Hy-Vee Defines Six Fields of Sustainability, Upholds Commitment to Responsible Choice Initiative

Today’s consumers are interested in and concerned about their food supply. From nutritional value and quality to sourcing and environmental impact, customers are asking for transparency. Through Hy-Vee’s Responsible Choice seafood initiative, the company has taken it upon itself to provide a new level of consumer confidence.

Hy-Vee takes its commitment to responsible seafood seriously, which is why the company requires a thorough assessment before a seafood offering may be deemed a Responsible Choice item. As part of Hy-Vee’s Seafood Procurement Policy, vendors are required to provide comprehensive information on six fields of sustainability for the shipment to be labeled “Responsible Choice.” These six fields ensure best practices are being met and vendors are accountable for their products. It also ensures products can be traced back to their origin.

The six fields include:

  1. The seafood’s generic, market name. This field lists the generic, market name most commonly used in the store, and the name most customers would recognize. For this example, we will use Alaska pollock. The market name for this seafood is Alaska pollock.
  2. Scientific species name. The species name discloses the seafood’s full scientific name, which is often in Latin or Greek. The Latin name for Alaska pollock is Theragra chalcogramma.
  3. Country of catch or production. This field notes the country in which the product was caught or farmed and ensures the first degree of traceability is met. The Alaska pollock was caught in the United States.
  4. Region of catch or production. The region field describes specifically the ocean, lake or location of the farm in which the product was caught. This also aids in traceability efforts and holds vendors accountable for their catch. Alaska was the region of catch for the Alaska pollock.
  5. Gear type/production method. This field names the method used to catch or farm the product, which ensures seafood vendors are utilizing responsible fishing practices as approved by the Responsible Choice program. This means the seafood was harvested in a way that provides for its long-term viability and also minimizes damage to the environment and other sea life. The gear type for Alaska pollock is midwater trawl.
  6. Sustainability eco-certification (if applicable). The final field requires the vendor to provide the name of the organization(s) from which it obtained certification. Hy-Vee and the seafood industry trust accredited third-party resources to ensure the vendor meets industry standards and follows best practices. An example is a certification or accreditation from the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC).

Based on this information, Hy-Vee and FishWise then determine if the product should receive Hy-Vee’s Responsible Choice label, which indicates that the product meets Hy-Vee’s standard for responsibly sourced seafood. Hy-Vee defines “responsibly sourced” as seafood that is Green or Yellow rated by Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program or is certified to an environmental standard equivalent to these thorough ratings (e.g. MSC certified).

Ultimately, Hy-Vee’s goal in assessing each vendor according to these six sustainability fields is to ensure each utilizes environmentally-friendly practices, is transparent regarding where the product was caught or raised, and provides a safe, quality product for their customers. Each of these six fields is listed on the product’s master case label and is available to customers upon request.

Hy-Vee’s Responsible Choice seafood initiative is more than an idea, it is a promise to customers. Hy-Vee’s commitment is executed through each purchasing decision and reflects the standards set within the Responsible Choice initiative.

One-Year Anniversary of Responsible Choice Labeling

There is a growing concern among consumers about the safety, nutritional value and environmental friendliness of the food they purchase.

Responsible Choice Label In order to address those concerns at our Hy-Vee seafood counters, one year ago we began labeling seafood products that meet our strict environmental standards with the blue and green Responsible Choice label. The labeling program was designed and implemented in order to spread awareness of the importance of responsibly sourced seafood and to inform our customers about our leadership in protecting marine resources and ensuring future seafood supplies.

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].

Throughout the past year, we have been steadily adding labels to seafood items that have been transitioned to responsible sources, increasing the number of items our customers can feel good about purchasing. For example, you may have noticed that more and more shrimp items display the Responsible Choice label. That’s because we have been hard at work behind the scenes collaborating with our nonprofit partner FishWise to encourage more of our farmed shrimp suppliers to become certified to the rigorous Global Aquaculture Alliance’s Best Aquaculture Practices standard.

As a large retailer, Hy-Vee has an important role to play in marine conservation. Through our buying power and marketing of responsibly sourced seafood, we are creating positive change. You can read more details about the Responsible Choice label and our conservation initiatives on our recently updated Responsible Choice Seafood website.

Certified, Individually-Selected and Fresh: Hy-Vee offers a Responsible Choice for Lobster

One of our most popular crustaceans, lobster has always been a hot, international commodity. And as trends in the Midwest turn to increased seafood consumption, 15 to 17 pounds per capita per year, at Hy-Vee, we believe it is our responsibility to provide the same quality and traceability for seafood as we do for all other commodities.

To honor this promise, Hy-Vee began our Responsible Choice seafood initiative. From there, steps to ensure traceability and sustainability fell into place for lobster when we began our partnership with Mazzetta Company to procure Tristan rock lobster.

Why Tristan rock lobster over other lobster fisheries? Located 1,500 miles to the southwest of Cape Town, South Africa, Tristan da Cuhna is known as the most isolated inhabited group of island on Earth. Fewer residents and businesses mean less pollution ends up in the ocean around the islands. In addition, the lobster fishery has longstanding credibility in the world of seafood. Established in 1948, the Tristan rock lobster fishery has been a champion for the environment and implemented numerous practices to ensure responsible fishing, quality control and sustainability.

In June 2011, the Tristan lobster fishery attained certification from the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) demonstrating the fishery is managed in a way that does not lead to overfishing, maintains the health and productivity of the wider marine ecosystem, and has an effective management system in place.

The entire certification process is complex, public and rigorous, including seven detailed steps. In fact, Tristan rock lobster is one of only eight fisheries in the world certified by MSC for lobster sales and distribution. From an assessment and stakeholder meetings to client and public review, certification is an admirable achievement and helps us rest assured that sustainability and traceability are priorities throughout the entire supply chain – from the catch to your plate.

In addition to the shore-based facilities, the Tristan rock lobster fishery harvests from neighboring islands of Gough, Nightingale and Inaccessible with a factory freezer vessel, utilizing a long line multi-trap method. All systems operate under a traceability system to track MSC certified seafood through processing as whole cooked frozen, whole raw frozen, whole raw frozen sashimi, raw frozen tails or raw frozen heads.

The final product is then transshipped to Cape Town prior to shipment to the USA.

In addition to the MSC approved practices, Tristan rock lobster has a quality taste, reflecting the care and standards utilized throughout the process. Carefully selected, quickly frozen and individually wrapped, Tristan lobster offers the same benefits available in most seafood – high in amino acids, potassium and magnesium, vitamins, calcium, iron and zinc.

Hy-Vee is proud to partner with an upstanding fishery that places the same value on food safety, traceability and environmental consciousness. Through the Responsible Choice seafood initiative, we are constantly looking for ways to improve our transparency and hold not only ourselves, but also our suppliers, accountable for the quality of product we offer.

Concerned About Where Your Food Comes From? So Are We. There’s No Need To Bypass Hy-Vee Select Private Label Tuna

Canned tuna has been part of Americans’ diets since the turn of the 20th century. But it didn’t really become a staple until years later when new fishing and dressing methods made it easier to catch a big, 40-pound tuna and remove excess oil that gave the fish a pungent odor that many people found objectionable.

After that, there was no curbing Americans’ appetite for tuna – until recently, that is.

From 1950 to 2000, tuna (mostly canned) was the most popular seafood in the United States. At the peak of its popularity, 85 percent of American households had at least one can of tuna in their cupboards. But last year, per capita consumption of tuna dropped to a 15-year low, according to USDA data and other studies cited recently by The Washington Post.

The article cites numerous reasons consumers are passing over canned tuna, most stemming from their growing awareness about how their food is raised and harvested. Consumer concerns range from overfishing to bycatch of other species, including the beloved dolphin.

At Hy-Vee, we share those concerns and have proactively addressed them with Hy-Vee Select Private Label Tuna, our overall commitment to sustainable seafood, and our Responsible Choice seafood initiative.

Our Select Private Label Tuna comes with a guarantee you won’t find with most major-label brands. Much of the canned tuna on the market today is caught using industrial scale purse seines and longlines, which result in high levels of bycatch of non-target species, such as dolphins, sharks, turtles and other marine life.

That was a big concern for Hy-Vee, so we looked to FishWise to help us develop two private-label canned tuna lines. Our new “Chunk Light” and “Solid or Chunk White” canned tunas are among the most progressive canned tuna offerings of any major retailer.

Our Chunk Light, which is pole and line-caught skipjack tuna, is especially impressive, given that the Monterey Bay Aquarium says it is the most sustainable option for any canned tuna.

The Solid or Chunk White is pole-and-troll caught albacore tuna (pole-and-troll are the two most selective albacore fishing methods), which results in very little bycatch.

The latter is also sourced from Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified fisheries in the United States and New Zealand. We are quite proud to offer both of these sustainably sourced canned tuna products which are big steps forward in our efforts to responsibly source all our fresh and private label seafood by the end of 2015.

So, consumers can reach for a package of Hy-Vee Select Private Label Tuna with the confidence of knowing that we’re as concerned as they are about the health of the world’s oceans and the species that depend on them for survival.

How Deep is our Commitment to Responsibly Sourced Seafood? The Answer is Found on Hy-Vee Select Private Label Tuna

If you want to know how deep Hy-Vee’s commitment runs in its Responsible Choice seafood initiative, take a closer look at the fine print on Hy-Vee Select Private Label Tuna.

You’ll find guarantees there that you won’t find with major-label brands. Much of the canned tuna available on the market today is caught using industrial scale purse seines and longlines, which result in high levels of bycatch of non-target species, such as dolphins, sharks, turtles and other marine life.

That was a big concern for Hy-Vee, so we looked to FishWise to help us develop two private label lines that are making a huge difference.

Our new pole-and-line skipjack tuna and pole-and-troll albacore tuna are among the most progressive canned tuna offerings of any major retailer. The pole-and-line skipjack tuna, called ‘chunk light’ on the can, is especially impressive, given that the Monterey Bay Aquarium says it is the most sustainable option for any canned tuna.

The pole-and-troll albacore, called ‘solid or chunk white’ on the can, is sourced from Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified fisheries in the United States and New Zealand, and pole and troll are the two most selective albacore fishing methods, resulting in very little bycatch of non-target species.

This is a huge step forward in our sustainability program and our commitment to responsibly source all of our fresh and private label seafood by the end of 2015. For any retailer to do this is impressive, but it’s more so because Hy-Vee was able to pull this off in less than a year. It’s a matter of having the right suppliers, the right communication and a strong commitment to doing the right thing.

Also noteworthy: Hy-Vee’s private label products allow consumers to stretch their food dollars without sacrificing nutrition, taste or quality.