Hy-Vee Responsible Choice Initiative Sets a High Bar for Seafood Traceability

Up to 32 percent of seafood imported to the United States is caught illegally, according to a study published in the peer-reviewed journal Marine Policy in April 2014. Illegally harvested seafood, along with its many implications – nutritional concern, sourcing methods and environmental impact – is one of the reasons Hy-Vee is working to ensure it is part of the solution when it comes to responsible seafood.

Hy-Vee holds itself to high standards through the Responsible Choice initiative, especially dealing with transparency and traceability. Illegally harvested seafood is currently entering the U.S. through legitimate market channels, making it essential that Hy-Vee and all retailers implement and follow strict traceability measures. That is why Hy-Vee has committed to having its seafood traceable back to the point of harvest, either the source vessel or farm, by the end of 2015. And our progress is encouraging. As of January 2015, 79 percent of Hy-Vee’s fresh and private label frozen seafood met the goal of being responsibly sourced and traceable.

Through the Responsible Choice initiative, Hy-Vee has established strict criteria when it comes to traceability. But what does this actually mean? Traceable seafood can be tracked through each link in the supply chain to its original source. It is crucial to ensure food safety, logistical efficiency, sustainability claims, legality of catch or farm, and proper labeling.

Hy-Vee is able to establish and enforce its responsible seafood efforts with the help of our non-governmental organization partner, FishWise. The organization works with companies throughout the seafood supply chain to support conservation through environmentally responsible business practices.

To this end, Hy-Vee has taken several steps to ensure traceability remains a high priority by regularly collecting information about the chain of custody and sustainability attributes of seafood products from our suppliers; periodically conducting desktop audits of seafood items to ensure they are traceable from a Hy-Vee store back to the point of harvest; and working with vendors to meet our commitment to responsible sourcing and traceability.

Additionally, Hy-Vee has supported federal legislation aimed at minimizing the amount of illegal seafood imported into the United States. Hy-Vee recently sent letters to members of Congress urging them to pass legislation that would close U.S. ports to vessels suspected of carrying illegally harvested fish.

Hy-Vee continues to keep our customers and the environment top of mind. It is our job, and the responsibility of retailers like us, to ensure only a safe, quality selection of seafood is provided to our customers. The Responsible Choice initiative lays the groundwork and sets a standard for us to follow. Traceability is a key component in providing an environmentally responsible and safe product for our customers, and a commitment we are proud to keep.

Sources:
Ganapathiraju Pramod, Katrina Nakamura, Tony J. Pitcher, Leslie Delagran. Estimates of illegal and unreported fish in seafood imports to the USA. Marine Policy, April 2014.

Author: John Rohrs

I’m John Rohrs, seafood purchasing manager at Perishable Distributors of Iowa, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Hy-Vee established in 1982 to provide a central distribution system for perishable products to Iowa stores. In my job, I work with stores to help create more sales and educate employees on seafood. Through Hy-Vee’s Responsible Choice initiative I’ve enjoyed meeting and communicating with vendors and creating the friendships that make our partnerships work.