Recipe Spotlight: For a Quick, Healthy Meal, Put Responsible Choice Salmon on the Smoker

With everyone on the go this weekend and throughout the summer, smoked salmon is a healthy, quick meal that can be made ahead of time. The leftovers (if you have any) can be used on top of a salad or made into a dip.

At your family’s Fourth of July gathering – or any other time you’re dining al fresco – remember this simple rule: Always keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. When it comes to smoked salmon, you want to make sure that it is not left out for more than an hour or two at the most, and make sure you keep it hot or cold the entire time.

Some types of wood that can be used for smoking salmon are hickory, mesquite, apple wood or cherry wood. Apple chips soaked in apple cider or even a hard cider would give the salmon the essence of apple flavor. By keeping the rub simple, you are able to taste the flavor of the fish. At Hy-Vee, we use a rub with brown sugar, Old Bay, salt and pepper.

I prefer my salmon lightly smoked and cooked to medium rare, so that it still has moisture left in it. If you set your smoker at 220 degrees and smoke your salmon for about 45 minutes, the end result will be just that: moist and delicious. You can enjoy your Responsible Choice smoked salmon straight off the smoker. If you plan on eating your smoked salmon later, it will keep for about a week in an airtight container in the refrigerator. If you’re shopping Responsible Choice, a safe bet is either wild or Alaskan salmon. Some farm-raised salmon is not Responsible Choice.

With the addition of a Cherry, Wild Rice and Quinoa Salad, you have a healthy and balanced meal.

One of my family’s favorite ways of enjoying smoked salmon is for breakfast. We toast an everything bagel, spread cream cheese on it, then top with thick slices of red onion, fresh tomatoes and, of course, the smoked salmon.

The following recipe pairs well with a chilled rose or, for those who prefer beer, Sierra Nevada’s Summertime Ale.

Smoked Salmon Log with Sweet and Spicy Pecans

All you need:

  • 2 (8 oz each) packages cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 pound smoked salmon, flaked
  • 2 tbsp minced fresh dill
  • 2 tbsp minced red onion
  • 1 tbsp prepared horseradish
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 cup Sweet and Spicy Pecans, recipe follows

All you do:

  1. In a medium bowl, beat the cream cheese until smooth. Gradually fold in salmon, dill, onion, horseradish and lemon juice.
  2. Place some of the mixture on a piece of waxed paper or plastic wrap. Form a log about 1 inch thick. Place some pecans on another sheet of waxed paper or plastic wrap; roll the log in the pecans until well coated. Twist the ends to seal. Refrigerate for several hours or overnight.

Sweet and Spicy Pecans

All you need:

  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp seasoning salt
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper, or more if you prefer
  • 2 cups chopped pecans

All you do:

  1. Melt butter in a large pan over medium heat.
  2. Add sugar, seasoning salt, garlic powder, cayenne and pecans; stir until the spices start to give off an aroma, 1 to 2 minutes.

Grilling Hy-Vee Responsible Choice Seafood: Let the Grill Do the Work

Grilling is one of the best ways to prepare Hy-Vee’s Responsible Choice fish and seafood in the summertime, but it also can be intimidating. Fish is so delicate that a few wrong steps can cause the fish to fall apart

Two of the top tips are to touch the fish no more than necessary – let the direct heat of the grill do the work for you – and to start with a clean surface lightly sprayed with Hy-Vee non-stick cooking spray.

Wild salmon, which is coming into our stores fresh from Alaska for the next couple of months, is great on the grill. So are halibut steaks, swordfish and tuna. Other fish can work well with some extra precaution, and I’ll get to that later.

Plank it:

A popular way to prepare wild salmon is to cook it on cedar planks, which adds nice smokiness and a cedar flavor to the fish. To plank salmon, just soak the plank in water overnight.

Or, if you want to infuse some other flavors, try soaking the planks in smoked porter beer or an oaked chardonnay.

Pouch it:

If you don’t want to take a chance of the fish sticking, cook it en papillote, which literally means cooking “in paper.” If you’re using parchment paper, as the French recommend, use medium-high indirect heat. Add a little white wine, some fresh herbs and vegetables or citrus fruits, like lemon, orange or grapefruit, and you’ve got a meal in a bag.

A foil pouch also works. Just make sure you poke a few holes in the foil to allow the smoke flavor to infuse.

Marinate it in alcohol:

An alcohol marinade can release a new flavor sensation, but be sure not to overdo it. Alcohol is great for tenderizing meat, so don’t overdo it – 30 minutes tops, just long enough to infuse the flavor. If the fish is in the marinade too long, especially if it’s an acidic marinade, the proteins can begin to coagulate and the cooking process can begin.

Some combinations to think about include tequila-lime scallops, bourbon and brown sugar-glazed wild salmon, whiskey and brown sugar-glazed wild salmon, and vodka and wild salmon.

Skin on or off:

This is a matter of preference. If you’re going to remove the skin, start with the presentation side down on the grill, and flip it only one time, after about 4 minutes.

If you’re going to leave the skin on, that’s the presentation side and there’s no need to flip it. Just make sure the skin is crispy and not mushy.

Again, you don’t want to mess with it too much. It will release itself from the grill when it is cooked. Moving it around on the grill tears up the flesh.

Other fish:

Catfish, tilapia and some of the more delicate white fishes generally don’t hold up well during grilling, but you can still enjoy them. Hy-Vee sells stainless steel fish baskets that will hold them together.

Whole rainbow trout also works well. Score the skin on both sides and slip citrus and herbs under the skin to add more flavor. Some of the herbs that work well include thyme, tarragon, fennel, dill, rosemary and oregano.

Don’t ever do this:

One thing you never want to do is re-cook shrimp. You can reheat it briefly – 30 seconds tops –  but any more than that will make it a rubbery mess.

A good way to grill raw, deveined shrimp is to skewer, add some lemon and pepper and grill a couple of minutes on each side. Be sure you use some of the larger shrimp available in our seafood cases. Shrimp is not a Responsible Choice at Hy-Vee yet, but we’re working on it and will have shrimp that meets our environmental standards by the end of 2015.

Don’t overcook it:

One of the common mistakes in grilling fish is to overcook it. Here’s a guide:

Fillets (tilapia and catfish): 1/2- to 3/4-inch thickness, medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes

Firm steaks (halibut, wild salmon, tuna, swordfish): 1-inch thickness, medium to medium-high heat, 10 minutes

Lobster tails: 8- to 10-ounce, medium heat, 8 to 10 minutes

Raw shrimp (not a Responsible Choice): 21- to 25-count per pound, medium heat, 4 to 5 minutes; under 10-count per pound, 6 to 8 minutes, medium heat

Farmed scallops, clams, mussels: under 12 per pound, medium heat, 4 to 5 minutes

You’ve Been Waiting for It: Hy-Vee’s Responsible Choice Wild Alaskan Salmon at a Price that will Make you Smile

Authored by John Rohrs & Dennis Frauenholz

Hy-Vee customers have been starving for wild Alaskan salmon all winter and spring, and now it’s available at a price point that appeals to a budget. Hy-Vee is featuring sockeye salmon for a very competitive price at $12.99 a pound through July 12, 2014, and our customers are buying it up as quickly as it comes in the stores.

Everything is hitting at the right time. We’re in the height of the grilling season, and this fish grills up perfectly. It also works well in the smoker, and retains its moisture.

Sockeye salmon is a great tasting fish that’s prized for its deep, red flesh – an indicator that it’s high in protein and beneficial Omega-3 fatty acids. That distinctive, rich flavor starts with pristine waters of Alaska, where there aren’t a lot of industrial and commercial influences creating pollution problems.

High winds and rough weather can affect the season, but it’s going well this year, with a steady supply of fish coming in weekly. It’s fresher than some of the farm-raised fish we get and right now it’s priced competitively, which is causing some of the farm-raised varieties to decline in price to below $11, from $13 or $14 a pound, where they were before the wild salmons season began.

The hot $12.99 price we’re selling sockeye at now will expire in a couple of weeks, but we’ll still have sockeye coming in through the end of July. It will rise some, but not to unaffordable levels.

If budgets allow, Hy-Vee has limited availability of king salmon, which is the best out there. King salmon grow larger than other species of salmon, so the steaks are thicker and are great for the grill, and they’re very high in the essential fatty acids. But the supply is limited so the price is higher, around $25 a pound.

On the lower end of the spectrum, we’ll start getting Keta salmon in the stores in mid-July. It’s not as high in the Omega-3s, but it’s still a good fish, especially if you want to dress it some with sauces and herbs, like dill.

Once the Sockeye salmon season ends, we’ll start getting more Coho. They’re smaller fish, but still very nutritious and tasty. Then look for another two-to-three-week run of Sockeye salmon in August.

Recipe highlight: Sockeye salmon is in season, fresh and a responsible choice option

Sockeye salmon is in season now and is arriving fresh daily at Hy-Vee.

Because it’s from Alaska, where sustainability of the seafood industry, the state’s largest employer, is so important it’s written into the state Constitution, Hy-Vee’s customers have the satisfaction of knowing that the salmon comes from the best managed fisheries in the world.

The question isn’t so much whether you want to serve it to your family – of course you do, because it’s one of the healthiest species of seafood in our cases– but how to prepare it in a variety of ways.

I like this recipe because it offers a different take on preparing salmon. Salmon is a great grilling fish, but if you don’t have access to a grill or just prefer to cook inside, consider this recipe. It’s baked in the oven.

People don’t often think about using cheese when they prepare seafood, but the result with this recipe is a very creamy and very approachable taste, especially for new seafood eaters.

This recipe is very filling and meets several MyPlate requirements, offering protein, vegetables and dairy. It’s a perfect recipe for a crowd and is guaranteed to please.


Spinach and Artichoke Salmon

All you need:

  • 1 pound sockeye salmon fillet
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1 cup fresh spinach
  • 1/4 cup Hy-Vee garlic aioli
  • 1/4 cup canned artichokes, then pureed
  • 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

All you do:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil.
  2. Place salmon fillet on the baking sheet and season with salt and pepper. Layer the spinach on top of the salmon in a very thin layer, so it covers the surface of the fish completely.
  3. In a small bowl, combine the aioli and artichoke puree; spread it evenly on top of spinach. Top with shredded Parmesan and mozzarella cheeses.
  4. Bake in the oven for 14 to 16 minutes, then broil for 2 to 4 minutes, until cheese is golden brown.

Looking for Sockeye Salmon and Other Low-Mercury Fish? Look to Hy-Vee’s Low Mercury Card for Help

Authored by John Rohrs & Chef Adam Finnegan John here: Doctors advise pregnant women and others wanting to adopt a heart-healthy diet to eat more fish, but mercury content can be a concern. Hy-Vee works with its suppliers to provide several species that not only are responsibly caught, but contain very little mercury. The FDA doesn’t require mercury-content labels, but at Hy-Vee, we want to make sure that information is at consumers’ fingertips. Just look for the Responsible Choice seafood options on our Low Mercury Card, available at the seafood counter. Low mercury, responsibly harvested options include:

  • Catfish* (farmed in the USA)
  • Clams (farmed in the USA and wild)
  • Dungeness crab* (wild)
  • Mussels* (farmed)
  • Oysters* (farmed and wild)
  • Coho salmon* (wild USA and Canada)
  • King salmon* (wild USA and Canada)
  • Sockeye salmon* (wild USA and Canada)
  • Scallops (farmed and wild)
  • Trout* (farmed in the USA)

(*These species contain the daily minimum of Omega-3 fatty acids per 3.5 oz serving)


Adam here: One of the best options right now is sockeye salmon, which arrives fresh in the Hy-Vee stores during the summer season. This is very high-quality fish. Hy-Vee’s supplier owns the rights to a portion of the Copper River where sockeye salmon is harvested, so this is fish you can’t get anywhere else. It’s inspected and certified as wild-caught, hormone- and antibiotic-free, and it arrives packed in ice, every single day. It’s never frozen. With all that going for it, there’s no need to mess with it by adding heavy sauces and seasonings. Just add some salt, pepper and olive oil and keep it simple. Sockeye salmon is a firm fish that is best grilled. I prefer to grill it with the skin on or on a cedar plank, then I top it with a tropical salsa that has bright flavors.


Here is a salsa recipe that is a big hit with our customers. Combine all of the following ingredients and chill until you’re ready to serve it.

  • 3/4 cup diced mango
  • 3/4 cup diced grilled pineapple
  • 1 medium red pepper, diced
  • 1/2 small red onion, diced
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and diced fine
  • 2 tbsp fresh squeezed lime juice
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped cilantro
  • Salt and black pepper, to taste

If you don’t want to go to the trouble of making your own salsa, we’ve been doing them in-house and offer eight different salsas in our fresh cases. Our customers love the concept of topping their fish with our fresh salsas and our dietitians love it too.

Recipe Spotlight: Create a Healthy Meal Plan with Hy-Vee’s Responsible Choice Seafood and MyPlate

Eating healthy doesn’t mean that you have to stock your refrigerator and pantry with bland, boring foods and give up everything that tastes good.

In fact, the opposite is true. The proof is in the taste. Try this meal of Triple Berry Wild Salmon with Quinoa Pilaf and Mixed Salad Greens.

This menu plan uses fresh Alaskan salmon, a Responsible Choice option that will be available in Hy-Vee seafood cases through fall. When customers see the Responsible Choice label, they can feel confident the fish they’re purchasing was caught using catch or farming methods that protect the oceans and sea life for future generations.

It also follows MyPlate recommendations from the U.S. Department of Agriculture that divides foods into five groups: protein, fruits, vegetables, grains and dairy. This menu plan contains four of the five food groups, and you can always meet the dairy requirement with a glass of milk or low-fat frozen yogurt or similar healthy dairy-based dessert.


Triple Berry Wild Salmon

Serves 2

All you need:

  • 2 tsp peanut oil
  • 2 tbsp chopped onions
  • 8 oz fresh Responsible Choice Alaska salmon
  • 5 asparagus spears, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1/4 cup raspberries
  • 1/4 cup blueberries
  • 1/4 cup sliced strawberries
  • 2 tbsp orange juice, optional

All you do:

  1. Heat oil in a pan over medium heat. Add onions and brown slightly.
  2. Add salmon and asparagus; cook for 1 to 2 minutes.
  3. Add berries. They will release juices, but if the pan looks dry, stir in the orange juice.
  4. Cook until the salmon is cooked through, about 5 to 8 minutes.

Source: recipes.sparkpeople.com


Quinoa Pilaf

Serves 6

All you need:

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped finely
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup finely diced carrots
  • 1 medium red pepper, chopped
  • 2 cups quinoa, rinsed thoroughly in a fine sieve
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 cup frozen peas, thawed
  • Salt and black pepper, to taste

All you do:

  1. Heat oil in a large skillet, on medium-high heat. Add onion; cook until soft, 3 minutes.
  2. Add garlic, carrots and red pepper, cooking until soft, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add quinoa and broth. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium-low.
  4. Simmer, covered, 20 minutes or until water is absorbed.
  5. Stir in peas, salt and black pepper to taste.

Source: Suite 101.com


Mixed Greens
Use a combination of any of the following bitter and mild greens. Serve Triple Berry Salmon on top of greens or as desired.
Torn peppery and/or bitter greens: frisee, watercress, radicchio or arugula.
Mild greens: lettuce, baby spinach or baby romaine.

Recipe Spotlight: Fire Up the Grill for Copper River Salmon or Scallops

Nothing pairs with the grill like Responsible Choice seafood. Not only does it meet Hy-Vee’s high standards for freshness, but it’s also fish you can feel good about eating. With the Responsible Choice label comes the confidence in knowing the fishery or farm uses sustainable catch methods.

Hy-Vee stores are featuring Copper River salmon now and will continue to feature some of the best of the catch through fall. With its thick skin, it’s perfect for the grill.

Both of the recipes below include vegetables. For other side dishes, check out some of the selections in the Hy-Vee salad bars, garlic bread from the bakery that can be warmed on the grill or any of the twice-baked potatoes, stuffed mushrooms or peppers in the full-service meat case.


Grilled Scallops with Fresh Avocado, Tomato & Corn Salsa

All you need:

Salsa

  • 1 avocado, diced
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • 1/2 cup sweet corn, fresh or frozen
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped red onion
  • 1 tbsp fresh lime juice
  • dash hot sauce or cayenne pepper
  • salt and black pepper, to taste

Scallops

  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/8 tsp ground cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp canola oil
  • 2 pounds scallops, patted dry

All you do:

  1. In a bowl, for salsa, combine avocado, tomato, corn, cilantro, red onion, lime juice and hot sauce;  season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
  2. Prepare grill for medium-high heat grilling. Combine cumin, cayenne, paprika and salt. Season scallops with spice mixture. Use oil to oil the grill well. Grill scallops 2 to3 minutes per side or until nicely charred and just cooked through.
  3. Serve scallops with salsa on top.

Grilled Copper River Salmon with Grilled Vegetables

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) salmon fillets, with skin
  • olive oil, for grill
  • 1 zucchini or yellow squash, halved lengthwise
  • 1 red pepper, quartered
  • 1 red onion, quartered with root still intact
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • Hy-Vee Fish & Seafood Grinder Seasoning, as needed
  • olive oil, as needed
  • squeeze of fresh lemon

All you do:

  1. Prepare grill for medium heat cooking.
  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. Clean the grill grates well and rub with oil; place the seasoned salmon fillet skin-side-down on the grill and close lid.
  4. Allow salmon to cook for 5 to 6 minutes or until it flakes in the center (do not flip salmon.)
  5. While salmon is cooking, toss zucchini, red pepper and onion with 1 tablespoon olive oil and season well with the grinder seasoning. Place vegetables on the grill and cook until crisp-tender. To remove salmon from the grill, slide a spatula between the skin and the flesh and remove.
  6. Top the fish and vegetables with a squeeze of fresh lemon before serving.

Copper River Salmon, the Best of the Alaskan Catch, is on Its Way to Select Markets

Salmon lovers, this is what you’ve been waiting for: highly prized fresh Copper River/Prince William Sound salmon will be available at select Hy-Vee stores starting May 21, signaling the beginning of the 2014 wild salmon season in Alaska.

From now through fall, Hy-Vee customers will find some of the best of the catch in the fresh seafood counter at selected stores. It’s all Responsible Choice, a strong start to our commitment to responsibly source all fresh and Hy-Vee brand fish and seafood by the end of 2015.

Because it’s from Alaska, where sustainability of the seafood industry – the state’s largest employer – is so important it’s written into the state Constitution, our customers also have the satisfaction of knowing that the salmon comes from the best managed fisheries in the world.

The Copper River salmon from Cordova, AK, has an intense taste that comes from the size of the Copper River, one of the largest rivers in the world, and its cold waters, and it is considered the best salmon on the market.

The Copper River/Prince William Sound Marketing Association has done a fantastic marketing job. Alaska Airlines flies in the first ceremonial fish to Seattle, where some of the cities top executive chefs compete for the best salmon recipe in a now annual tradition known as the Copper Chef Cook-Off.

All that hype has made Copper River such a recognizable brand that out customers sometimes mistakenly refer to it as a species instead of a geographic area. There are three species of salmon in the Copper River District, and this year, it’s estimated that 1.60 million sockeye, 22,000 king salmon, and 280,000 Coho will be caught in the short, 4 to 6 week season.

Various factors can affect the total catch, including careful monitoring of the salmon run by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. Officials want to make sure enough salmon escape to make their return not only their natal river to spawn, but to the exact spot of their birth.

As the wild salmon season progresses, Hy-Vee’s customers will see various other species of salmon showing up in the seafood case. As more becomes available, prices will adjust accordingly.

Recipe Spotlight: Salmon and Halibut Make Holiday Meals Extra Special

Ham and lamb often get the nod when people are thinking about what to put on the Easter holiday table, but Hy-Vee’s Responsible Choice salmon and halibut offer some serious competition. Either will stand up well as a main dish.

I’ve selected two recipes that offer a unique presentation and will look beautiful on your holiday table and will leave your guests raving about the meal. Guests will remember these two dishes, whereas the ham they had last year may not be all that memorable.

They’re a nice choice going into spring when people want to get away from some of the heavier foods of winter. They’re both flavorful, but light.

Both dishes also present well. Shingle the fish on a nice white platter and garnish with colorful citrus and you’ll have a presentation that will be very aesthetically pleasing to your guests.


Poached Salmon with Pineapple Cucumber Raita

All you need:

Salmon

  • 1 1/2 quarts vegetable stock
  • 1 1/2 cups dry white wine
  • 3 tbsp vinegar
  • 1 yellow onion, sliced
  • 1 large carrot, sliced
  • 9 sprigs parsley
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1/4 tsp peppercorns
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 2 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 pounds center-cut salmon fillet, cut into 4 pieces

Pineapple Cucumber Raita

  • 1 English cucumber, seeded and grated
  • 3/4 cup small diced fresh pineapple
  • 2 cups plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh mint
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
  • sea salt and black pepper, to taste

All you do:

  1. In a large deep poaching pan, combine the vegetable stock, wine, vinegar, onion, carrot, parsley, thyme, peppercorns, bay leaves and 2 1/4 teaspoons  salt. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered, for 10 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine the cucumber, pineapple, yogurt, garlic, mint and cilantro; season to taste with salt and pepper and refrigerate until ready to serve.
  3. Add the salmon to the liquid in the pan and bring back to a simmer. Simmer, partially covered, until the fish is just barely done (it should still be translucent in the center), about 4 minutes for a 1-inch-thick fillet. Remove the pan from the heat and let the fish sit in the liquid for 2 minutes. Transfer to plates and, if you like, remove the skin. Serve the salmon warm, topped with the raita.

Halibut with Chimichurri

All you need:

Chimichurri

  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley leaves
  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/2 tbsp fresh oregano leaves
  • 1/2 tbsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • sea salt and black pepper, to taste

Halibut

  • 4 halibut steaks
  • olive oil for brushing
  • sea salt and pepper, to taste

All you do:

  1. In a food processor, place garlic, cilantro, parsley, thyme, oregano and red pepper flakes; pulse until herbs are coarsely ground. Add lemon zest and red wine vinegar; slowly drizzle in olive oil to create an emulsion. Season to taste with salt and pepper and set aside.
  2. Heat an outdoor gas grill, or prepare coals for a charcoal grill for direct grilling over medium-high heat. Brush the cooking grates clean and oil the grill rack. Brush steaks with oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill halibut over direct heat 10 minutes, turning once, or until just opaque but still moist in the center.
  3. Spoon chimichurri over grilled halibut and serve with steamed rice or quinoa.

There’s No Reason to Avoid Hy-Vee’s Responsible Choice Farm-Raised Fish and Seafood

The reputation of farm-raised fish and seafood is improving to the point that you’re probably eating more farm-raised seafood than you know. Anytime you’re ordering it off the menu, it’s probably farm-raised unless it’s specifically labeled as wild caught.

The problem with farm-raised fish in the past was that it was penned too tightly. One of the problems with that is the same as putting too many people in a pressurized cabin on an airplane. If several people have colds, there’s a good chance many people will catch it. In the oceans, if disease gets to the native fish it can cause a kill.

Large pens of farmed fish also creates waste and uneaten feed that goes to the sea floor, causing negative impacts on crustaceans and other sea life.

But that’s the past. Hy-Vee’s commitment to responsibly choice its seafood by the end of 2015 means our customers won’t have to worry about those practices.

Modern aquaculture practices bear no resemblance to those Old World practices where shrimp was raised in the mud, tilapia in the water and poultry occupied cages resting above the water, creating a not so appetizing circle of life that might have seemed efficient. Today, fish aren’t packed in as tightly in the big enclosed systems used to raise tilapia and trout, and fresh water is filtered and recirculated.

One species where we’ve seen the biggest gains is in tilapia, a fish that has exploded over the last 10 years and is farm-raised all over the world.

We don’t have to go far down the road here in Iowa to see how it’s raised. The Waterfront Drive store in Iowa City, where I work, is one of the few places around that live tilapia can be found. It’s raised by Kingfisher Farms in Long Grove, Iowa, just north of Davenport, in an enclosed tank system. It’s a local, organic operation and you can’t beat it for freshness. Due to the environmentally friendly way that it’s farmed, Kingfisher Farms’ tilapia is a Hy-Vee Responsible Choice.

The system there is very similar. Tilapia are vegetarians, so farmers are able to avoid one of the biggest issues that gives farm-raised fish a bad reputation: in too many farm operations, it takes too many pounds of fish to grow a pound of fish.

One of most exciting developments in aquaculture comes from Chile, where Hy-Vee procures its Responsible Choice Verlasso salmon. Chile is one of the countries where most fish farms still need a lot of work, because fish are packed in too tightly. Verlasso salmon is different.

What Verlasso has done is huge. Not only are fewer fish raised in a pen, the company has developed a feed that has achieved a 1:1.34 ratio in that the fish meal they’ve developed uses slightly over one pound of wild fish to create one pound of salmon. That’s the reason most salmon isn’t Responsible Choice; it uses too much wild fish in the meal.

Verlasso has changed the feed without changing the flavor, which is one of the biggest issues people have had with farm-raised salmon. It still contains those essential Omega-3 fatty acids people want, and it still has the same texture people want.

Salmon is a very popular fish, and wild-caught salmon can only supply about 10 percent of the demand for the salmon, so Responsible Choice options like Verlasso are very important.

Farm-raised mussels are also Responsible Choice. They filter and help clean the water, so they’re actually helping the environment rather than harming it. They grown and multiply quickly and they don’t have to be fed. So we haven’t seen huge changes in those practices, because the fisheries have been doing the right thing for a long time.

We’re watching a shrimp out of Belize very closely. The shrimp industry has been slow to change, but it is beginning to adopt better practices. Hy-Vee has picked up fully traceable shrimp from Belize Aquaculture Ltd., which last year earned a three-star rating from the Global Aquaculture Alliance. It’s the best farm-raised shrimp out there, and we’re glad we can offer it to our customers.