Hy-Vee’s One-Year Anniversary of the 2015 Responsible Sourcing Commitment Announcement

One year ago we were pleased to announce the addition of a Responsible Sourcing Commitment to our comprehensive Seafood Procurement Policy. The policy and commitment were developed in partnership with FishWise, a non-profit organization focused on supporting sustainability through environmentally responsible business practices.

To protect marine resources and ensure future seafood supplies, Hy-Vee committed to sell responsibly sourced fresh and private label frozen seafood that is rated as a Green “Best Choice” or 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 processes by the end of 2015.

Hy-Vee added the Responsible Sourcing Commitment to its Seafood Procurement Policy to underscore our company’s commitment to providing high quality seafood that is safe for consumption and also harvested or raised in a manner that provides for its long-term viability (sustainability) while minimizing damage to the environment and other sea life.

Hy-Vee is steadily working toward the goal established in our policy. In January 2014, 62 percent of the fresh and private label frozen seafood offered at Hy-Vee met the commitment. As of January 2015, 79 percent of our fresh and private label frozen seafood now meets the commitment, which is a 17 percent increase in just one year!

We continue to strengthen our traceability and transparency through the Responsible Choice labeling program. Seafood products bearing the Responsible Choice symbol meet Hy-Vee’s policy and are caught or farmed in a responsible manner. Specifically, these options are Green or Yellow rated as described above, or certified to an environmental standard equivalent to these ratings.

As we approach the 2015 year-end deadline, we will focus on increasing the number of Responsible Choice items available to customers, including farmed salmon and farmed shrimp items.

Hy-Vee is leading major retailers through our conservation initiative efforts. You can read more details on our recently updated Responsible Choice Seafood website. We’re working to continue our progress in the coming year. We are dedicated to achieving our 2015 goal, and will continue to be responsible seafood champions in the years ahead.

Responsible Choice Oysters Will Please Your Holiday Guests

Hy-Vee customers who love oysters can feel confident that they are making a Responsible Choice when buying wild oysters from the fisheries of U.S. Gulf of Mexico states. The Gulf of Mexico is a well-managed area, and because oysters are often eaten raw, the beds are constantly monitored to make sure their oysters are safe to harvest and consume. All Hy-Vee’s shucked oysters are considered a Responsible Choice, so rest assured that you are purchasing a fresh product that was harvested in a manner that is also safe for the ecosystem.

Hy-Vee’s fresh shucked oysters vary in size and weight depending on season and harvest area. Our shucked oysters are sorted into three categories: standard, select and count. Our standard oysters are normal-sized oysters perfect for stews and stuffing. Select oysters are larger than normal and are great for stews and frying. Count oysters are the very largest of the harvest and are ideal for large fried oysters.

Each shipment of shucked oysters is inspected by our onsite U.S. Department of Commerce (USDC) inspector at our warehouse in Ankeny, guaranteeing the highest quality and freshness throughout Hy-Vee’s eight-state region.

If you’re entertaining guests and serving oysters, consider offering beers that complement the oysters’ flavor. Brain Hoppe, a certified cicerone at our Hy-Vee South store in Iowa City, says stouts — Old-World Guinness may be a good one — have a rich caramel quality that accentuates the creamy aspect of seafood, making them the perfect match.

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and have fun entertaining!

Responsible Choice Belize Shrimp Stands Out in Your Holiday Recipes

At Hy-Vee, we are determined to promote healthy oceans and ensure the long-term sustainability of the seafood supply, both in the United States and abroad. As a part of this commitment and our Responsible Choice initiative, we are proud to offer Belize shrimp to our customers.

responsible-choice-logoResponsible Choice Belize shrimp are from farms in an area of the world with the ideal conditions for shrimp farming including perfect weather, clean water and farmers who care for the product. These shrimp are truly fresh out of the water. The shrimp’s processing contains no additives or preservatives, including no added water. In addition, the processing facility is only 10 minutes away from the farm, which is much closer than the industry standard of four to 12 hours. The combination of the production and processing standards means that you won’t find anything more natural or fresh than this shrimp.

With the holidays upon us, taste is especially important while entertaining. The shrimp have a unique taste, considered sweet by many customers’ palates. Belize shrimp will cook in half the time as typical shrimp, usually only about one to two minutes, due to their freshly harvested properties. When cooked, they turn a vibrant red color, darker than others you may have seen, which will make your shrimp dishes even more striking. To enjoy some of the best-tasting shrimp in the world, just use Belize shrimp in your favorite holiday shrimp recipes. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Responsible Choice Copper River Wild Sockeye Salmon

If you enjoy delicious, quality wild salmon—Hy-Vee has great news to share. We have a large amount of Copper River sockeye salmon for our frozen supply this year, allowing us to offer it to you year-round. These fish originate from the world-famous Copper River, famous for the best salmon available anywhere. It’s all Responsible Choice and a testament to our commitment to responsibly source all fresh and Hy-Vee brand fish and seafood.

The Copper River or Ahtna River is a 300-mile river in south-central Alaska in the United States. It drains a large region of the Wrangell Mountains and Chugach Mountains into the Gulf of Alaska. It is known for its extensive delta ecosystem, as well as for its prolific runs of wild salmon, which are among the most highly prized stocks in the world. It is the tenth-largest river in the United States, as ranked by average discharge volume at its mouth. The longer the river, the richer the salmon!

Hailing from the swift, icy waters of Alaska’s Copper River are world-renowned king and sockeye salmon. It can be argued that Alaska’s Copper River sockeye are the finest sockeye salmon in the world. These amazing fish have an extremely high fat content, a high heart-healthy omega-3 content, and a rich flavor and deep ruby-red color. Copper River sockeye have a higher-than-average oil content due to the swift, cold waters of this mighty river.

Because this salmon is 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.

Belize Shrimp is Not Your Ordinary Farmed Shrimp

Responsible Choice Belize shrimp are produced from one of the most environmentally advanced eco-aquaculture systems in the world. As the name suggests, the farms are located in Belize and the physical location and the production method provide the ideal environment for shrimp farming – perfect weather, nutritious water and farmers who care for the product.

The ponds in which these shrimp are raised contain ocean seawater which is pumped directly from the Caribbean Sea. Belize Aquaculture has a “Best Aquaculture Practices” or “BAP” 3 star rating, which is one step from the highest rating. This has been achieved in part thanks to advanced education and training, and has helped to raise industry standards in minimizing the impact on coastal waters and wildlife.

The shrimp have a sweet and succulent taste unique to only them, a characteristic resulting from their diet. They have are no additives or preservatives, including no added water. These shrimp are just how they should be—“fresh out of the water.” In addition, the processing facility is only 10 minutes away from the farm, which is much closer than the industry standard of four to 12 hours. The combination of the production and processing standards means that you won’t find anything more natural or fresh than this shrimp.

Belize shrimp cook in half the time as typical shrimp (only one to two minutes) due to the nature of their freshly harvested properties. When cooked, they turn a vibrant red color, darker than others you may have seen. Simply use your favorite recipe and enjoy some of the best-tasting shrimp in the world, easily purchased at your local Hy-Vee store. As a part of Hy-Vee’s commitment to sustainable seafood and our Responsible Choice initiative, we are excited to introduce Belize shrimp to our customers and into our seafood cases.

I have tried several different kinds of shrimp of the years. This is truly the best shrimp I have ever had. It is like eating candy, only better!

Belize Shrimp

Measuring the Impact: Two Views on the Effect Hy-Vee’s Switch to Responsible Choice Seafood is Having on the Oceans

Kenan here:

By taking a proactive stand and role with our Responsible Choice seafood program, Hy-Vee is having a positive impact on the environment and ecosystem, step by step.

We are very committed to this. An important first step in that commitment involves educating our employees, so they can educate our customers, who have been clear that they want to know where their food comes from and how it’s being handled and raised.

We’re able to tell them that we’ve already made a difference in educating our suppliers and helping them to think differently about how fish is caught and raised. They’ve listened, and any time people become more aware, change occurs. This is also about the livelihoods of fishermen, because making changes ensures they will have a market for their catches in the future.

Changes won’t occur overnight, but any time you make improvements, you are helping. And any time you think about it, you are helping. I truly believe that any time you think about it as a retailer sourcing fish or as a consumer buying their catch, you’re having an impact. We make changes with our purchasing power.

We are looking at every species and how we can make improvements. We’re constantly asking ourselves, “What can we do better?”

We’re committed, but it’s a journey. We won’t get there overnight, but we will get there.

Kathleen here:

Kenan is absolutely right.

Hy-Vee’s purchasing power is making some changes on the water with more responsible sourcing. It’s already reducing bycatch and preventing overfishing to ensure seafood will be available for future generations to enjoy.

Because this is a brand new initiative, the changes are somewhat theoretical. But Hy-Vee is definitely leading the way and if all grocery chains in the United States had similar programs, the results would be more immediately quantifiable.

Some of the changes are showing up in the Hy-Vee seafood cases. They’ve dropped some notoriously overfished species, such as Atlantic cod, whose populations have been all but depleted by unsustainable practices. Also gone are some species of rock fish, which are long living and slow to mature. Allowing them to reach maturity means their populations will have a chance to recover.

Changes in harvesting is also minimizing damage to the ecosystem in other ways. Certain fishing methods are relatively unselective and practices are changing. Hy-Vee’s tuna supplier, for example, eliminated long lines with a thousand hooks and replaced them with poles with a single hook, which means fewer sea birds, sea turtles, juvenile tuna and other incidental species are being caught.

We’re also seeing a switch from bottom trawling, or the use of a heavy net to catch species such as shrimp, cod, sole and flounder that reside on the sea floor. The net scoops up everything in its path, from fish to corals, and tears up the habitat young fish need to survive.

These may seem like small steps, but they are important steps. Cumulatively, they are making a difference.

Responsible Sourcing: It’s About Doing the Right Thing

Boat on Alaskan waters

At Hy-Vee, we’ve made a commitment to consumers and to the industry to responsibly source all of our fresh and Hy-Vee brand frozen seafood by the end of 2015. In the long-run, our sourcing standards mean healthier oceans and better seafood.

We think this commitment to sustainable seafood is both a corporate responsibility and a continuation of Hy-Vee’s policy to respond to consumer demand. Our job is to do the right thing. It’s part of our mantra and our brand to do the right thing for the environment and sea life. We think that’s important, and it’s becoming more and more evident that our customers are concerned with where their food comes from, how it’s raised and how it’s caught.

Customers will be able to see our commitment through our Responsible Choice labeling, shelf strips and other signage in the fresh seafood case and on our frozen Hy-Vee brand fish.

When I talk to customers about sourcing sustainable seafood or, as we call it, responsible choice seafood, they usually have three questions:

  1. What does responsible sourcing mean?
    It means purchasing seafood from fisheries and fish farms that minimize damage to the environment and other sea life, so we can ensure it will be around for future generations to enjoy.
  2. Why is Hy-Vee doing this?
    It’s simple. Hy-Vee is committed to doing the right thing. It’s the right thing for the people who work in the seafood industry and it’s the right thing for the environment. It’s a good thing for Hy-Vee, it’s a good thing for the customers and it’s a good thing for the people we do business with.
  3. If it doesn’t have Responsible Choice on the label, is it OK to eat?
    Absolutely. We’re working with our vendors to make positive changes to improve the sustainability of fisheries and farms that do not yet meet our responsible sourcing commitment. However, It’s important to not to confuse this with quality. We’ve always stood for quality and we are always going to have great quality seafood.

This is more about taking care of the environment and protecting the long-term viability of seafood species, and to make sure that happens – at least on our watch.