Measuring the Impact: Two Views on the Effect Hy-Vee’s Switch to Responsible Choice Seafood is Having on the Oceans

Kenan here:

By taking a proactive stand and role with our Responsible Choice seafood program, Hy-Vee is having a positive impact on the environment and ecosystem, step by step.

We are very committed to this. An important first step in that commitment involves educating our employees, so they can educate our customers, who have been clear that they want to know where their food comes from and how it’s being handled and raised.

We’re able to tell them that we’ve already made a difference in educating our suppliers and helping them to think differently about how fish is caught and raised. They’ve listened, and any time people become more aware, change occurs. This is also about the livelihoods of fishermen, because making changes ensures they will have a market for their catches in the future.

Changes won’t occur overnight, but any time you make improvements, you are helping. And any time you think about it, you are helping. I truly believe that any time you think about it as a retailer sourcing fish or as a consumer buying their catch, you’re having an impact. We make changes with our purchasing power.

We are looking at every species and how we can make improvements. We’re constantly asking ourselves, “What can we do better?”

We’re committed, but it’s a journey. We won’t get there overnight, but we will get there.

Kathleen here:

Kenan is absolutely right.

Hy-Vee’s purchasing power is making some changes on the water with more responsible sourcing. It’s already reducing bycatch and preventing overfishing to ensure seafood will be available for future generations to enjoy.

Because this is a brand new initiative, the changes are somewhat theoretical. But Hy-Vee is definitely leading the way and if all grocery chains in the United States had similar programs, the results would be more immediately quantifiable.

Some of the changes are showing up in the Hy-Vee seafood cases. They’ve dropped some notoriously overfished species, such as Atlantic cod, whose populations have been all but depleted by unsustainable practices. Also gone are some species of rock fish, which are long living and slow to mature. Allowing them to reach maturity means their populations will have a chance to recover.

Changes in harvesting is also minimizing damage to the ecosystem in other ways. Certain fishing methods are relatively unselective and practices are changing. Hy-Vee’s tuna supplier, for example, eliminated long lines with a thousand hooks and replaced them with poles with a single hook, which means fewer sea birds, sea turtles, juvenile tuna and other incidental species are being caught.

We’re also seeing a switch from bottom trawling, or the use of a heavy net to catch species such as shrimp, cod, sole and flounder that reside on the sea floor. The net scoops up everything in its path, from fish to corals, and tears up the habitat young fish need to survive.

These may seem like small steps, but they are important steps. Cumulatively, they are making a difference.

Follow MyPlate! Guidelines So You Don’t Blow the Benefits of a Heart-Healthy Responsible Choice Seafood Diet

myPlate

If you’re adding fish to your diet to maintain heart health – and you should – it’s easy to cancel out those benefits by filling the rest of your plate with unhealthy choices.

The best way to avoid this trap is to follow the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s MyPlate! guidelines. A quarter of the plate is protein, in this case, heart-healthy fish; half of the plate is fruits and vegetables; and the final quarter is grains.

For grains, choose a brown rice or whole-grain pasta. A trendy option is high-protein, gluten-free quinoa (pronounced keen-wah), which is often used as a replacement for oatmeal or brown rice. You can make it savory by adding soy sauce and herbs and spices, or use it in a cold salad with peppers, onions and black beans, tossed in an oil and vinegar dressing.

Many people don’t get enough vegetables, so be sure to include a nice, large serving. There are no unhealthy vegetables. If it comes from the ground and is made in the dirt and not in the factory, it’s going to be good for us and have health benefits. But we can do some unbeneficial things to vegetables by putting too much oil or salt in it during processing.

There are two categories of vegetables – starchy and non-starchy. The starchy vegetables are potatoes, peas, corn and legumes. They’re still very nutritious, but they have higher calories. For those who are adding more fish to their diets for heart health, or weight and diabetes control, limiting quantities is important.

One vegetable in this group that gets a bad rap because it contains carbohydrates is the white potato, but potatoes also contain beneficial nutrients, antioxidants and fiber. Again, portion control is the key. Choose portions the size of a fist, not a shoe. Some salt, pepper and butter are OK, but if you add sour cream, cheese and bacon bits, or process the potatoes into chips, you’re losing the benefits.

The non-starchy vegetables include everything else – tomatoes, green beans, cauliflower, eggplant, onions and so forth. You can eat these in unlimited quantities, but again, watch what you’re topping the with, like heavy cheese sauces.

Finally, make sure that you’re getting enough fruit, which also contains antioxidants and fiber. Because fruits can cause a rise in blood sugar, watch your intake and the amount you eating, especially if you’re diabetic. A good rule of thumb is a one-half cup portion, which has about 15 grams of carbohydrates. That’s an apple the size of a tennis ball.

If you can get three or four of these food groups in a meal, you’re doing a good job. Think about food as preventive medicine. I’m a big believer that the solution needs to be food, not a pill.

Recipe Spotlight: Pacific Cod Takes on the Flavor of Vegetables when Cooked in Parchment Bag

Cooking cod, a mild, white fish that takes on the flavor of the vegetables and the sauces it’s cooked with, in parchment paper is a foolproof way to keep it moist.

If fish is cooked this way, it’s easy to avoid some of the common misgivings people have when cooking fish – that it’s going to be raw or undercooked, or that it’s going to be too dry.

Here’s an easy way to determine if fish is correctly cooked: When you press your palm, it gives some. Fish should do the same, and give just a bit when pressed. Remember, when fish come out of the oven, it will continue to cook for a couple of minutes.

A basic rule of thumb is to bake fish about 10 to 12 minutes per inch of thickness in a 425-degree oven.

Pacific cod is one of the Responsible Choice selections in the Hy-Vee seafood case. It’s from a well-managed fishery that has limits in place to ensure fish will be around for future generations to eat and enjoy.

The recipe below departs from the standard lemon and dill sauce that people can tire of, using dry white wine, fresh thyme and lemon zest. Here’s another bonus: Clean-up is super easy.

Some other variations include blood orange, which are in season right now and are very good with fish. I also like to add some fresh fennel for variety.


Cod En Papillote with Fresh Vegetables

All you need:

  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 tbsp plus 3 tsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp minced shallot
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 tbsp dry white wine
  • 1 1/2 tsp lemon zest
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 tsp chopped fresh thyme
  • 3 (5 oz each) cod fillets
  • 1 bunch asparagus, ends trimmed
  • 1/2 cup roasted red peppers
  • 1/2 cup shredded carrots
  • 1 parchment bag

All you do:

  1. Mash garlic and salt to a paste. Melt butter and 1 tablespoon oil in nonstick pan over medium heat. Add garlic paste and shallot; stir until pale golden, about 1 minute. Stir in lemon juice, wine, zest and black pepper. Remove from heat.
  2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Drizzle 1 teaspoon of oil inside the bag. Place cod fillets in the bag and spoon generous tablespoons of garlic-lemon sauce over fish; season with about 1/2 teaspoon of thyme. Cover with asparagus, roasted red peppers and shredded carrot. Roll the parchment bag up, enclosing completely and seal with a paperclip.
  3. Bake fish until just opaque in center and vegetables are crisp-tender, about 15 to 20 minutes. Serve immediately by ripping open the parchment bag, allowing steam to escape.

Responsible Choice Seafood: What’s the Difference?

Allow me to preface this post by stating that all of Hy-Vee’s seafood – labeled with a Responsible Choice logo or not – is safe to eat and of the highest quality.

Think back to the last time you were standing in front of the seafood counter in your local Hy-Vee store. You may have noticed that, while many of Hy-Vee’s seafood products have the new ‘Responsible Choice’ label, there are some that do not. What is the difference between products with a Responsible Choice label and those without a label?

The Responsible Choice label identifies seafood products that come from well-managed sources that minimize the environmental impacts of harvesting or farming. Specifically, these products are rated either Green (Best Choice) or Yellow (Good Alternative) by the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program, or are certified to an equivalent environmental standard (for example, the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification).

Products that do not have a Responsible Choice label are either Unrated or Red rated by the Seafood Watch Program or are not yet certified to an environmental standard equivalent to Green or Yellow ratings. Some seafood is not yet produced at an environmental standard that meets Hy-Vee’s conditions for a label. Hy-Vee is actively working to improve these seafood items by engaging with fisheries and farms to enhance their environmental performance, or switching products to more sustainable alternatives if improvements cannot be made. As Hy-Vee progresses towards the 2015 goal, you will see more and more products with the Responsible Choice label.

Hy-Vee’s staff is going through extensive training as a part of the new seafood program, so you can feel comfortable asking any questions about the source, quality, and type of seafood at your local Hy-Vee store. Support the health of your family and healthy oceans by purchasing items with the Responsible Choice label.

Hy-Vee’s Seafood Cases are Brimming with Responsible Choice Options from Around the World

Seafood Case

The seafood cases at Hy-Vee stores are brimming with sustainable seafood options, branded Responsible Choice to demonstrate our commitment to healthy choices for your family, the environment, and the world’s oceans and the various species they support.

One of the best choices is Idaho rainbow trout from Clear Springs Foods. They are definitely the leaders in the industry for Responsible Choice trout, and Clear Springs is the only trout supplier we’re featuring now. We had some others that weren’t as environmentally friendly, so this is a big change that comes with Hy-Vee’s commitment to responsibly source all of its fresh and store brand frozen seafood by the end of 2015.

Clear Springs Foods made the grade because the fish are farm-raised in a closed system of concrete raceways fed by pristine natural spring waters. The same company provides ready-to-bake options, such as Parmesan-crusted Idaho rainbow trout.

Customers can also feel confident about Pacific cod, which is probably the most recognized fish in the world. People like this white fish because of its mild flavor and low fat content. Back in the day, sea merchants traded cod for supplies, and Atlantic stocks have collapsed as a result. The Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program has rated some Atlantic cod fisheries as a Red ‘Avoid’ because of the long history of overfishing.

Pacific cod, on the other hand, has been very well managed, so the stocks are good. Our cod comes from Alaska, where limits have been imposed on what can be caught and how much can be caught.

Previously frozen, this Pacific cod coming out of Alaskan waters lives close to the sea floor and is caught in pots – not by bottom trawls – and bycatch is mostly eliminated. If other species are caught, they remain alive and they can be thrown back into the water. With longlines, which aren’t included in the sustainable practices we require at Hy-Vee, the fish can be dead when it’s pulled into the boat.

Halibut is another popular responsibly sourced Pacific fish. Its availability is limited, though, because limits were put in place because conservationists have noticed there haven’t been as many juveniles. We’ll see more fresh supplies in early March – great timing, as this is a good grilling fish.

A good starter fish for people who want to introduce more seafood into their diets is tilapia, which Hy-Vee brings in fresh from Ecuador. It’s a clean, white fish that takes on the flavor of whatever you put with it. If you want a non-fishy-tasting fish, tilapia is the way to go. Tilapia are vegetarians, so farmers don’t have to use fish meal or other fish, making it very environmentally friendly. It’s also a good value fish.

Very close to tilapia in taste is swai or basa, a less common name for this river fish from Vietnam. It’s a type of catfish.

Another very popular Responsible Choice in the Midwest is channel catfish, a river fish that many of us grew up with and know well. Hy-Vee’s catfish is domestic and farm-raised in ponds, mostly in Mississippi. We offer it in three forms: as fillets (the most expensive option), whole fish (about $3 less per pound than fillets) and as catfish nuggets (the most affordable variety).

Also popular are ahi tuna and swordfish, which are pole caught in Indonesia without using other fish as bait. Each shipment comes with a letter certifying that it was caught using this sustainable practice. Both are great grilling-weather fish.

Our Responsible Choice initiative has changed what’s available in the seafood case, and in some cases introduced people to some new fish. Our customers are overwhelmingly supportive of this and think Hy-Vee is doing the right thing.

Like Other Vendors in Partnership, Soho Foods Made Seamless Switch to Pole-Caught Tuna

When Hy-Vee and its wholly owned subsidiary, Perishable Distributors of Iowa (PDI), announced the new Responsible Sourcing Commitment to its seafood suppliers, their switch to more sustainable catch methods was so seamless as to register barely a hiccup.

The Responsible Choice label on seafood products sold at Hy-Vee is customers’ guarantee that the fish they’re buying was caught using responsible methods that don’t threaten other species, are environmentally sound, and ensure seafood will be around for future generations to enjoy.

Our partnership with suppliers is long-standing. It’s a friendship, with loyalty that cuts both ways. One example of this is PDI’s relationship with Soho Foods, LLC, which supplies much of Hy-Vee’s frozen tuna. Soho Foods has been one of our vendors since PDI started in the early 1980s, and we were able to build on that relationship when we asked them to use a different catch method. They quickly complied and each shipment comes with a letter guaranteeing that the tuna is100 percent hand-line caught.

Soho Foods works with multiple fishing boats, so it was easy for them make the switch to environmentally friendly handlines and help us honor our commitment to offer responsibly sourced seafood to our customers.

All of our suppliers have readily embraced Hy-Vee’s commitment to responsibly source all fresh and Hy-Vee brand frozen seafood by the end of 2015. It’s a win-win situation for all of us, and it all goes back to that relationship, or friendship, and being able to communicate as our needs change.

We didn’t want to drop vendors when we made the switch to Responsible Choice seafood, and we haven’t had to. Soho Foods is just one example; all of our vendors have been great to work with in making this change.

Recipe Spotlight: Mt. Cook Alpine Salmon Will Change Your Mind About Farm-Raised Fish

Farm-raised cold-water fish like salmon can get a bad rap. Conventional wisdom is that it can have a different taste than wild salmon, but advances in aquaculture are closing the gap.

One of the best options in the Hy-Vee seafood case is Mt. Cook Alpine salmon, which is disrupting expectations about farm-raised salmon in a big way. This fish is raised in a canal fed by glacier runoff from New Zealand’s Southern Alps. There’s no human interaction in these clean, fast-flowing waters, no runoff from human activities and the water is so pure that you can drink it both before and after the fish leave.

The fish in these waters are disease-free; never get antibiotics, hormones or other chemicals; and are killed in a humane way that minimizes unnecessary stress and pain, a method that ensures better flesh quality.

Mt. Cook salmon is also incredibly healthy. The Omega-3 fatty acids in this fish are comparable with wild-caught salmon, and have three times the amount of Omega 3 oils as Atlantic salmon and in comparison, has very low intramuscular fat.

This flavor of this fish is so clean that I hate to mask it with heavy sauces. Just make a light crust of seasonings, sear the fish and finish it off in the oven. Try this:


Seared Mt. Cook Alpine Salmon with Garlic Spinach

All you need:

  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp fresh cracked black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp dry mustard
  • 1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 4 (5 oz each) Mt. Cook salmon fillets, skinned
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp shallot, minced
  • 1 to 2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
  • 4 cups fresh spinach
  • salt and black pepper, to taste
  • squeeze of fresh lemon

All you do:

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Combine brown sugar, salt, black pepper, cumin, dry mustard and cinnamon in a small bowl. Rub spice mixture on the top side (non-skin) of the salmon fillets.
  3. Heat an oven-proof sauté pan over medium-high heat; add 1 tablespoon olive oil and sear fillets, rub-side down, until fish is browned, about 2 minutes. Flip fillets and place pan in oven; finish cooking for 5 to 6 minutes or until fish flakes easily.
  4. While fish is in oven, heat another sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add butter, shallots and garlic. Sauté until garlic is fragrant and add spinach; sauté until slightly wilted; season with salt and pepper. Serve spinach with salmon fillet on top; squeeze fresh lemon on fish just before serving.

Hy-Vee’s Responsible Choice Seafood Soothes Your Conscience While Contributing to Heart and Brain Health

Hy-Vee’s new Responsible Choice seafood initiative is taking away some of the worry for people who want the health benefits of seafood, but don’t want to contribute to over-fishing and other practices that threaten the supply of seafood and damage the environment.

Dieticians recommended that people eat two to three servings – each in the 3- to 4-ounce range – of fish per week. We know there are health benefits, such as lowering the risk for strokes or heart attacks and increasing brain health, but research also suggests that eating more fish lowers the risk for certain kinds of cancer.

Salmon Filets with Cutting BoardThe top reason for that? Fish are loaded with Omega-3 fatty acids.

Of the three essential Omega-3s – Eicosapentaenoic (EPA), docosahexaenoic (DHA) and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) – only EPA and DHA are found exclusively in seafood and marine algae.

ALA is also found in plants, such as flax, walnuts, chia and pumpkin seeds, and although it’s true that ALA can be converted by the body to EPA and DHA, the conversion rate is very low. Only a fraction of a percent is actually converted to EPA and DHA.

If you’re looking to improve your heart and brain health, salmon and tuna are great sources for Omega-3 acids, but so are trout, mackerel and herring. On the other hand, seafood species like shrimp, crab, lobster and clams have very little Omega-3 content.

That’s not to say they’re not healthy. They’re still extremely nutritious. Shrimp, for example, is a great source of protein.

Many times when people are trying to lose weight, they think the only answer is to cut back on what they eat. That can backfire, because it leaves them feeling hungry. Eating more protein can keep them feeling full and satisfied. That’s also helpful in maintaining blood sugars. When you increase your protein intake, you don’t have those highs and lows that can lead to hunger and lack of concentration.

If you want to lose weight, seafood is a great high-protein, low-calorie center-plate replacement that will leave you feeling full and satisfied. When adding more seafood to your diet as part of a weight-loss plan, look for nutrient dense species.

The calories you’re getting will be very well spent, because you’ll get a lot of nutrients with them – protein, beneficial fats and other nutrients. Clams for example, have 30 percent of your daily need for iron, as well calcium and other vitamins.

All seafood is beneficial. The only possible downside is mercury content – especially in shark, swordfish, tilefish and king mackerel. Visit Hy-Vee’s seafood counter for more information about seafood species that are both low in mercury and Responsible Choices.

Besides looking at how the fish was caught and the effect on the ocean’s environment, Hy-Vee’s suppliers also consider seafood’s safety for consumption.

Responsible Choice Seafood Supplier Spotlight: PDI’s Vendors ‘Thrilled to Join Us on This Journey’

Perishable Distributors of Iowa (PDI) provides an important link in helping Hy-Vee, our parent company, meet its goal of transitioning all of its fresh and frozen Hy-Vee-brand fish to environmentally responsible and traceable sources by the end of 2015.

Hy-Vee employs an on-site U.S. Department of Commerce lot inspector, who checks each shipment here at PDI’s Ankeny, Iowa, warehouse to make sure the fish has been maintained at the correct temperature all along the supply chain, and whether the correct temperature was exceeded at any point during the shipment.

If for any reason the product fails – whether from a sustainability standpoint or by any of the other measures in place to ensure the quality, safety and integrity of our seafood – it is rejected.

But that’s only part of the story.

Before the fish ever reaches our 350,000-square-foot distribution center, PDI works with Hy-Vee’s vendors to make sure the products we procure are harvested or farmed in a manner consistent with our Responsible Sourcing Commitment, which our customers can see with the Responsible Choice labeling.

We have been working behind the scenes for three years to make these sourcing changes. We knew we had the right vendors. We strongly believed that we shouldn’t just throw them aside – which wouldn’t do anything to change the industry – but instead had a responsibility to educate them about how the industry is changing and what they needed to do to profit from that change.

This is a long-term partnership and we all have the same goals – to create awareness about overfishing, indiscriminate fishing methods, and other practices that aren’t sustainable.

Here’s an example: We have been communicating with a tuna vendor about how important it is to fish for tuna using handlines to avoid catching species other than tuna. He didn’t know he was sitting on the best choice rod-and-reel caught tuna, but by having a face-to-face conversation, he was able to see how this was going to create more sales for him.

If not for the support of our vendors and partnering with FishWise, we wouldn’t be where we are today. All of our vendors have been thrilled to join us on this journey – and it is a journey. Changing the industry is not something you can achieve by flipping a switch.

We’re definitely headed in the right direction.

Eating on a Budget: With Current Meat Prices, Hy-Vee’s Responsible Choice Seafood is a an Affordable Center-Plate Replacement

Until they’ve had a chance to compare the price of Responsible Choice seafood with some of the other items in our meat counter, customers think “if it’s ‘sustainable’, it’s got to be more expensive.” That’s the perception, but it’s not true.

We’re currently seeing higher beef prices because of a combination of factors – fewer cattle in the system, for one – and fish is a good center-plate protein replacement.

It’s important to get more fish in your diet, so it’s a good choice for your family and a good choice for your wallet. Couple that with the Responsible Choice label, and you can be confident that the fish has been caught in a way that protects other species and is good for the environment.

I’ve seen people at the fresh meat counter, looking back and forth, first at a signature beef item and then at tuna steak, which is priced at $2 or less a pound. They have that “aha!” moment, that they can have a tuna steak and pay less, and it’s going to be a healthier choice.

You can have seafood more often – it’s not just for your birthday or some other special occasion – and it’s not going to kill your budget. Our Responsible Choice lobster, king crab and snow crab can be bought at the same price as a ribeye steak.

Some of our Responsible Choice seafood can be purchased at an incredible value. Mussels sell for around $4.99 a pound – that’s cheaper than ground beef – and clams from $3.99 to $6.99 a pound. Both are great for paella, or just put them in wine and garlic, steam them until they open, and serve them over rice or pasta. It’s a great way to stretch your food budget.

Tilapia and swai are also very affordable, anywhere from $4.99 a pound to $7.88 for two pounds if the fish is frozen. Tilapia is on sale off and on, and both of these are mild white fishes that can take on the flavor of whatever you’re preparing them with.

It’s just a matter of overcoming that preconceived notion that responsible choice seafood will break the family food budget. That’s just not true. A lot of the seafood we carry has been sustainably caught for some time; we just haven’t been shouting about it.