Earth Day: How Does Responsible Seafood Fit into the Larger Environmental Conservation Picture?

Happy Earth Day. For 45 years, Earth Day has been a celebration of environmental conservation in the United States. The earth is facing a lot of environmental stresses, including overfishing, climate change, air and water pollution and a growing human population. Earth Day is part of a global effort to protect the planet and secure a sustainable future.

Earth Day activities aim to raise awareness on many topics, such as climate change, organic agriculture, clean air and water, clean energy, reducing consumption, recycling, endangered species, healthy oceans and more.

How does sourcing seafood responsibly fit into the larger picture?

The health of our oceans is vital to the environment. The main focus of Hy-Vee’s Responsible Choice program is to stop global overfishing. The ocean faces many “health problems” like ocean acidification, offshore drilling and pollution. When the pressure on the oceans from overfishing is reduced, the overall health of the oceans improves. It’s important to reduce habitat damage caused by harmful fishing practices, which also helps reduce the threat to a sustainable ocean future.

Buying Responsible Choice seafood is a way for Hy-Vee customers to contribute to the global Earth Day effort to secure a sustainable future. When customers demand responsibly sourced seafood at grocery stores and restaurants, companies translate that demand up the supply chain and motivate producers to minimize the environmental impact of their operations.

Customers can commit to purchasing seafood caught in U.S. waters, which has well-managed fisheries with enforcement of environmental laws. Shoppers may also consider adding local produce to meals to cut down on fossil fuels used in the transportation of fruits and vegetables.

Consumers can treat every day like Earth Day by using reusable products like bags and water bottles to cut down on waste and reduce energy use. Educating themselves about environmental issues is the first step people can take to learn how to improve their habits to be less harmful to the environment. If everyone makes individual efforts to minimize their impact, together we’ll take a large step forward to protect the planet and secure a sustainable future.

Hy-Vee is striving to be a leader in conservation efforts for the betterment of our environment and our customers. You can read more details at hy-vee360.com and on our recently updated Responsible Choice Seafood website.

Making the Responsible Choice: A Collaborative Effort to Eradicate Human Trafficking, Forced Labor in Seafood Supply Chains

Hy-Vee’s Responsible Choice initiative is more than a commitment to food safety and protecting the environment, it’s also about responsible sourcing and that includes the safety and well-being of the men and women working throughout the supply chain. In light of the exposure of human trafficking in Southeast Asia and Thailand over the past couple of years and its relation to the seafood industry, Hy-Vee and FishWise urge customers and businesses to support and take interest in how their seafood is being sourced.

The key to responsible sourcing is knowledge. Often times, leading seafood buyers across the globe are indirectly supporting mistreatment of laborers by buying and selling seafood from unregulated markets. One of the biggest issues related to this issue in U.S. seafood procurement is traceability. Without knowledge of where the product came from, companies cannot verify supply chain compliance with labor laws and human rights standards. The issue is further complicated in seafood supply chains when demand for low prices undermines responsible business practices, and a lack of regulations and inadequate oversight open the door for various labor abuses.

Hy-Vee is continuously working to improve transparency in its seafood supply chains by ensuring their products are traceable back to the point of harvest — whether it’s a fishery or farming operation. To this end, Hy-Vee regularly collects information about the chain of custody and sustainability of seafood products from their suppliers, and Hy-Vee’s seafood vendors have been notified of the commitment to responsible sourcing and traceability.

As a customer, there are several ways you can be part of the conversation. First, ask questions when purchasing seafood in a store or at a restaurant. Questions related to where the seafood came from, how they trace their seafood and if the seafood is a responsibly sourced item produced with fair labor standards are a good place to start. This sends the message that traceability is important to you and encourages business owners to be held accountable. From there, you can take action by supporting retailers and restaurants that are committed to responsible sourcing.

Hy-Vee has committed to selling responsibly sourced fresh and frozen seafood that is rated as a Green “Best Choice” or a Yellow “Good Alternative” by the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program, certified to an environmental standard equivalent to these ratings, or sourced from credible, time-bound improvement projects. You can make informed and sustainable seafood purchasing decisions by utilizing the seafood buying guides on the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch website at seafoodwatch.org or the Seafood Watch app on your smartphone.

In addition to customer concern, all companies must implement responsible sourcing plans to ensure that human trafficking, forced labor and other human rights violations are not present in their supply chains. U.S. retailers, foodservice providers, distributors and others in the supply chain can use their buying power to lead change in the entire seafood industry.

There are several steps U.S. seafood businesses can take to ensure they are not buying seafood associated with human rights abuses. First and foremost, organizations should ensure products can be traced to origin and names and addresses of all entities that handled the product can be identified. Companies can also support labor audits through all steps in the supply chain, ensure each link in the supply chain makes a documentable pledge to customers to avoid labor abuse, share concerns and stipulate procurement on the supplier’s ability to regulate human trafficking and labor violations, and finally, communicate clearly with customers. This entails providing the origin of fisheries and the actions taken to guarantee products are not connected to human rights abuses, labor violations or environmental damage.

Hy-Vee has taken steps to ensure responsible sourcing through the Responsible Choice initiative. With collaborative efforts, we can all help to eradicate human trafficking and forced labor in today’s global seafood industry.

For more information visit FishWise’s Human Trafficking, Forced Labor Q & A:
http://fishwise.org/index.php/press/blog/286-human-trafficking-forced-labor-and-seafood-q-a

Hy-Vee Responsible Choice Rainbow Trout, A U.S. Commodity

With global seafood consumption on the rise, it must be a priority for suppliers and retailers alike to be conscious of environmental impact, responsible sourcing and food safety implications of the seafood they produce and sell to consumers. That is why Hy-Vee began the Responsible Choice initiative. Through the program, Hy-Vee has established specific guidelines to offer high-quality seafood that is safe for consumption and harvested in a manner that provides for a sustainable future.

As of this January, 79 percent of Hy-Vee’s fresh and private label frozen seafood met the goal of being responsibly sourced and traceable or in a time-bound improvement process by year-end 2015. Rainbow trout is no exception.

A member of the salmon family, wild trout are anadromous, spending part of their life cycle in freshwater as rainbow trout and part in salt water as steelhead trout. Farmers in the United States began commercially raising rainbow trout during the 1960s.

The most common production system for U.S. farmed rainbow trout is called a “raceway” – where farmers divert water from natural waterways, such as rivers and streams, into a channel containing the trout. The water is then treated before being discharged back into the original waterway. U.S.-farmed trout are then fed using a formulation of relatively low levels of fishmeal and fish oil, reducing the impacts to wild fish populations.

Regulation of rainbow trout farms in the U.S. is considered effective, as best management practices have been shared and utilized on a nation-wide scale. Through a system of checks and balances, trout farmers are able to monitor the health of the trout and its safety for human consumption.

Rainbow trout farmed in the U.S. has been given a Green “Best Choice” rating by the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program due to the environmentally friendly production methods used, and the minimal impact to habitats or other wildlife.

Hy-Vee’s Responsible Choice rainbow trout is sourced in a region called the Magic Valley in Idaho by Clear Springs Foods, which upholds the high standards established through Hy-Vee’s Responsible Choice initiative. Hy-Vee continues to keep our consumers and the environment top of mind to ensure a safe, traceable and responsible selection of seafood is available to our customers.

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.

Recipe Spotlight: Versatile Alaska Crab is Good in Light Summer-Time Fare & Hearty Fall Boils

During the transition from summer to fall, what to eat can be as confusing as what to wear. Jacket or short sleeve shirt? Hearty soup or lighter fare?

Here are two recipes using Hy-Vee’s Responsible Choice Alaska crab to get you through the in-between season. One is light and fresh; the other is a hearty boil that uses of end-of-harvest sweet corn, potatoes and onions.


Alaskan Crab Lettuce Wraps

Makes 8 lettuce wraps.

All you need:

Dressing:

  • 1 tbsp diced shallot
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • Juice of 1/2 lime
  • 3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped
  • Sea salt and black pepper, to taste

Salad:

  • 1 pound cooked crab meat, diced
  • 1 avocado, pitted, peeled and diced
  • 1 mango, peeled and small diced
  • 2 stalks celery, small diced
  • 1/4 cup small diced red bell pepper
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • 8 Bibb lettuce leaves from 1 head

All you do:

  1. Whisk shallot, lemon juice, lime juice, olive oil and cilantro together in a bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside.
  2. Combine crab meat, avocado, mango, celery, red bell pepper and green onions in another bowl.
  3. Pour just enough dressing over the salad ingredients to lightly coat. Toss gently.
  4. Place 2 tablespoons salad onto each lettuce leaf and roll in wraps. Serve immediately.

Louisiana Style Shrimp and Crab Boil

Serves 6 to 8.

All you need:

  • 4 gallons water
  • 2 heads garlic, unpeeled
  • 5 fresh bay leaves
  • 9 oz Zatarain’s dry crab boil
  • 2 tbsp Zatarain’s liquid shrimp and crab boil
  • 2 (12 oz each) bottles Baraboo Pale Ale
  • 2 large oranges, halved
  • 3 large lemons, halved
  • 1 1/2 pounds baby red potatoes, washed
  • 1 1/2 pounds baby Yukon gold potatoes, washed
  • 1 pound Andouille sausage, sliced on the bias every 2 inches
  • 15 (3-inch) sections fresh sweet corn
  • 2 large onions, sliced
  • 2 pounds crawfish, thawed
  • 1 pound Jonah crab claws, thawed
  • 1 pound Alaska king crab claws, thawed
  • 2 pounds Gulf shrimp, thawed
  • Sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper, to taste
  • Lemon wedges and cocktail sauce, for serving

All you do:

  1. Heat in a 10-gallon stockpot over high heat.
  2. Add garlic, bay leaves, dry crab boil, liquid crab boil, beer, oranges and lemons. Cover and bring to a boil.
  3. Add potatoes; cover and boil 10 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, cook sausage over medium heat about 5 minutes or until lightly browned. Add sausage, sweet corn and onions to stockpot; cover and boil for 5 minutes.
  5. Add crawfish, crab claws and shrimp; boil for 2 to 3 minutes or until shrimp are pink. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  6. Transfer all ingredients to an oversize platter or large baking sheet and serve with lemon wedges and cocktail sauce, if desired.

With its Responsible Choice Initiative and Fishery Improvement Projects, Hy-Vee is Raising the Bar

One of the key goals of Hy-Vee’s Responsible Choice initiative is to help the seafood industry improve and help those fisheries and farms that are not performing at sustainable levels improve in discrete ways. To promote healthy oceans and ensure a long-term seafood supply, Hy-Vee is continuing to encourage its seafood suppliers to participate in fishery improvement projects (FIPs).

FIPs are an important component of Hy-Vee’s Seafood Procurement Policy as they provide a direct pathway for Hy-Vee to encourage improvements on the water, be that through strengthening fisheries management policies or by providing incentives for fishers to reduce the environmental impacts of their fishing gear.

What that means to the consumer is that though products from these fisheries may not currently meet the definition of “responsibly sourced” and be eligible for the Responsible Choice label, they still meet Hy-Vee’s 2015 Responsible Sourcing Commitment because they are in a “time-bound improvement process.”

These improvements may range from an internal agreement between FishWise and Hy-Vee about a particular seafood sourcing strategy, particularly for aquaculture, to external, multi-stakeholder efforts to improve a fishery, such as a fishery improvement project. In general, for an improvement project to meet Hy-Vee’s 2015 Commitment it must contain:

  • A time-bound component that establishes a clear objective consistent with the Seafood Procurement Policy
  • A work-plan with measurable indicators
  • A date by which the necessary improvements are to be achieved
  • Fishery improvement projects must meet the Guidelines for Supporting Improvement Projects established by the Conservation Alliance for Seafood Solutions (available here)

The important takeaway for consumers is that Hy-Vee is doing important work on the water, whether encouraging fisheries to use different gear or implement new management plans that will move them toward sustainability.

It’s important to support those fisheries that are already doing a good job, but it’s just as important to work with those that are struggling to improve through FIPs. This is an important way that retailers can drive improvement. Without support from retailers, they don’t have the motivation to improve.

Only 6 Months Old, Hy-Vee’s Responsible Choice Seafood Initiative is Already a Success Story

Six months into Hy-Vee’s Responsible Choice seafood program – our pledge to responsibly source all fresh and Hy-Vee brand seafood by the end of 2015 – we’re ahead of where we thought we would be.

We’re not the only ones who think so. Greenpeace USA ranked us No. 5 among the country’s top 26 retailers for our efforts in its Carting Away the Oceans: 2014 Rankings of Seafood Sustainability in U.S. Supermarkets report. That’s quite an accomplishment, and it’s the people who work at Hy-Vee and Perishable Distributors of Iowa (PDI) who give me the confidence to say that at this time next year, we will have made good on our pledge.

Some reasons:

Behind-the-scenes work building on already solid relationships with our partners for two years made for a smooth roll-out of the initiative earlier this year. We made sure our vendors were on board and all of our suppliers were on the same page as far as understanding what kind of product we need to meet the goals of our Seafood Procurement Policy.

One big surprise was how willing our vendors were to change with us. We’ve never had a procurement policy as strict as this one, but we found that suppliers are looking ahead at their futures as well. They are as interested as we are in doing the right thing to protect the oceans and the marine life that depend on them for survival.

Another surprise was that we only had to drop a few suppliers. We were afraid going into this initiative that we might have to abandon some long-standing relationships, but that wasn’t the case.

The few we did have to drop because their products just couldn’t be purchased under our Policy – a last resort – were very low-volume suppliers of specialty items.

One of the benefits of this program is that issues that were only whispered about are now front of mind among our employees and customers. It was an “out of sight, out of mind” type thing.”

We’ve heard about the issues affecting the world’s oceans, but may not have taken the risks all that seriously. As a result of this initiative, we’ve all become more aware of what is going on and we truly understand the issues fisheries deal with and how they’re engaged in doing the right thing.

There are still some challenges with some species, and educating the public about farm-raised salmon is one of the biggest ones. It’s a hot topic among consumers, and what they primarily hear is negative.

They’re not aware of all the good the farm-raised salmon industry has done to protect wild species. Salmon is one of the most sought-after seafood species in the world, and wild stocks can’t begin to cover the demand.

It’s a matter of increasing consumer awareness.

Implementing a holistic Responsible Seafood Program isn’t something you flip a switch on overnight. But overall, we’ve done a great job and achieved great success in a short time.

Hy-Vee’s Meteoric Rise to No. 5 on Greenpeace Sustainability Survey: ‘This is the New Beginning; This is our Social Responsibility’

At Hy-Vee, we’ve just received some important validation in our efforts to become the industry leader in offering customers seafood only from responsibly managed fisheries:

In the Carting Away the Oceans: 2014 Rankings of Seafood Sustainability in U.S. Supermarkets report issued by Greenpeace USA, Hy-Vee ranked fifth among the country’s top 26 retailers for sustainability efforts.

We were ranked in four key areas: policy, initiatives, labeling and transparency, and Red List inventory.

That’s a huge accomplishment that got the attention of James Mitchell, Greenpeace’s senior seafood campaigner: “We were surprised at how well Hy-Vee performed, by essentially rocketing to fifth place, which is a particularly impressive showing for a new entrant to the evaluations,” he said.

FishWise, Hy-Vee’s nonprofit partner in sustainability has been critical in helping us achieve a high score on Greenpeace’s survey. FishWise has very high standards and has been awesome to work with. Working with FishWise has encouraged us to look at issues scientifically and to be mindful of the environmental and social impacts of our practices. Sometimes NGOs can get a bad rap as anti-business, but this isn’t the case with FishWise.

They’ve helped us learn.

Hy-Vee’s CEO, Randy Edeker, also has been a driver in our success. He has basically circled the wagons, challenged us to ask critical questions about every aspect of our operations, and empowered us to make changes to become more sustainable. As a result, our procurement, distribution and operations divisions locked arms and said, in effect:

“This is the new beginning; this is our social responsibility.”

We’re extremely pleased and honored with this recognition. It represents both a commitment from our stores and Hy-Vee customers, who have sent a clear message they want seafood that is responsibly harvested and minimizes damage to the environment. Through our new efforts, we are providing our customers high quality seafood in accordance with the most stringent environmental standards in the food industry.

We wanted to score high on the Greenpeace survey, and hoped that we would. No. 5 is a great position for our first entry in the seafood survey, but we’re not satisfied. We want to be No. 1, whether that’s on the Greenpeace survey or any other measure of sustainability.

Read the full report: Carting Away the Oceans: 2014 Rankings of Seafood Sustainability in U.S. Supermarkets

At Hy-Vee, Every Day is World Oceans Day

Hy-Vee may be headquartered in Iowa, a landlocked state in the middle of the country without an ocean in sight, but the company’s strong Seafood Procurement Policy and its commitment to responsibly source all of its fresh and frozen Hy-Vee brand seafood by the end of 2015 reflect a growing global concern about the health of the world’s seas.

On Sunday, June 8, like-minded individuals, businesses and organizations paused to observe World Oceans Day, an idea first proposed in 1992 at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, adopted by The Ocean Project in 2002 and formally adopted by the United Nations in 2008.

The theme of the 2014 observance, “Together we have the power to protect the ocean,” is in keeping with Hy-Vee’s commitment to help resolve the issues that affect the health of the ocean, including overfishing and habitat destruction.

Hy-Vee’s proactive Seafood Procurement Policy recognizes that certain types of seafood species are in danger or nearing endangerment status, and are harvested using methods that place unnecessary stress on the environment and other marine life.

In general, the company will do business only with suppliers who harvest or raise seafood in a manner that provide for long-term sustainability of the species while minimizing damage to the environment and other sea life. That means Hy-Vee will only do business with the better-performing seafood suppliers whose catch methods are consistent with the company’s commitment to prevent overfishing and damage to marine habitat.

Seafood is the largest food commodity traded globally, which connects us to the world ocean in other ways. That’s part of the reason Hy-Vee is working proactively behind the scenes on such environmental initiatives such as the Ross Sea Pledge and another to limit fishing in the Bering Sea’s Zhemchug and Pribilof Canyons.

During the global World Oceans Day celebration, hundreds of events were held around the globe to help individuals become part of the solution to the problems facing the ocean. Hy-Vee is demonstrating that every day.

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.