Seafood strategy: Global Seafood

There have been a lot questions about the safety of imported seafood. Seafood comes from a global supply and it’s necessary to import products from all over the world to meet our customer needs. There isn’t enough domestic (U.S.) production to meet the demand.

In order to offer variety, we must import some of our seafood. All product that is imported is subject to U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) inspection upon arrival in the U.S. Also, all foreign facilities that offer product for sale to the U.S. operate under a FDA-mandated HACCP (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points) plan.

Food safety isn’t our only concern. Hy-Vee goes to great lengths to ensure the fisheries and farms we buy seafood from are responsibly managed, and do not cause any negative environmental impacts.

Hy-Vee owes much of our success to our suppliers who have worked with us to reach and also maintain our Responsible Seafood Commitment. Read more about our efforts here.

We have developed a group of suppliers that share our same goals for food safety. We have a “trust and verify” system in place where we require documentation from our suppliers that our products are safe and that they have proper quality assurance steps in place. This requirement is for all seafood products, no matter where it comes from.

Hy-Vee seafood buyers make sure to buy from reputable suppliers. Our vendors have people onsite testing the products we purchase to ensure that quality always come first. Plus, as an added quality-check, we have a full-time government USDC Lot Inspector onsite at our warehouse in Ankeny, Iowa. He inspects all of Hy-Vee’s fresh seafood along with many frozen products that arrive here. This helps us ensure that our customers are receiving top quality seafood.

Here is a list of the things Hy-Vee’s suppliers must guarantee:

  1. The production facilities comply with FDA’s HACCP guidelines.
  2. They comply with good environmental and aquaculture (if applicable) practices.
  3. The plants apply the HACCP principles to farming, harvesting and processing of fish and shrimp.
  4. The plants guarantee that they have not used illegal additives, antibiotics or other chemicals.
  5. The suppliers use independent lab analysis overseas and in the U.S. for verification.
  6. The supplier does frequent plant visits. Many suppliers have a full-time staff at the plants to verify that the quality standards are met and to pull samples for lab analysis.
  7. The supplier has third-party audits completed at its facilities.
  8. The product has 100 percent traceability.

Over 90 percent of seafood consumed in the U.S. is imported, but Hy-Vee has still successfully worked with its suppliers to only source responsible seafood. Globalization is essential to the seafood industry. Hy-Vee will continue to focus on food safety, sustainability and quality.

Fair Trade Tuna

Hy-Vee is working toward offering 100% Fair Trade tuna by partnering with Anova to supply our fresh seafood cases, sushi shops and Market Grille restaurants.

Fair Trade Certified products are acquired with respect for people and our planet. When customers purchase a product with the Fair Trade Certified label, they can be sure that the fishermen and workers who produced it received a fair deal for their hard work. This means better prices and wages, safer working conditions, environmental protection, and additional funds to invest in community projects like education, health care and clean water.

Fair Trade USA informed us that Hy-Vee is the only retailer that is pursuing an effort of this scale. To learn more about Fair Trade tuna and the process behind the product, check out this short video about a small-scale handline-caught tuna fishing in Indonesia.

Watch the YouTube video on the Fair Trade Program here:

This video was produced by the MDPI Foundation.

Loving Lobster

Lobsters are arguably one of the most delicious seafood treats of the summer. The American lobster is the sweetest, most flavorful lobster around. Lobsters have been an integral part of the coastal region for generations.

When it comes to sourcing these delicious Responsible Choice lobsters, Hy-Vee looks no further than the coast of Maine. The strict management practices enforced there ensure that the lobsters will be around for future generations.

Lobsters are graded as soft-shell (new shell) or hard-shell (old shell). So what’s the difference?

Lobsters will periodically shed their shells as they grow. This can happen as many as 25 times before they are 6 or 7 years old. After that, males shed every year and females shed every two years. When lobsters become very large, molting is less frequent. After they shed they have a paper-thin shell, which can take up to two months to harden, and are called soft-shell, new-shell or shedders. The debate goes on as to which is most tasty, though the soft-shell are definitely easier to crack! Either variety is welcome on our dinner table!

To make the more than 1,000-mile journey to the Midwest, Hy-Vee must source hard-shell lobsters. The more delicate soft-shell lobsters simply will not make the trip.

Upon arrival at our perishable warehouse in Ankeny, Iowa, the lobsters are counted and checked thoroughly before they are placed in our state-of-the-art lobster tank where they sit in holding for 24 hours before being shipped. This ensures that they are hearty and healthy enough to ship.

Then the lobsters make their way to our Hy-Vee stores, where they are often placed on display much to the delight of Seafoodies and children alike. If you have any questions about preparation or how to eat lobster, just visit with your local Hy-Vee seafood counter team. They’re happy to share their knowledge to allow you to enjoy fresh and delicious lobster right in your own home!

Seafood You Can Trust

When it comes to quality and freshness, Hy-Vee always wants to be the best at it. That’s why Hy-Vee placed a full-time U.S.D.C. Lot Inspector onsite at PDI, our perishable distribution center in Ankeny, Iowa.

The inspector examines all of our fresh and frozen seafood to ensure that products meet all of Hy-Vee’s standards and specifications. This is a voluntary program that goes above standard government requirements for seafood.

Seafood is a global industry, which requires Hy-Vee to source responsible seafood from all over the world. Having a full-time government inspector in our warehouse every day, inspecting the products we bring in, helps us to ensure that we are truly sending our stores and customers the freshest, highest quality responsibly sourced seafood in the Midwest.

I have worked with Bryan Sauve, our inspector, for several years now. He is one of the most thorough and knowledgeable people I have ever met in the industry. He takes pride and ownership in what he does. We are very thankful to have him onsite and as a part of our seafood program. He has helped Hy-Vee create one of the best seafood programs in the country.

Our customers can buy Hy-Vee seafood with confidence, knowing that they are bringing home some of the best seafood available.

Bairdi: The Other Snow Crab

Hy-Vee Responsible Choice Alaska Bairdi Snow Crab are considered by fisherman and crab lovers as the best crab on the market. Bairdi’s exceptional sweet flavor and firm texture is easily noticeable over its cousin, the Opilio Snow Crab.

Just how good are the Bairdi? We asked an Alaska Bairdi crab fisherman his opinion.

“I pull out the king crab for guests. I keep the Bairdi for myself!” said Jake Jacobsen, captain of the Polar Sea and Ocean Hunter. Jacobsen has worked for Alaska and West Coast fisheries since 1968 and has operated many vessels. He is currently executive director of Inter-Cooperative Exchange, a crab harvesting cooperative that typically harvests about 70 percent of the Bering Sea crab quota.

Bairdi Snow Crab are found throughout the Bering Sea and typically caught through the use of crab pots, similar to those used to catch the larger King crab. The pots are placed at depths ranging from 114 to 1,100 feet. The season opens in January and typically runs through March or April. The catch is all based on a strict quota basis that is managed by the State of Alaska, the leader in seafood sustainability.

Hy-Vee crab lovers will have the opportunity to try some of this delicious crab throughout the month of June at their local Hy-Vee seafood market.

World’s Premium Whitefish

Responsible Choice Alaska halibut’s eye-catching pearl white flesh and mild, slightly sweet flavor is sure to satisfy any seafoodie’s appetite. Many consider it to be the “steak” of seafood due to its versatility in the kitchen for many signature dishes. The largest of all flatfish, Alaska halibut can grow well over 300 pounds and are referred to by many fisherman as “barn boards” because of their impressive size.

Commercial halibut fishing began more than a century ago in the 1890s. Company-owned steamers carried several small dories or two-man rowboats. It was quite different compared to today’s modern-day halibut boats, which are much larger and versatile for use in all types of Alaska species fisheries.

Each year the International Pacific Halibut Commission (IPHC) uses scientific data to manage and establish the season and determine catch limits. The North Pacific Fishery Management Council in Alaska is responsible for allocating the catch limits among users and user groups fishing off Alaska and developing regulations for the fishery, in line with commission recommendations.

The commercial halibut fishery is very selective in the fish catches, and the bycatch is minimal. This is due to the extremely large circle hooks used when setting longlines. The circle hooks also increase the catch rates and improve the survival rate of undersized halibut that are caught and released. Other regulations, devices and gear restrictions are enforced to also help reduce bycatch and minimize habitat damage.

Because of these excellent management practices, Hy-Vee proudly places the Hy-Vee Responsible Choice logo on Alaska halibut throughout Hy-Vee’s seafood departments.

Hy-Vee customers can stop in now and try the fish to see why they are called the “world’s premium whitefish.” Have your choice between a nice thick fresh halibut steak or premium trimmed boneless halibut portion.

Consolidated Catfish: Hy-Vee’s Source for Catfish

If you’re a fan of catfish and a Hy-Vee customer, it’s likely you’ve enjoyed a product from Consolidated Catfish. Based in Isola, Mississippi, 80 miles north of Jackson, Consolidated Catfish invested millions about a decade ago to create a quality aquaculture environment with the best quality product in the industry. With these improvements in place, Consolidated Catfish is one of the most modern and technically advanced plants in the industry.

Consolidated Catfish produces catfish with exceptional taste and quality. Catfish are raised in ponds filled with fresh water pumped from underground wells. They are nurtured on a diet of high-protein food pellets that give them a light, delicate taste and tender texture. U.S. farm-raised catfish is considered to be one of the most sustainable fish species available, making it a Responsible Choice!

Consolidated Catfish imposes stringent quality control measures, including taste-testing at the farm before harvesting and again at the plant before the fish are unloaded. This helps to ensure a premium, high-quality product. The catfish are kept alive up to the minute they are processed, making them among the freshest freshwater fish available. The entire processing procedure is completed in less than 30 minutes. The fish are then placed on ice or individually quick-frozen to preserve the taste and quality of the fish. To further ensure the quality of its catfish, Consolidated Catfish was the first processor in the catfish industry to implement a USDC-approved HACCP quality assurance program.

The farm-raised catfish is a pure, white meat fish that’s lean and an excellent source of protein. It’s versatile and can be enjoyed fried, blackened, poached, grilled, barbecued, baked or broiled. Hy-Vee stores offer a variety of Consolidated Catfish products that include whole fish, fillets, nuggets, strips, breaded catfish and hushpuppies.

Responsible Choice, Fair Trade Tuna

Fair Trade Certified logoThis month Hy-Vee is proud to promote our Responsible Choice Natural Blue Frozen Handline Caught Yellowfin Tuna Steaks. What sets this apart from similar products is the fact it is Fair Trade Certified.

Hy-Vee partnered with Anova Seafood to supply our Natural Blue Brand Tuna Steaks. Anova’s product is the first tuna steak in the world to be Fair Trade Certified. This is another great step toward seafood sustainability throughout the industry.

What is Fair Trade?

Fair Trade is a simple way to make every purchase matter. When consumers purchase a product with the Fair Trade Certified™ label, they know the fishermen and workers in the production process received a fair contract for their hard work. These contracts provide better prices and wages, safer working conditions and environmental protection. The communities also receive premiums to assist with community development, helping with necessary projects like education, health care and clean water.

How will fishermen and fisheries benefit from Fair Trade practices?

  • More Resilient Livelihoods in Coastal Communities: Fair Trade standards ensure safe working and living conditions and equitable prices.
  • Greater Access to Capital: Fishermen can use Fair Trade Premiums to invest in projects that improve the welfare of the community.
  • Enhanced Environmental Stewardship: Fair Trade criteria include responsible resource management and ecosystem protection.

For additional information on this Fair Trade program, read more on the program’s website.

Responsible Choice Walleye Available at Hy-Vee

Hy-Vee opened two brand new stores in September – the very first two in the Twin Cities area of Minnesota. Although Hy-Vee has had several Minnesota store locations for years, these store openings reminded us just how much our customers love walleye.

Walleye is king in Minnesota, and customers throughout Hy-Vee’s trade area enjoy the fish. Hy-Vee’s walleye is a Responsible Choice. It’s wild caught by a recently MSC-certified fishery in Lake Erie. You can read more about the certification on the Marine Stewardship Council’s website:

Hy-Vee’s Responsible Choice walleye is sourced from La Nassa Foods, located in the heart of the Lake Erie fishing community in Kingsville, Ontario. La Nassa Foods has been a leader in the processing and distribution of fresh water fish for nearly 30 years.

Strategically located in Kingsville, one of the major Lake Erie commercial fishing ports, La Nassa manages the finest Lake Erie fish landed daily by their fishing fleet.
La Nassa’s Responsible Choice walleye is a premium-quality, versatile and upscale delicacy. Its lean, snowy white flesh flakes when cooked, providing a sensational, sweet-flavored taste.

Another popular fish Hy-Vee sources from La Nassa is whitefish. This fish’s delicate white flesh has a large flake and rich flavor. The popularity of this fish can be attributed to its versatility. It can be used with virtually any fish recipe.

Responsible Choice walleye assures customers that this choice is of the highest quality and that Hy-Vee and the companies we work with are committed to responsible seafood. Visit your local Hy-Vee’s seafood department – no matter where you’re located in Hy-Vee land – to try these delicious, Responsible Choice items today.

Hy-Vee Offering Responsible Choice Yellowfin Tuna – Perfect for Sushi

Hy-Vee stores are offering a new Responsible Choice Sushi-Ready Yellowfin Tuna for our customers. The tuna is caught in North Sulawesi, Indonesia. Indonesia is one of the most important producers of tuna and large pelagic fish in the world. Indonesia’s territorial waters adjoin both the Indian Ocean and the Western Central Pacific Ocean, two of the world’s most important fishing grounds for tuna.

Fishermen use small vessels and artisanal handlines – one hook, one line and one fish at a time. This fishing method does not impact other species or the marine environment.

Promptly after being caught, the tuna is quickly frozen to -76 degrees Fahrenheit to protect perfect natural color, flavor and texture. It also suspends all bacterial action. The specific process used for this tuna is the key to keeping the sashimi quality. The tuna is never treated with preservatives.

This is truly the best quality tuna available with a full chain of custody traceability. Visit your local Hy-Vee and ask one of our seafood specialists about Responsible Choice Sushi-Ready Yellowfin Tuna today.