Responsible Choice Mahi Mahi from Ecuador

Mahi mahi has become a staple on restaurant menus and in grocery stores throughout the United States. Hy-Vee is excited to share this delicious fish with our customers by offering wild-caught Responsible Choice mahi mahi in our seafood cases daily. By selecting mahi mahi from Southstream Seafoods, Hy-Vee honors our Responsible Choice seafood initiative to provide a fresh and tasty product while also showing concern for food safety and the environment.

Hy-Vee’s mahi mahi is sourced from the coast of Ecuador using responsible catch methods essential to promoting environmental welfare. A special type of hook called a circle hook is used to catch the fish. Circle hooks, because of their shape, reduce the chance of catching non-target species like seabirds, sharks and sea turtles.

Over the past five years, management of the Ecuadorean mahi mahi fishery has improved significantly, adding measures such as size limits to prevent overfishing. Mahi mahi from Ecuador was recently upgraded from a Red “Avoid” to a Yellow “Good Alternative” according to the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program.

Once caught, the mahi mahi is frozen within hours to ensure quality texture and flavor. Each fillet is then hand-cut for portion and quality control. From there, the product is shipped to and packaged in Everett, Massachusetts, and Hy-Vee trucks transport the product to Des Moines, Iowa. The mahi mahi is carefully reviewed by our full-time U.S. Department of Commerce inspector to ensure all quality, wholesomeness and weight requirements are met.

Each delicious serving of mahi mahi is low in calories and saturated fat, with the majority of the calories coming from protein. Six ounces of the fish offers more than 30 grams of protein. As an added benefit, it is a good source of vitamins B-12 and B-6, phosphorus, potassium, niacin and selenium. Mahi mahi is known for its lean and large flakes, mild flavor and usage in fish tacos.

Hy-Vee Now Offers “Harmoniously Raised” Verlasso Salmon to Customers

salmon netting

Salmon, widely considered a “superfood” based on its abundant health benefits, is a popular item among customers. Hy-Vee now offers Verlasso salmon, an ocean-farmed, eco-friendly fish that is raised to promote balance between our nutritional needs and our obligation to the environment.

Raised in the Chilean ocean waters off the coast of Patagonia, Verlasso is considered a premium salmon, abundant in taste and nutrients. Salmon get omega-3s from their diets. In the wild, these omega-3s come from small oily fish like herring and anchovies. Verlasso’s sustainably farmed salmon are fed a diet in which omega-3s come from yeast, which reduces dependence on forage fish—and helps preserve their wild populations.

Verlasso Salmon

Verlasso Salmon

The company’s unique model of aquaculture, which includes fewer fish per pen, and thus a reduced impact on water quality and sediment, emphasizes balance with nature. In 2013, the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program rated Verlasso salmon as a “Good Alternative,” which is the first and only time an ocean-farmed salmon has been named to this list. Because of this classification, this item qualifies as a Hy-Vee Responsible Choice item. Currently this is the only farm-raised salmon that we purchase that can receive this logo.

“Harmoniously raised” is Verlasso’s approach to sustainable salmon farming. The goal is to maintain harmony and balance with nature, which means keeping the demand for salmon in line with more environmentally conscious fish farming techniques. The intention is to reduce depletion of precious resources, protect local biodiversity and ensure the prime health of Verlasso farmed salmon.

Verlasso is a brand and trademark of AquaChile. AquaChile and DuPont formed a collaboration that combines the expertise of the companies to identify how to raise fish sustainably to provide nutritious protein for a growing population.

Recipe Spotlight: Versatile and Protein-Packed, Hy-Vee Features Responsible Choice Yellowfin Tuna Steaks with an Asian Flair

If you’re looking for a heart-healthy alternative that has plenty of protein power, yellowfin tuna steaks are a great, low-fat option. Sourced from Soho Foods, LLC, the handline-caught and Monterey Bay Aquarium (MBA) Green-rated “Best Choice” tuna falls right in line with Hy-Vee’s Responsible Choice initiative when it comes to traceability and quality.

Highly versatile and filling enough to replace beef or pork for a weekly meal, here is one of my favorite yellowfin tuna options:

Seared Yellowfin Tuna Steaks with Asian Slaw

Serves 4

All you need

For the yellowfin tuna steaks:

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 sesame-encrusted yellowfin tuna steaks

For the dressing:

  • 1/4 cup olive oil, divided
  • 3 tbsp minced ginger
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 5 tbsp soy sauce
  • 4 tbsp mirin or white wine
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

For the slaw:

  • 1 cup thinly sliced Napa cabbage
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced red cabbage
  • 1 cup julienned carrots
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced red bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced bok choy
  • 1/2 cup bean sprouts
  • 1/2 cup julienned snap peas
  • 1/2 cup julienned green onions

All you do

  1. Place a thick-bottomed frying pan on medium-high heat, until very hot. Add 2 tablespoons oil, and sear the tuna steaks for about 2 minutes per side (medium-rare), or until desired doneness is reached. Remove tuna from the pan and chill until ready to serve.
  2. In a small saucepan,n add 2 tablespoons olive oil, ginger and garlic; sauté until lightly brown. Add brown sugar, soy sauce and mirin. Simmer for 5 minutes and remove from heat. When cool, whisk in remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, sesame oil and rice wine vinegar; set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, combine all vegetables; slowly add enough dressing to lightly coat the slaw; season to taste with salt and pepper.
  4. To serve, slice tuna steaks on the bias, and plate each with equal amounts of slaw.

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.

Clear Springs Rainbow Trout Sets the Industry Standard for Aquaculture

As FishWise helps Hy-Vee develop the strategies necessary to meet its commitment to customers to responsibly source its fresh and frozen Hy-Vee fish and seafood by the end of 2015, we’ve come across some incredible sustainability success stories.

One of the best comes from Clear Springs Trout Farm. I met them at the Seafood Expo North America, formerly known as the Boston Seafood Show. That vendor in particular is doing a great job, and they produce a ton of fish. It’s domestic and not imported, and is produced fairly close to Hy-Vee stores, so it has a low carbon footprint compared to some other species.

Visiting one-on-one with vendors and forming the relationships that are so important in advancing the Responsible Choice policy, I had the chance to learn a little more about an operation that is truly a model for aquaculture – and produces some delicious trout.

The trout are farmed in land-based raceways with a closed containment system that has earned a Green “Best Choice” rating from the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program. There’s also no evidence of large-scale escapes, indicating the raceway systems are effective in containing farmed fish from wild trout populations. Disease risk to wild populations isn’t a major concern – though a lack of data suggests that it should be studied more.

The flow-through raceway system uses continuously flowing pristine spring water. The waste is managed very well. The raceways are designed so waste settles at the bottom and is easy to clean out, so it doesn’t end up going into any nearby bodies of water. The risk of pollution is low.

The feed is Yellow Rated by Seafood Watch because some fish oil and fish meal from wild fisheries are used, but it’s a relatively low amount.

Clear Springs Rainbow Trout is a fish people can feel good about eating because it’s such a model for other aquaculture species. I would encourage people to try it; it’s more robust than some fish, but good for someone with an adventurous palate. It has a delicate texture and is a good substitute for less sustainable species like haddock or snapper.

For some ideas on how to prepare this tasty fish, click here for two delicious rainbow trout recipes.

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.

Sourcing Seafood from the Atlantic Illustrates Nuances of Hy-Vee’s Procurement Policy

Wrtten by John Rohrs & Kathleen Mullen-ley

Hy-Vee has made a strategic decision through its Responsible Choice seafood program to not regularly feature finfish from the Atlantic Ocean in its seafood counters – an example of the company’s commitment to responsible stewardship of the world’s oceans.

The sustainability of finfish stocks from the Atlantic Ocean is evaluated by the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s (MBA) Seafood Watch program. MBA uses a “traffic light” color rating system to assess the sustainability of species and make recommendations for seafood buyers, with a Green rating indicating a “best choice,” a Yellow rating indicating a “good alternative,” and a Red rating indicating consumers should “avoid.”

Some finfish species from the Atlantic Ocean are Yellow rated by MBA, meaning they are generally well managed. However, some species are Red rated, meaning that they are not being fished sustainably. There are even some finfish species that are Yellow rated in one region and Red rated in a different region due to differences in the type of gear used and in management effectiveness.

Two examples of species with both Yellow rated and Red rated sources are Atlantic cod and American lobster.

Atlantic cod is one of the best examples anywhere of the problems created by overfishing. There’s no denying cod was an important commodity in early American history, and one that helped New England develop. However, the cod fishing industry is one of the most famous examples of a fishery collapse. It takes a very long time for populations to come back – often decades – and some fisheries never rebound.

It’s good business to take a hands-off approach in overfished areas, and give stocks time to recover, and Hy-Vee is doing its part. The well-managed wild fisheries in Alaska and the Pacific are meeting Hy-Vee customers’ demands for the popular whitefish.

The Atlantic is an important source for most of Hy-Vee’s shellfish, including fresh American lobster.

The famous American lobster fisheries are doing very well right now, but sourcing demonstrates just how nuanced Hy-Vee’s procurement policies are. The Maine stock is doing very well (Yellow rated), but in southern New England, stocks are overfished (Red rated). So Hy-Vee is careful in its procurement, ensuring none of its lobster comes from regions pressured by overfishing.

Some of the best sustainability stories come from Green rated oyster, mussel and scallop fisheries. Oysters and mussels are cultured, growing in beds and on ropes, respectively, and are important soldiers in bay ecology efforts. Scallops are wild-caught in open and closed beds that are well-managed.

Blue crab, often called Chesapeake blue crab because of its importance to the region’s economy, environment and culture, is another success story. Blue crab populations are rebounding because of careful management of the fisheries with limits on commercial and recreational fisheries.

Demand for this tasty, versatile seafood is so great that Hy-Vee supplements its supply with blue crab from other countries. Overall, Hy-Vee’s approach to Atlantic seafood can be described as thoughtful and proactive, and the company will continue to shift its procurement practices to address fishing patterns, among other items.

Hy-Vee’s Responsible Choice Seafood Species Come from the U.S. Side of the Gulf of Mexico, Where Fisheries are Well Managed

John Rohrs here:

When Hy-Vee customers buy Responsible Choice seafood from the Gulf of Mexico, it’s predominantly from the U.S. side, where fisheries maintain quota systems and meet Monterey Bay Aquarium’s criterion for management.

One of the biggest factors affecting fin fish from the Gulf is sport fishing. Sportsmen and women are required to buy licenses, but it still has a huge effect on stocks. Between a combination of commercial fishing and recreational fishing, there is a great pressure on fin fish.

Some of the species customers will get from the Gulf include fish from the grouper family. We also bring in some American red snapper, but years of overfishing – it’s also one of the top species for sport fishing – make it a work in progress. It’s a long-living, late-maturing fish, so it will take time for stocks to rebound.

Kathleen Mullen-Ley here:

Hy-Vee’s wild shrimp also comes from Gulf of Mexico and meets the commitment to responsibly source all seafood by the end of 2015 because the species is in a comprehensive fishery improvement project.

Here’s the problem:
Many commercial fishing boats are complying with federal law that requires the use of turtle excluder devices (TEDs) in federal and state waters, but Louisiana has a state law that prohibits enforcement of the federal law.

All of the shrimp caught in the Gulf is processed together, meaning the shrimp caught in Texas, Alabama, Mississippi and Florida is commingled with the shrimp caught in Louisiana. So because that Louisiana law is on the books, we can’t say Gulf wild shrimp is Responsible Choice, even though many fisheries are using TEDs.

Legislative efforts are continuing to bring everyone into compliance and end the political power struggle.

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.

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.