Q & A With Hy-Vee’s USDC Lot Inspector

In 1998, Hy-Vee became one of the first retailers in the Midwest to hire its own U.S. Department of Commerce (USDC) lot inspector to ensure the quality, safety and integrity of the fresh seafood it buys.

The USDC inspector is stationed on-site at our Perishable Distributors of Iowa (PDI) distribution facility in Ankeny, Iowa, where he routinely checks incoming shipments of fresh and frozen seafood, ensuring that it meets Hy-Vee’s standards. Our purchasing and sustainability policy is the strictest around. Our seafood team at PDI is meticulous in its sourcing and accountability of our suppliers. A big part of our seafood program’s success is partnering with suppliers that have the same beliefs as we do.

The USDC Inspection program is a voluntary seafood inspection service that assists in meeting U.S. regulations and generally accepted seafood production best practices governing fishery products for human consumption. This service supports seafood safety and includes sanitation inspection, system and process audits, grading and inspection and product laboratory analyses.

Bryan Sauve has been Hy-Vee’s full-time inspector since 2003. Bryan is on site five days a week to help us maintain high quality standards. In 2017, Sauve received the Silver Sherman award, which recognizes individuals who have performed work above his or her normal requirements, achieved a milestone that contributed significantly or critically toward the attainment of a particular program goal, and demonstrated leadership of significant magnitude.

We asked Bryan some questions about his work:


Q: What does a USDC Lot Inspector do?  Why is it important?

A: A seafood lot inspector conducts inspections of seafood product that enter the facility on a daily basis. I also conduct daily and quarterly sanitation audits of the facility and seafood department area to ensure that the company meets the conditions required under the USDC Standards for Approved Establishments, and also verify that they are meeting the requirements of U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s mandatory Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) and Food Safety and Protection Programs. I also periodically collect product samples for analysis at our National Seafood Inspection Lab where the samples are further analyzed for possible pathogen growth and any unapproved additives or chemicals that may have been used at the processor level.

These steps and processes will provide the Hy-Vee customer the safest, freshest, most wholesome product possible.


Q: How long has Hy-Vee done this?

A: Hy-Vee has been under contract with the USDC Seafood Inspection Program since 1998 (23 years).


Q: What do you look for, specifically?

A: Lot inspections of seafood product involve verifying the label contents are accurate in regards to net weight and count declarations, country of origin, pack and sell by dates, allergen statements, and so on. My inspections involve analyzing the product for workmanship defects, quality and condition, and flavor and odor in the raw and cooked state. I also verify product temperature, and that net weights and counts meet label declaration. The USDC Inspection Program has product standards for specific product forms that detail exactly what to inspect for. Also, the company has detailed approved specifications with the Inspection Program that further details what attributes must be met. If a product does not meet these rigorous standards and specifications, it is rejected.


Q: What makes having an inspector on site a point of difference?

A: There are very few inspectors on our USDC staff that are stationed at a retailer’s distribution center, like Hy-Vee has. Having a seafood inspector on site ensures that the seafood product meets Hy-Vee and PDI specifications before being distributed to the individual stores. The distribution center is the “last stop” before entering the retail level, and will guarantee food safety, freshness and wholesomeness to the Hy-Vee customer.


Paul Piazza Shrimp At Your Local Hy-Vee

Yum! A delicious wild-caught shrimp meal for your family is as close as your nearest Hy-Vee freezer. This wild-caught Paul Piazza & Son Seafood frozen Gulf Shrimp product is waiting for you to stop by or click add to cart!

Don’t forget to visit Paul’s recipe page at www.paulpiazza.com/recipes for a great selection of lunch and dinner ideas. Even more shrimp meal ideas are available from Hy-Vee!

Eat Seafood 2x Per Week And Reel In The Benefits

The latest Dietary Guidelines for Americans encourage families to eat seafood at least twice weekly because of its heart and weight benefits. The Guidelines also underscore the importance for pregnant and breastfeeding women to eat more seafood to improve babies’ health.

Our partners at the National Fisheries Institute say that while most Americans eat an adequate amount of total protein foods, nearly all eat far too little seafood—the average American eats one serving of fish per week, while the average pregnant woman eats half a serving per week. To make the shift to eat more seafood and reap its health benefits, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggest choosing fish in place of meat or poultry twice each week.

The Science on Heart Health & Seafood Is Clear

  • “The American Heart Association recommends eating 2 servings of fish (particularly fatty fish) per week.  A serving is 3.5 ounce cooked, or about ¾ cup of flaked fish. Fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, herring, lake trout, sardines and albacore tuna are high in omega-3 fatty acids. ” – AHA
  • “Twice a week, make seafood—fish and shellfish—the main protein food on your plate. Seafood contains a range of nutrients, including healthy omega-3 fats.  According to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, eating about 8 ounces per week (less for young children) of a variety of seafood can help prevent heart disease.” – USDA ChooseMyPlate

Why Is Fish So Good for Heart Health?

Researchers believe the unique combination of healthy fats in seafood play a big role in its powerful protection of heart health, but that’s not all seafood has to offer.  Fish, as a whole food, has a lot going on.  Take a look here at all the nutrients in a single filet of salmon, for example:

  • Protein
  • Selenium
  • Iron
  • Vitamin D
  • Omega-3 fatty acids

At a time when Americans are told to limit so many foods, seafood is among the handful of foods Americans are encouraged to eat more often. For the latest on seafood science and nutrition keep up with our registered dietitians, visit your local Hy-Vee or stay tuned to our Seafoodies blog.


How Does Fish Fight Heart Disease?

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in America. Fortunately, many risk factors are things we have control over – such as our food and lifestyle choices. Making nutritious food choices and working in physical activity throughout the day are two excellent ways to help keep your family’s heart beating strong.

Did you know that eating seafood twice a week could help to improve your omega-3 levels and reduce your risk for cardiovascular disease? Just a simple shift in your eating pattern can put you on a positive path to improve your heart health.

Seafood is a very important part of a healthy diet. Fish and shellfish are the major sources of healthful omega-3 fats and are also rich in nutrients such as vitamin D and selenium, high in protein, and low in saturated fat. There is strong evidence that eating fish or taking fish oil is good for the heart and blood vessels.

The American Heart Association recommends eating two 3.5-ounce servings of non-fried fish every week “to reduce the risk of congestive heart failure, coronary heart disease, ischemic stroke, and sudden cardiac death, especially when seafood replaces the intake of less healthy foods.”

The omega-3 fats in fish protect the heart against the development of erratic and potentially deadly cardiac rhythm disturbances. They also lower blood pressure and heart rate, improve blood vessel function, and, at higher doses, lower triglycerides and may ease inflammation.

The strong and consistent evidence for benefits is such that the American Heart Association, Dietary Guidelines for Americans, and World Health Organization recommend eating seafood at least twice a week, aiming to take in an average of 250-500 mg daily of omega-3s EPA and DHA. Higher intakes of 1 gram and above are supported for a range of cardiovascular benefits.


Heart disease is 80-90% preventable with proper diet, exercise and lifestyle modifications. Eating approximately one to two servings of fatty fish a week reduces the risk of dying from heart disease by 30-50%.


Alaska Seafood Benefits: Health & Nutrition

If you’re focused on a more healthy lifestyle in 2021, look no further than Wild Alaska seafood.

Alaska seafood is a key source of marine omega-3 fatty acids (DHA and EPA) which are essential for our bodies to promote heart health, suppress inflammatory responses, improve blood flow and participate in brain function. Alaska seafood is also naturally high in many essential vitamins and minerals including vitamins E, A, D and B-12. Alaska seafood provides a complete, high-quality protein keeping muscles and bones strong and healthy.


Check out these resources from ASMI for more information:


Verlasso: Salmon Basics A Seafoodies Should Know



Fish is highly perishable, so it’s important you determine the freshness yourself. Check before purchasing and again before cooking. Here are a few tips to keep in mind.

  1. Smell. By far, this is the best way to determine freshness. Fresh fish should have a slight sea or salty smell to it or no odor at all. Any off-odors or ammonia smell are a sure sign of age or poor handling.
  2. Texture. Generally, the texture of fish should be firm and spring back when you press against it with your finger.
  3. Appearance. Fish fillets should be moist and glistening.
  4. Check the eyes. If purchasing a whole fish, the eyes should appear clear and full. Over time, the eyes will begin to lose moisture and sink back.
  5. Check the gills. If purchasing a whole fish, the gills should be pink in color with no traces of brown or grey.
  6. Check the belly. There should be no sign of “belly burn”, or rib bones protruding into the belly cavity, which indicates that the inside of the fish was not removed promptly. There should be no tearing or breaks in the mea



Temperature is most important when storing freshly purchased Verlasso salmon. All fresh fish should be stored at temperatures between 30° and 34°F. Verlasso salmon is shipped fresh on ice within 24 hours and should be stored that way from the time it is removed from the fish case.

  1. Ask the fishmonger for a bag of ice to place the fish on once it has been wrapped. This will ensure that the fish stays cold in transit.
  2. Once home, fill a plastic bag with ice, put it in a small colander, and then put the colander into a bowl.
  3. Gently place the covered fish on top of the plastic bag. The colander will allow the excess water to drain as the ice melts.
  4. Switch out the ice every day.
  5. Most importantly, use the fish within two days.



Verlasso salmon has a delicate flavor and texture that makes cooking simple and consistent. Unlike meat and poultry, it is very important to cook fish until just done. Over-cooking is the most common mistake that home cooks make when preparing fish. Here is the Verlasso guide to determining doneness.

  1. Translucent flesh will become opaque. Raw fish appears somewhat translucent. As it cooks, the flesh will become opaque.
  2. Flesh becomes firm. The flesh of most fish and shellfish firms up as it cooks. Doneness can be tested by judging the resistance of the flesh to your finger. Raw or undercooked fish will be mushy and soft. When cooking, the flesh becomes more resistant and springs back when touched.
  3. Flesh separates easily from the bone. Undercooked fish will stick to the bone, but when done, the flesh will easily separate from the bones.
  4. Flesh begins to flake. Fish flesh consists of short muscle fibers separated by thin connective tissue. As the fish cooks, the connective tissue breaks down and the muscle fibers separate from each other, creating the flakiness that makes fish delicious.
  5. Cooking time. The basic rule for fish is that it will be done in 8 minutes per inch of thickness.
  6. Temperature. In general, the internal temperature of salmon when it is properly cooked is 140° F.
  7. Fish is subject to carryover cooking. This means that is will continue to cook even after you take it away from the heat. Always serve fish as soon as it is cooked.

Source: https://www.verlasso.com/salmon-basics


NOAA Fisheries’ Seafood Inspection Program Makes Sure Your Seafood Is Safe, Healthy, and Wholesome

The United States is the largest importer and fifth largest exporter of seafood. In fact, we estimate that at least 85 percent of the seafood we consume is imported. So, it’s essential to ensure the quality of seafood products that are brought in and shipped out of the country.

That’s where the National  Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Seafood Inspection Program comes in.

NOAA inspectors evaluate the quality of seafood and fishery products. They make sure they’re safe and wholesome, and that the weight and species on the label are accurate.

Note: The footage used in this video was obtained pre-COVID. NOAA is still conducting inspections, implementing applicable COVID guidance for on-site activities during the pandemic to ensure the safety of inspectors and consumers.

Watch this video to learn how the NOAA Fisheries Seafood Inspection Program makes sure that the consumer and the industry has confidence in the seafood market as a whole.

10 Ways To Start Fresh With Seafood

The new year is a time for a fresh, healthy start. We’re encouraging Americans to focus on long-term lifestyle changes, including adding more seafood, for improved health all year long.

January often means drastic lifestyle changes, such as fad diets and intense exercise routines; but 80% of New Year’s resolutions fail by February.  We want to help you find simple solutions to help you succeed in your healthy lifestyle goals.

Here are 10 fun tips on how to Start Fresh with Seafood:

1. Get Creative Cooking

Did you get a fun new kitchen gadget for the holidays? Seafood is great in an air fryer, in a grill pan or a cast iron skillet.

2. A Fresh Mindset

The best seafood doesn’t have to be “fresh,” canned and frozen seafood both offer delicious options.

3. Think Beyond the Fillet

Try salmon burgers, shrimp stir fry, fish tacos or clams with pasta. Eat the foods you already enjoy and jazz it up with seafood!

4. Think About Now and Into the Future

To have a sustainable supply of seafood in the future, eat sustainably caught or raised seafood now.

5. Support Your Community

Support local businesses through these unprecedented times. Get takeout from your favorite restaurant. Visit your local fishmonger or many fishermen and farmers are offering ways to buy direct.

6. Jazz Up the Flavor

Herbs, herbs, herbs! It’s all about the flavor.

7. Try a New Variety of Fish or Shellfish

There are hundreds of species of seafood available in the U.S., and yet most of us only consume two or three.

8. Perfect Pairings

So many of us are trying to incorporate healthier choices right now, and seafood pairs perfectly with fruits and vegetables.

9. Go Beyond Fish & Shellfish

If you’re a vegan or vegetarian, you can also enjoy the health benefits of seafood – try sea vegetables like seaweed and kelp.

10. Start with Seafood

From smoked salmon on a bagel to crab cooked into eggs, breakfast is a perfect time to try seafood.

Dish On Fish: Holiday Anxiety & Seasonal Depression Are No Match for Seafood

Dish on Fish is an excellent seafood blog where you can explore new seafood recipes and learn relevant, relatable and easy-to-understand health and nutrition information about seafood. Hy-Vee is a partner of the National Fisheries Institute, which sponsors the blog and encourages Americans to eat seafood at least twice a week, as recommended by the US Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

Seafood is a vital part of a healthy diet. Hy-Vee strives to provide customers with high-quality, Responsible Choice seafood and our Seafoodies blog provides detailed information and tips. We want to share Dish on Fish with you so you can find more resources, tips and recipes to help you enjoy seafood and reap its benefits.

From Dish on Fish:

The Dish on Fish team loves the holidays! But let’s get real about another aspect of the season: Stress! During a “normal” year the holiday season can be an extremely hectic time. This year the anxiety may be amplified—and on top of that, so may the “wintertime blues.” The good news is that a healthy diet may help lift your winter spirits! Lean protein, vitamins and antioxidants—the same nutrients found in seafood—have been shown to keep the blues at bay. Embracing the mind-food connection and choosing nourishing foods may help improve energy, sleep and mood overall. Studies show that the omega-3s and vitamin D in seafood may help contribute to brain health.

According to the American Psychiatric Association, about 5% of the U.S. population is affected by seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which includes changes in disposition ranging from mild seasonal depression to full-blown seasonal depression. Symptoms include anxiety, depression and fatigue, as well as changes in sleep, appetite and weight. SAD often begins in early fall as the days get shorter and can last for four or five months.

But studies from Iceland and Japan—countries with short winter days and high fish consumption—show there may be a correlation between a high-seafood diet and a reduced risk of SAD.

No question, fish has the nutritional building blocks you need to keep you strong in both body and mind. So, if you’re affected by anxiety or depression this season or just feel less energetic than usual, try eating seafood at least 2 to 3 times each week! We’ve gathered a few of our favorite mood-lightening recipes—in addition to being good for you, they’re super-easy to prepare. Stay well!

Cheesy Pimento Tuna Melt

We don’t want to brag, but our cheesy tuna melt is the best! In just 15 minutes, you have the perfect after-school, after-work or anytime light meal. What’s more, it has 20 grams of protein to help restore your energy.


Maple Pecan-Crusted Salmon

This recipe features an uplifting superfood, salmon, which is bursting with omega-3s and vitamin D. It’s quick-cooking and tasty, too. The tangy-sweet pecan crust really ups the “wow” factor!

Trout with Garlic Lemon Butter Herb Sauce

Delicate trout benefits from a quick skillet sauté and restrained seasonings. This gluten-free, high-protein dish is sure to satisfy the pickiest palates.

Lemon and Walnut-Crusted Cod

Another of our favorite crusted fish recipes, this lemony cod is packed with plenty of protein and B vitamins to power you through the winter weather. It also delivers a double dose of omega-3s with the addition of chopped walnuts.