What was That Fish? Hy-Vee’s Responsible Choice Initiative Means New Varieties are Showing Up in the Seafood Case

As Hy-Vee moves toward its self-imposed deadline to responsibly source all of its fresh and Hy-Vee brand frozen seafood by the end of 2015, customers will begin seeing some new varieties in the seafood case.

One variety our customers may not be familiar with is sablefish. Fisheries in Alaska have been harvesting this tasty, buttery fish since the 1800s, and new management practices have eliminated some of the problems that nearly depleted sablefish populations in the 1970s.

Before practices changed to trawl-and-pot, the fisheries used longline methods. The whales really love it because it’s very tasty, and they would eat the fish right off the lines, decimating the fisheries’ catch – a whale’s going to do what a whale’s going to do.

You’ll love it, too. Sablefish, which some people know as black cod, is one of best fish out there to eat, but one of the reasons people haven’t heard much about sablefish is that large quantities are shipped overseas to Japan, where there’s a high reverence for it.

Sablefish, like halibut, has a relatively short season, but it’s in season now, so we’ll be able to get it fresh in our stores.

Hy-Vee is also getting a farm-raised salmon that has earned the go-ahead from Monterey Bay and bears our Responsible Choice seal of approval. There are myriad issues related to farm-raised salmon, so it often gets all lumped together. But Verlasso, an Atlantic farm-raised salmon raised in Chile away from development is an exception.

Two big issues with farm-raised salmon are that the fish are grown in high densities, creating a high risk of the transmission of diseases to native salmon populations, and also that the feed contains an unsustainably high amount of wild fish, making it a lose-lose proposition. But Verlasso salmon is penned with 50 percent less fish, and the fish meal has been replaced with a meal that is rich in Omega-3, but has 75 percent less fish in the meal. They’re switching out the protein, but the fish still has the same texture and is rich in Omega-3 fatty acids. And there’s no net loss to the environment.

Verlasso salmon should be available in our stores by April 1.

We’ve also added Idaho Rainbow Trout from Clear Springs Foods, which I’ve previously blogged about. 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 our seafood.

Currently, there is no farm-raised shrimp that meet Responsible Choice standards, but because shrimp is such a popular item, we’re eager to provide one for our customers. We’re getting in a cooked shrimp from Belize that is farmed in a closed system that pumps in fresh water, and the shrimp aren’t packed in as densely as at some other farms. It hasn’t hit the rating system yet.

It’s hard to read the crystal ball to determine when Monterey Bay will evaluate a species, but one thing customers can feel confident about is that, overall, we’re getting better items, even if we can’t immediately label them as Responsible Choice. The fisheries know the bar has been raised.

We’re also getting in Responsible Choice swai, which is like catfish, coming out of Vietnam. Protectionist legislation by U.S. catfish farmers means this mild white fish must be marketed under another name, so you may have seen it marketed as basa, though that’s an entirely different fish, or even under the shortened version of its scientific name, Pangasius hypophthalmus.

Another best choice-rated fish is Arctic Char, a cross between salmon and trout. It’s very tasty and has many of the characteristics of both species. It’s farm-raised in the deep, cold waters of glacial lakes, and you’ll occasionally find that in our case.

We’ve also switched to a Responsible Choice mahi mahi, a very good fish for grilling. That’s Yellow rated, as is the grouper, flounder and sole we will be getting in.

We expect to see many more new items coming in that may introduce our customers to fish they’ve never had before. It’s a process. The warehouse can’t just turn on a dime, because they have to get the assurances and checks and balances in place to make sure the fish is what the suppliers say it is.

This shows that we’re following the Responsible Choice initiative letter by letter. We’re not taking shortcuts or just assuming it’s right. Hy-Vee’s commitment is more than just words.

Recipe Spotlight: Affordable Doesn’t Mean Boring

Hy-Vee’s seafood cases are filled with Responsible Choice options that can turn family dinner into a culinary adventure. These recipes also work well for families who want to stretch their food budgets. Affordable doesn’t have to be boring. In the recipes below, a zesty sauté jazzes up scallops. The elegant presentation of a roasted red pepper, kalamata olive and arugula salad transforms tilapia. Or consider a classic cloppino that brings several types of fish together in a savory stew.


Creamy Scallop, Tomato & Spinach Sauté

Serves 4 people. All you need:

  • 1 (16 oz) box angel hair pasta
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1/2 cup white wine, optional
  • 1 (14 oz) can petite diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup fresh spinach
  • 1 pound frozen bay scallops, thawed

All you do:

  1. Bring a pot of salted water to a rolling boil; add angel hair pasta and boil until cooked, about 5 to 6 minutes. Drain pasta and set aside.
  2. In a large sauté pan, heat 2 tablespoons oil. Add the garlic and shallot; sauté until fragrant. Add white wine and cook until reduced by half. Add petite diced tomatoes, heavy cream, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper; reduce for 3 to 5 minutes.
  3. Add spinach and scallops and cook until opaque, 2 to 3 minutes. Toss pasta in pan until sauce coats all ingredients. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Seared Tilapia with Roasted Red Pepper, Kalamata Olive & Arugula Salad

All you need:

  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced roasted red peppers
  • 1 tbsp minced shallot
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 cup chopped pitted kalamata olives
  • 3 tbsp fresh basil leaves, cut in chiffonade*
  • 1 cup baby arugula
  • juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • salt and black pepper, to taste
  • 4 tilapia portions
  • olive oil, as needed

All you do:

  1. Stir together the roasted red peppers, shallot, garlic, kalamata olives, basil, lemon juice and 1 tablespoon olive oil; season with salt and black pepper to taste.
  2. Heat a sauté pan over medium-high heat; add 1 tablespoon olive oil. Season tilapia fillets with salt and black pepper and place in the sauté pan. Cook for 4 to 5 minutes per side or until fish flakes easily with a fork.
  3. Toss the arugula with the pepper mix and place atop each tilapia fillet; serve immediately.

Classic Cioppino

All you need:

  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large fennel bulb, thinly sliced
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 large shallots, chopped
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 4 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 3/4 tsp dried crushed red pepper flakes, plus more to taste
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1 (28 oz) can diced tomatoes in juice
  • 1 1/2 cups dry white wine
  • 5 cups fish or vegetable stock
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 1/2 pounds littleneck clams, scrubbed
  • 1 1/2 pounds mussels, scrubbed, debearded
  • 1 pound assorted firm-fleshed fish fillets such as cod or salmon, cut into 2-inch chunks

All you do:

  1. Heat the oil in a very large pot over medium heat. Add the fennel, onion, shallots and salt and sauté until the onion is translucent, about 10 minutes.
  2. Add the garlic and 3/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, and sauté 2 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste. Add tomatoes with their juices, wine, fish stock and bay leaf. Cover and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer until the flavors blend, about 30 minutes.
  3. Add the clams and mussels to the cooking liquid. Cover and cook until the clams and mussels begin to open, about 5 minutes. Add the fish and simmer gently until the fish are just cooked through and the clams are completely open, stirring gently, about 5 minutes longer (discard clams and mussels that do not open). Season the soup, to taste, with more salt and red pepper flakes. Discard the bay leaf.
  4. Ladle the soup into bowls and serve with crusty baguette bread.

Cheers! Choose the Right Wine and Beer to Complement Hy-Vee Responsible Choice Seafood

Whether wine or beer, the beverage paired with Hy-Vee Responsible Choice seafood is as important to its taste as the spices and sauces used in the preparation of the fish.

Sue Navratil here:
One of my favorite seafood choices is Pacific halibut. It’s easy to prepare and has a delicate, almost sweet taste. There are many wines that go well with halibut and other white fish, but one of the best is an unoaked chardonnay.

These wines have brighter fruit, they’re not heavy and laden with oak and butter, and their fruit shines through for a clean, crisp taste.

Some other good choices:

  • Dry roses have nice acidity and a bit of fruit that will complement that bit of sweetness and delicate taste of the halibut.
  • Dry chenin blanc. When dry chenins are their best, they will have a bit of sweetness of the grape. The wine is still dry, so it leaves the palate nice and clean.
  • Beaujolais. This wine from the Beaujolais region of France has a very light body and is dry and fruity. It has more body than a dry rose and has nice fruit, but not a lot of sugar to get in the way of the flavors of the fish. It’s also a bit more delicate, so it’s nice to pair with delicate fish.

The old adage that only white wine is paired with fish isn’t necessarily true. Many white wines do accompany fish well, but so will red wines with nice acidity, a light to medium body and low tannins.

With Responsible Source-labeled salmon, tuna and some of the meatier fishes, you can get into some red wines for sure. Pinot Noir has wonderful fruit and strong acidity that make it pair well with food in general, but with fish especially well because it doesn’t have all those heavy tannins.

Chardonnays with some nice butter and oak work especially well with salmon because it’s a fairly fatty fish. When you pair them, those buttery textures in the chardonnay and the fat in the salmon are a nice complement.

Go with a California pinot noir for tuna, a dense, meaty fish. Even if it’s only seared and is still a bit rare in the center, it has a meaty texture so it can handle the heavier body and riper fruit in these wines.

Rieslings, which have a drier, clean, crisp and almost citrusy taste, are good to pair with fish prepared with wasabi or spicy Thai seasonings. A taste of sweet, cool Riesling soothes and helps correct that crazy taste sensation you get with wasabi.

Champagne is also great with any fish that’s prepared tartare.

About the Author
I’m Sue Navratil, and I am a certified specialist of wine (CWS), which I earned by passing a rigorous exam through the Society of Wine Educators. There are only seven of us in the Hy-Vee system.

I work in the North Ankeny Boulevard Hy-Vee store. I love my job. Besides getting to work every day with wine, which is my passion, I help customers learn about wine and choose wine for their events, and facilitate their events by pouring wine.

I do a monthly wine club at the store and other occasional special wine events. I also write my own personal wine blog, naviwine.blogspot.com, which features wines that are available in my store.


Brian here:
The idea of pairing is for the dish and the beer to complement each other and make a new experience. Both can be great experiences on their own, but when you pair well, you end up with a truly exceptional dining experience.

The same principles used in wine pairing apply when choosing a beer to serve with fish. The important thing is to find something complementary that will not overpower the delicate nature of the seafood.

A lot of fish is very light, with a bright flavor and often made citrusy with lemon condiments and sauces.

With lighter white fishes, I like to serve crisp wheats. Two good ones are Boulevard Wheat or Goose Island 312 Urban Wheat. Both of these American wheats are crisp and citrusy, so they lend themselves well to seafood. And they will cut through the butter, if you’re topping it with a creamy sauce, and bring out the brightness of the fish.

Pale ales, such as Sierra Nevada Pale Ale or Mirror Pond from Deschutes Brewery, are also good for delicate white fish, like Pacific halibut.

I wouldn’t move too much out of the American wheats or American pale ales. They all have that citrusy note that lends itself well to any of the seafood. If you waiver too much, the beer will be overpowering and wash out the flavor of the fish.

As you move on to heartier fish, you want to step up the depth of beer. Shellfish can handle something maltier, like an IPA. Try to match the strength of the beer with the dish. The main thing is to make sure they work together.

For more traditional pairings, porters (like Central Waters Muddy Puppy Porter) and stouts (old-world Guinness is a good one) have a rich caramel quality that accentuates the creamy aspect of the seafood. Oysters and stouts go great together.

Responsible Choice Seafood from Alaska, a World Model for Sustainability, Sells Itself

All of our Responsible Choice products meet high standards and Hy-Vee’s commitment to bring customers the freshest, best-quality fish and seafood available today, but seafood from Alaska is in a league of its own.

Throw the name “Alaska” in front of a species of fish and it sells itself and stands for a high quality that is unmatched. Customers feel confident purchasing fish they know is from Alaska, whether it’s Alaskan king crab, salmon, Pacific halibut or black cod.

Customers know where it comes from – some of the cleanest, purest waters anywhere – and they know it’s not only safe to eat, but has superior flavor and texture as well. The flavor is a result of the fish feeding on a natural diet of marine organisms and the texture comes from their annual migrations in the cold waters of the North Pacific.

Alaska’s seafood industry, the state’s largest private-sector employer, is a world model of seafood sustainability and fisheries management – and has been for 50 years. Continuing that livelihood – and a healthy supply of fish and healthy oceans for generations to come – is so important that the Alaska Constitution mandates that fish are “utilized, developed and maintained on the sustained yield principle.”

The quota system is well managed and the fisheries live and die by it. Once their quota is met, they’re done. As a result of these practices, no species of Alaska seafood has ever been red-listed under the Endangered Species Act.

The Pacific halibut and black cod (sablefish) harvest season just opened, and limits have been set at 16.8 million pounds before the season ends in November. Alaska has more than 95 percent of the Pacific halibut and catches are closely monitored. In the last few years, they’ve cut back on the amount of halibut to ensure the availability of this favorite – the largest of the flatfish, known for its mild flavor and firm texture.

Salmon is one of the most popular seafoods in the world. People live for it. King salmon is in season year-round, but the seasons for sockeye, coho, keta and pink salmon generally run May-September. The fisheries take great care to manage the populations during spawning season, allowing significant numbers to escape so they can make it up river to spawn.

As a result of these time-tested management practices, the fisheries have been able to make abundant salmon harvests for more than three decades.

When Hy-Vee launched its Responsible Choice initiative – our pledge that by the end of 2015, all of our high-quality fresh and Hy-Vee brand frozen seafood will be responsibly caught – it was no big deal for the three vendors we work with in Alaska.

Alaska knows they are doing it right. They get it.

Recipe Spotlight: Responsible Choice Seafood Doesn’t Have to Break Your Grocery Budget

When people tell me they’d like to add more seafood to their diets and are looking for some budget-friendly options, I push them toward Pacific cod, tilapia, catfish, mussels and clams.

Responsible Choice swai is another good choice. It’s a product of Vietnam and is very much like catfish. It’s very reasonably priced. Right now, Hy-Vee is selling two one-half pound fillets for $5.

Pacific cod ranges between about $7 and $8 per pound, which is very affordable when you consider a pound will feed four people.

Mussels and littleneck clams run range from about $5 to $6 a pound and can stretch a food budget. Recipes are very basic, using olive oil, garlic and shallots, some fresh Italian herbs and liquid, either white wine or citrus juice. Don’t forget to buy a loaf of crusty baguette bread for $1.99 to sop up that good broth.

Fish tacos are a hot food trend right now, and they don’t use many ingredients, which makes this an affordable meal. The same goes for blackened catfish, which has a lot of spices, but most people have them in their cupboards already, so it’s easy to throw together. This recipe can also be used with swai.


Spicy Tilapia Fish Tacos with Cabbage Slaw

Serves 4.

All you need:

  • 1 pound tilapia fillets
  • Old Bay Blackening Seasoning, as needed
  • 2 cups cabbage slaw mix
  • 1 red pepper, sliced thinly
  • 3 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 3 tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • salt and black pepper, to taste
  • 1 container Hy-Vee peach mango salsa
  • 6 to 10 soft or hard corn or flour tortillas

All you do:

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place fish on a prepared sheet pan and season with Old Bay Blackening Season. Bake in the oven for 8 to 10 minutes, or until fish flakes easily with a fork.

2. Toss cabbage with red pepper, green onion, rice wine vinegar, sugar and olive oil; season to taste with salt and black pepper.

3. To assemble tacos, place flaked tilapia on tortilla shells. Top with cabbage slaw and peach salsa.


Blackened Catfish with Fresh Lemon

All you need:

  • 2 tbsp Spanish paprika
  • 1 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 3/4 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 5 (5 oz each) catfish fillets, skinned
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 to 4 tbsp sweet cream butter, softened
  • 5 fresh lemon wedges

All you do:

1. In a pie plate, combine paprika, cayenne, thyme, oregano, chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, nutmeg, salt and pepper.

2. Pat dry the fish and roll in the blackening spice mixture.

3. In a large sauté pan, heat 2 tablespoons oil until nearly smoking. Place catfish fillet in pan and cook 3 to 4 minutes on each side or until done. To serve, top each fillet with a little softened butter and fresh lemon wedge.

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.