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.


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.

Hy-Vee Celebrates Responsible Seafood Program Achievements

Hy-Vee has completed its seafood sourcing due diligence plan two years ahead of schedule, concluding another successful year for its Responsible Seafood Program.

In 2017, Hy-Vee and FishWise created a 5-year due diligence plan to increase visibility into its seafood supply chains and reduce risks related to illegal and unethical fishing practices. The plan included specific steps to put Hy-Vee’s Seafood Procurement Policy into action. Since 2012, Hy-Vee has been working to build its best-in-class seafood program with increasing expectations and efforts for transparent, socially responsible seafood supply chains.

“Hy-Vee recognizes that responsible seafood is about more than environmental sustainability,” said Jason Pride, vice president of meat and seafood for Hy-Vee. “Transparent supply chains are essential for ensuring that seafood is harvested sustainably, legally and under fair labor conditions. Global seafood supply chains are complex and don’t necessarily provide adequate transparency. This is why Hy-Vee takes a proactive approach to confronting the uncertainty about the journey our seafood takes from the fishing boat to the dinner table.”

For the fourth year in a row, all fresh and frozen seafood as well as seafood used in Hy-Vee’s Nori sushi bars meet its policy for environmental sustainability. Hy-Vee’s private label shelf-stable tuna offerings meet the policy for the third year in a row. Continued compliance is directly attributed to regular data collection, strong relationships with seafood suppliers, and the seafood product pre-screening developed with its sustainable seafood partner, FishWise.

Hy-Vee will continue its efforts in 2021 with the help of FishWise, creating an extensive new due diligence plan to continue its dedication to the Responsible Seafood Program.



Wild Alaska Crab



All Alaska crab sold by Hy-Vee is labeled with our Responsible Choice logo because Alaska crab fisheries are some of the best-managed wild fisheries in the world.

In Alaska, crab is king. No other shellfish in the world offers such widespread appeal than Alaska King Crab. Harvested from the icy waters off Alaska, this shellfish is always sweet, succulent and flavorful. It is also nutritious, low in fat and is unmatched for its natural rich flavor and tender texture. The largest and most impressive of all the crabs caught in the world, Alaska King Crab lends itself to a variety of attractive plate presentations from appetizers, chowders and soups to main course entries.

Regal, royal and rich in flavor, Alaska king crabs come from some of the coldest waters and are among the finest of all crustaceans. What’s your favorite way to prepare them? Here is one of ours. #AskForAlaska

PREP TIME 10 minutes
COOK TIME 10 minutes

3 to 4 pounds Alaska Crab legs (King, Snow or Dungeness), thawed or frozen

Fill large sauté or fry pan to 1/2-inch depth with water; add crab legs and bring to boil; reduce heat, cover and simmer for 8 to 10 minutes for frozen crab or 3 to 4 minutes for thawed crab, until heated-through.  Drain and serve with dipping sauce of choice.


Rouille Sauce:
1/3 cup bottled roasted red peppers
2 cloves minced garlic
2/3 cup low-fat mayonnaise
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Combine peppers and garlic in food processor and process until well minced. Pulse in remaining ingredients until well combined.

Basil-Mint Pesto Sauce:
2 cups fresh basil leaves
1-1/2 cups fresh mint leaves
1/2 cup olive oil
3 Tablespoons toasted walnuts
3 cloves garlic
3-1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Combine basil, mint, oil, walnuts, garlic and lemon juice in a food processor; puree until smooth. Add Parmesan and pulse until well combined.

Variation: For a creamier sauce, combine 1/4 cup Basil-Mint Pesto sauce with 1/2 cup low-fat mayonnaise.

Mediterranean Dip:
1 jar (6.5 oz.) artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup low-fat sour cream
1 cup low-fat mayonnaise
1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes (dehydrated or drained), chopped
1 can (4 oz.) sliced olives, drained
1/4 cup chopped fresh chives OR 2 Tablespoons sliced green onions

Blend artichoke hearts, Parmesan cheese, sour cream, mayonnaise, sun-dried tomatoes, olives, and chives in bowl.
Variation: Bake at 350ºF until bubbly.

Butter Sauce:
1/2 cup unsalted melted butter
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
3/4 teaspoon garlic salt
1/2 teaspoon dried dill weed
Dash white pepper

Blend ingredients together in a bowl.

Cook’s Tip: Dips can also be prepared up to two days in advance, reheating butter sauce as needed.

Hy-Vee’s Annual Seafood Sale

It’s time for Hy-Vee’s annual crab and seafood sale, a tradition we’ve had for nine years. It’s the absolute best time of the year to pick up some of Alaska’s most prized and sustainable resources. All Wild Alaska crab sold by Hy-Vee is labeled with our Responsible Choice logo because Alaska crab fisheries are some of the best-managed wild fisheries in the world.











The tradition in Alaska and the Pacific Northwest is to always serve Wild Caught Alaska Seafood during the Holidays to honor the fishermen and women that risk their lives bringing the bounty of the sea to our tables.

Check out Hy-VeeDeals.com for details about this year’s featured items, which you’ll find in stores on through Hy-Vee Aisles Online grocery shopping service. This year may be different than the past, but we can still find reasons to celebrate. Happy Holidays!

Oyster Stuffing For Your Thanksgiving Spread

Oyster Stuffing

White bowl filled with bread cubes, chopped cooked bacon, sliced celery, and oysters

New Englanders are on to something special. Adding oysters to Thanksgiving stuffing gives it an extra depth of flavor. It’s not strong or overpowering, just a nice background note.


Quantity Ingredient
1 lbs. Hy-Vee bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 medium onions, finely chopped
1 ½ c. chopped celery
1 tbsp. finely chopped fresh sage or 2 tsp dried sage, crumbled
½ tsp. Hy-Vee salt
¼ tsp. Hy-Vee black pepper
2 (12 oz each) bags Pepperidge Farm stuffing
½ c. Hy-Vee unsalted butter, melted
2 (8 oz each) cans Chicken of the Sea oysters, drained
3 Hy-Vee large eggs, lightly beaten
1 ½ c. Hy-Vee chicken broth, plus additional if needed


  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter a 3- to 3-1/2-quart shallow baking dish.
  2. In a large skillet, cook bacon pieces over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until crisp, about 10 minutes. Transfer bacon to paper towels to drain, reserving drippings in skillet.
  3. Add onions, celery, sage, salt and pepper in drippings in skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until vegetables soften, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer vegetables to a large bowl. Stir in stuffing, cooked bacon pieces, butter, oysters and eggs.
  4. Add chicken broth to stuffing mixture. Add additional broth, as necessary, if stuffing seems dry. Transfer to prepared dish.
  5. Bake stuffing, covered, 30 minutes. Uncover and continue to bake until browned, about 30 minutes more.

J.P.’s Barstool Cocktail Oysters

On any given day, J.P.’s Shellfish offer a wide variety of the finest Atlantic fresh oysters available. Each day, they direct source no less than 15 different bed specific oysters from the nutrient rich waters of the North Atlantic.

Hy-Vee is featuring Barstool Cocktail Oysters, nicely cupped cocktail size (2.5” – 3”) oysters from the pristine waters of Rustico Bay, part of Prince Edward Islands’s legendary string of north coast oyster bays. Rustico is a tiny, picturesque lobstering town located along the north shore of Prince Edward Island. Its shells tend to be light in color with a crisp clean flavor that gives a brininess up front and a sweet finish.

There are a virtually infinite number of factors that affect the characteristics of an oyster.  These include, but are not limited to, such criteria as salinity, method of culture, seasonality, shell strength, meat fullness, size, etc.  Check out J.P.’s comprehensive SHELLFISH ASSESSMENT CHART for a more detailed qualitative and comparative analysis of each variety.

J.P.’s is very particular about which varieties of oysters they source. Their product is high-quality and a tremendous value. Hy-Vee is confident that you will appreciate these differences in availability, quality, shelf life, and the environmentally conscientious fashion in which J.P.’s oysters are grown and harvested. Plus, Hy-Vee’s onsite USDC Lot Inspector checks all incoming seafood to ensure freshness and quality before it goes home to your table.

Learn more at your Hy-Vee seafood counter today!

Wild Alaska Cod

One of the most popular North Pacific ground fish, Alaska Cod is the highest-quality cod available. Harvested throughout the Gulf of Alaska, Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands, Alaska Cod is available fresh in the fall and winter, and frozen year-round.

Alaska has pioneered the standard for sustainable, eco-friendly fisheries. Alaska’s cod fisheries are Green rated by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch program, indicating that Alaska cod is a “Best Choice” for consumers to purchase because it’s from fisheries that are well managed and caught using methods that cause little harm to habitats and other wildlife. By proactively ensuring a healthy, wild and sustainable harvest, Alaska is protecting its superior seafood for future generations.

With a slightly sweet flavor and a moist, firm texture, Alaska Cod adapts easily to most cooking methods. It can be roasted, poached, steamed, sautéed or deep-fried for fish and chips. Alaska Cod is also perfectly complemented by a wide array of sauces, herbs, spices and coatings. It’s available in fillets and in portions. Alaska Cod can star on its own in the center of the plate, but it’s also excellent as an ingredient in salads, appetizers and chowders.

Visit your Hy-Vee seafood counter today and ask about wild Alaska Cod!

Together We Make A Difference

This October it’s Fair Trade Month and National Seafood Month, so we at Fair Trade USA are celebrating the impact each shopper makes by purchasing Fair Trade Certified goods like tuna, scallops, salmon and shrimp at Hy-Vee stores.

We at Fair Trade USA are a part of a global movement based on the simple idea that the products bought and sold every day are connected to the livelihoods of others. When you see a product with the Fair Trade Certified seal, you can be sure it was made according to rigorous social, environmental, and economic standards. Choosing to purchase Fair Trade Certified goods is choosing to support responsible companies, empower farmers, workers, and fishermen, and protect the environment. In other words, it’s a world-changing way of doing business.

In 2014, Fair Trade USA launched it’s Seafood program and since then we’ve seen sustainability in global seafood production expand to include not only environmental protections but social and economic ones as well. The first year of the program saw partners deliver a total of $5,000 in funds back to their first beneficiary fishers. By 2018, Fair Trade USA partners had imported nearly 9 million pounds of Fair Trade Certified seafood, delivering a total of nearly $500,000 back to fishing communities around the world.

In these difficult times, we see fishers as the essential workers that they are. These unsung heroes have taken a major demand and price hit during the pandemic. Still, they’re showing great determination and perseverance to keep supplying us with a sustainable source of nutrition. Raising their standards through the purchase of #FairTradeCertified goods means they can continue to support themselves and their families during these trying times.

That’s why this year we’re going the extra mile to encourage shoppers to sign a pledge to seek the seal and share why fair trade matters to them on social media with #ShareYourFair. Pledge here https://p2a.co/ShareYourFair

Individually we make a choice. Together we make a difference. Happy Fair Trade and National Seafood Month!


Yellow fin tuna are caught off the Maldives, Indian ocean, Nov, 2016.