Hy-Vee’s Responsible Choice Seafood Soothes Your Conscience While Contributing to Heart and Brain Health

Hy-Vee’s new Responsible Choice seafood initiative is taking away some of the worry for people who want the health benefits of seafood, but don’t want to contribute to over-fishing and other practices that threaten the supply of seafood and damage the environment.

Dieticians recommended that people eat two to three servings – each in the 3- to 4-ounce range – of fish per week. We know there are health benefits, such as lowering the risk for strokes or heart attacks and increasing brain health, but research also suggests that eating more fish lowers the risk for certain kinds of cancer.

Salmon Filets with Cutting BoardThe top reason for that? Fish are loaded with Omega-3 fatty acids.

Of the three essential Omega-3s – Eicosapentaenoic (EPA), docosahexaenoic (DHA) and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) – only EPA and DHA are found exclusively in seafood and marine algae.

ALA is also found in plants, such as flax, walnuts, chia and pumpkin seeds, and although it’s true that ALA can be converted by the body to EPA and DHA, the conversion rate is very low. Only a fraction of a percent is actually converted to EPA and DHA.

If you’re looking to improve your heart and brain health, salmon and tuna are great sources for Omega-3 acids, but so are trout, mackerel and herring. On the other hand, seafood species like shrimp, crab, lobster and clams have very little Omega-3 content.

That’s not to say they’re not healthy. They’re still extremely nutritious. Shrimp, for example, is a great source of protein.

Many times when people are trying to lose weight, they think the only answer is to cut back on what they eat. That can backfire, because it leaves them feeling hungry. Eating more protein can keep them feeling full and satisfied. That’s also helpful in maintaining blood sugars. When you increase your protein intake, you don’t have those highs and lows that can lead to hunger and lack of concentration.

If you want to lose weight, seafood is a great high-protein, low-calorie center-plate replacement that will leave you feeling full and satisfied. When adding more seafood to your diet as part of a weight-loss plan, look for nutrient dense species.

The calories you’re getting will be very well spent, because you’ll get a lot of nutrients with them – protein, beneficial fats and other nutrients. Clams for example, have 30 percent of your daily need for iron, as well calcium and other vitamins.

All seafood is beneficial. The only possible downside is mercury content – especially in shark, swordfish, tilefish and king mackerel. Visit Hy-Vee’s seafood counter for more information about seafood species that are both low in mercury and Responsible Choices.

Besides looking at how the fish was caught and the effect on the ocean’s environment, Hy-Vee’s suppliers also consider seafood’s safety for consumption.

Responsible Choice Seafood Supplier Spotlight: PDI’s Vendors ‘Thrilled to Join Us on This Journey’

Perishable Distributors of Iowa (PDI) provides an important link in helping Hy-Vee, our parent company, meet its goal of transitioning all of its fresh and frozen Hy-Vee-brand fish to environmentally responsible and traceable sources by the end of 2015.

Hy-Vee employs an on-site U.S. Department of Commerce lot inspector, who checks each shipment here at PDI’s Ankeny, Iowa, warehouse to make sure the fish has been maintained at the correct temperature all along the supply chain, and whether the correct temperature was exceeded at any point during the shipment.

If for any reason the product fails – whether from a sustainability standpoint or by any of the other measures in place to ensure the quality, safety and integrity of our seafood – it is rejected.

But that’s only part of the story.

Before the fish ever reaches our 350,000-square-foot distribution center, PDI works with Hy-Vee’s vendors to make sure the products we procure are harvested or farmed in a manner consistent with our Responsible Sourcing Commitment, which our customers can see with the Responsible Choice labeling.

We have been working behind the scenes for three years to make these sourcing changes. We knew we had the right vendors. We strongly believed that we shouldn’t just throw them aside – which wouldn’t do anything to change the industry – but instead had a responsibility to educate them about how the industry is changing and what they needed to do to profit from that change.

This is a long-term partnership and we all have the same goals – to create awareness about overfishing, indiscriminate fishing methods, and other practices that aren’t sustainable.

Here’s an example: We have been communicating with a tuna vendor about how important it is to fish for tuna using handlines to avoid catching species other than tuna. He didn’t know he was sitting on the best choice rod-and-reel caught tuna, but by having a face-to-face conversation, he was able to see how this was going to create more sales for him.

If not for the support of our vendors and partnering with FishWise, we wouldn’t be where we are today. All of our vendors have been thrilled to join us on this journey – and it is a journey. Changing the industry is not something you can achieve by flipping a switch.

We’re definitely headed in the right direction.