vacuum-sealed package first. Never thaw it on the counter.
  4. Don’t refreeze fish that has been thawed. Cook it and then freeze it if you have to. The quality will diminish substantially if you refreeze raw fish.

Perfect Partners

clearspringsfoodsPartners in sustainability: That’s the best way to describe Hy-Vee and Clear Springs Foods. Hy-Vee has one of the best responsible seafood programs in place, and Clear Springs Foods is one of the leaders in sustainable aquaculture. Clear Springs was started in 1966 and has grown into the leading producer of premium rainbow trout. It is an employee-owned company as is Hy-Vee, making them perfect partners.

Clear Springs maintains total control of its trout from egg to market. The company has its own research facilities, hatcheries, production farms, processing facilities and trucking company to make sure it is the only one to touch your trout before the fish get to market.

More than 70 percent of all rainbow trout raised in the U.S. is grown in a 30-mile stretch along the Snake River in southern Idaho’s Magic Valley. Clear Springs is responsible for about 60 percent of that. Trout are raised in concrete raceways and are fed by an automated feeding system. Why would Clear Springs raise fish here? Because of the water! Magic Valley is home to thousands of natural springs that produce pure, clean oxygenated water at a constant temperature of 58 degrees. All of these factors combine to create ideal conditions for trout.

Clear Springs is also a steward of the environment. It monitors the quality of the water in not only its facility but also the aquifers and river that supply the facility’s water. The company practices good fish welfare and uses bird-friendly netting over its runways. Clear Springs manufactures its own fish meal and is focused on finding plant-based proteins to help negate the need for fish meal.

But what does all this mean for our customers? It means that when you buy Clear Springs trout at your local Hy-Vee you will get great tasting, boneless fish that was raised in a responsible manner. Clear Springs trout is labeled Hy-Vee Responsible Choice and is Green Rated by the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program. You can purchase this mild flaky fish in either a boneless fillet or as a whole fish. Stop by your local Hy-Vee fresh seafood department and purchase some delicious trout from one of our partners in responsible seafood.

Fair Trade Certified Tuna

Hy-Vee is excited to feature yellowfin tuna from the world’s first Fair Trade Certified™ fishery in Hy-Vee fresh seafood cases this week. Hy-Vee is currently the only retailer working towards 100% Fair Trade tuna throughout our stores. Hy-Vee partners with Anova Food to supply Fair Trade tuna for our fresh seafood cases, sushi shops and Market Grille restaurants.

The Fair Trade Certified yellowfin tuna comes from a relatively new group of fishermen in the Indonesian Maluku island chain. The fishermen use single-hook handlines attached to handmade kites to catch the fish – a very low-impact and environmentally friendly method.

In October 2014, four fishing associations – representing roughly 100 fishermen – became certified according to Fair Trade’s Capture Fisheries Standard. Fishing & Living, Masyarakat dan Perikanan Indonesia (MDPI), Anova Food, Fair Trade USA and the fishermen worked together to certify the Central Maluku yellowfin tuna fishery. Since initial certification, the Indonesian program has grown and now encompasses almost 600 fishermen and more than 30 fishing associations.

To fulfill Fair Trade requirements, data is collected including information on who caught the fish, the catch per trip, the amount of bycatch per trip and whether there was any sighting or interaction with an endangered, threatened or protected species. MDPI hosts training sessions to teach fisherman about these practices and why they’re important. MDPI also provides safety, first aid and navigation training, as required for certification.

Fair Trade Certified products are acquired with respect for people and our planet. When customers purchase a product with the Fair Trade Certified label, they can be sure that the fishermen and workers who produced it received a fair deal for their hard work.

Fair Trade’s goal is to see more resilient livelihoods in coastal communities, improved working and living conditions, increased supply and demand for responsibly sourced seafood, and enhanced environmental stewardship and ecosystem protection. Fisherman and consumers all benefit when these fishing communities enjoy better prices and wages, safer working conditions, environmental protection, and additional funds to invest in community projects including education, health care and clean water.

We proudly label this item with Hy-Vee’s Responsible Choice logo. We invite you to visit your local Hy-Vee seafood counter this week and take home some fresh, delicious and Fair Trade Certified yellowfin tuna!

Seafood strategy: Global Seafood

There have been a lot questions about the safety of imported seafood. Seafood comes from a global supply and it’s necessary to import products from all over the world to meet our customer needs. There isn’t enough domestic (U.S.) production to meet the demand.

In order to offer variety, we must import some of our seafood. All product that is imported is subject to U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) inspection upon arrival in the U.S. Also, all foreign facilities that offer product for sale to the U.S. operate under a FDA-mandated HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points) plan.

Food safety isn’t our only concern. Hy-Vee goes to great lengths to ensure the fisheries and farms we buy seafood from are responsibly managed, and do not cause any negative environmental impacts.

Hy-Vee owes much of our success to our suppliers who have worked with us to reach and also maintain our Responsible Seafood Commitment. Read more about our efforts here.

We have developed a group of suppliers that share our same goals for food safety. We have a “trust and verify” system in place where we require documentation from our suppliers that our products are safe and that they have proper quality assurance steps in place. This requirement is for all seafood products, no matter where it comes from.

Hy-Vee seafood buyers make sure to buy from reputable suppliers. Our vendors have people onsite testing the products we purchase to ensure that quality always come first. Plus, as an added quality-check, we have a full-time government USDC Lot Inspector onsite at our warehouse in Ankeny, Iowa. He inspects all of Hy-Vee’s fresh seafood along with many frozen products that arrive here. This helps us ensure that our customers are receiving top quality seafood.

Here is a list of the things Hy-Vee’s suppliers must guarantee:

  1. The production facilities comply with FDA’s HACCP guidelines.
  2. They comply with good environmental and aquaculture (if applicable) practices.
  3. The plants apply the HACCP principles to farming, harvesting and processing of fish and shrimp.
  4. The plants guarantee that they have not used illegal additives, antibiotics or other chemicals.
  5. The suppliers use independent lab analysis overseas and in the U.S. for verification.
  6. The supplier does frequent plant visits. Many suppliers have a full-time staff at the plants to verify that the quality standards are met and to pull samples for lab analysis.
  7. The supplier has third-party audits completed at its facilities.
  8. The product has 100 percent traceability.

Over 90 percent of seafood consumed in the U.S. is imported, but Hy-Vee has still successfully worked with its suppliers to only source responsible seafood. Globalization is essential to the seafood industry. Hy-Vee will continue to focus on food safety, sustainability and quality.

Fair Trade Tuna

Hy-Vee is working toward offering 100% Fair Trade tuna by partnering with Anova to supply our fresh seafood cases, sushi shops and Market Grille restaurants.

Fair Trade Certified products are acquired with respect for people and our planet. When customers purchase a product with the Fair Trade Certified label, they can be sure that the fishermen and workers who produced it received a fair deal for their hard work. This means better prices and wages, safer working conditions, environmental protection, and additional funds to invest in community projects like education, health care and clean water.

Fair Trade USA informed us that Hy-Vee is the only retailer that is pursuing an effort of this scale. To learn more about Fair Trade tuna and the process behind the product, check out this short video about a small-scale handline-caught tuna fishing in Indonesia.

Watch the YouTube video on the Fair Trade Program here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BSiGXptU6kk?

This video was produced by the MDPI Foundation.

Loving Lobster

Lobsters are arguably one of the most delicious seafood treats of the summer. The American lobster is the sweetest, most flavorful lobster around. Lobsters have been an integral part of the coastal region for generations.

When it comes to sourcing these delicious Responsible Choice lobsters, Hy-Vee looks no further than the coast of Maine. The strict management practices enforced there ensure that the lobsters will be around for future generations.

Lobsters are graded as soft-shell (new shell) or hard-shell (old shell). So what’s the difference?

Lobsters will periodically shed their shells as they grow. This can happen as many as 25 times before they are 6 or 7 years old. After that, males shed every year and females shed every two years. When lobsters become very large, molting is less frequent. After they shed they have a paper-thin shell, which can take up to two months to harden, and are called soft-shell, new-shell or shedders. The debate goes on as to which is most tasty, though the soft-shell are definitely easier to crack! Either variety is welcome on our dinner table!

To make the more than 1,000-mile journey to the Midwest, Hy-Vee must source hard-shell lobsters. The more delicate soft-shell lobsters simply will not make the trip.

Upon arrival at our perishable warehouse in Ankeny, Iowa, the lobsters are counted and checked thoroughly before they are placed in our state-of-the-art lobster tank where they sit in holding for 24 hours before being shipped. This ensures that they are hearty and healthy enough to ship.

Then the lobsters make their way to our Hy-Vee stores, where they are often placed on display much to the delight of Seafoodies and children alike. If you have any questions about preparation or how to eat lobster, just visit with your local Hy-Vee seafood counter team. They’re happy to share their knowledge to allow you to enjoy fresh and delicious lobster right in your own home!