Hy-Vee Sets a New Standard When It Comes to Local – Sourcing Hybrid Striped Bass and Barramundi from the Heartland

Authored by John Rohrs & Kathleen Mullen-Ley

In a country that imports over 90 percent of its seafood, it’s rare to find a restaurant or grocery store that sources its seafood locally. However, with Hy-Vee’s Responsible Choice seafood program, we are doing just that by achieving the highest standards, keeping a close eye on environmental stewardship and upholding accountability to our customers.

Regarding the fresh hybrid striped bass and barramundi in our case daily, the local story begins with a family-owned and operated company in Blairsburg, Iowa – Iowa’s First. Hy-Vee learned about the forward-thinking style of raising seafood inland and jumped at the opportunity to transition from international sources to a local partner. And the benefits are endless.

Encouraged by FishWise, our nonprofit sustainable seafood partner, to utilize land-based aquaculture systems, Hy-Vee is proud to partner with another environmentally conscious company as part of our Responsible Choice initiative. Land-based aquaculture systems mitigate or eliminate many of the negative impacts to the surrounding environment typical of traditional ocean-based aquaculture systems and minimize biosecurity risks.

Sourcing from a local, land-based fish farm also leads to exemplary traceability. In fact, in a land-based system, each fish is observed and handled with care from the farm to your plate. Ongoing efforts to improve the quality of product are constant. For example, this summer Iowa’s First implemented a new system of LED lighting to simulate sunrise and sunset times, which is key to improving feeding time and managing stress levels of the fish.

Iowa’s First utilizes a flow through system to remove waste properly that ensures the system remains clean without the use of antibiotics. This is done by using a series of tanks to warm and oxygenate water, which is then circulated through various filters to collect waste and convert the waste’s ammonia to nitrates. Any wastewater remaining is sent to a nearby lagoon and later used to irrigate fields near the facility.

In addition to the safe, local practices, hybrid striped bass and barramundi have received a “Best Choice” or Green Rating from the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program and a ringing endorsement for health from Dr. Oz.

“Free of mercury, but full of heart–and brain–healthy omega-3s, barramundi is a shoe-in for one of my top 5 superfoods. Bonus: the white meat is light, flaky and delicious,” says Oz.

Hy-Vee’s partnership with Iowa’s First is a great opportunity for us to support local business and community, all while offering a safe, traceable product for our customers. We are proud to offer fresh, quality seafood and will continue to look for ways to improve these efforts.

Author: John Rohrs

I’m John Rohrs, seafood purchasing manager at Perishable Distributors of Iowa, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Hy-Vee established in 1982 to provide a central distribution system for perishable products to Iowa stores. In my job, I work with stores to help create more sales and educate employees on seafood. Through Hy-Vee’s Responsible Choice initiative I’ve enjoyed meeting and communicating with vendors and creating the friendships that make our partnerships work.

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