What’s next in sustainable seafood

fish fillet

From High Liner Foods.

When it comes to seafood, the message about sustainability has reached the ears of both chefs and consumers loud and clear.

In the National Restaurant Association’s most recent annual “What’s Hot” survey, chefs again pegged sustainable seafood as one of this year’s top 5 food trends. That trend goes hand in hand with the 60% of college students who say that food being sustainable affects their purchasing decisions—according to Technomic’s 2017 College & University report, 58% also say that socially responsible foods are important to them.

With numbers like these, it’s not surprising that more and more foodservice directors are paying closer attention to where their seafood and other foods come from.

What to look for: certification matters

A number of certifying bodies are working to provide foodservice operations and retailers assurance that the seafood they buy is sustainable.

The Marine Stewardship Council’s certification program has helped bring about more stable wild stocks, less bycatch and improved monitoring and management. Fisheries seeking MSC certification undergo a 12- to 18-month assessment period where an independent body assesses three principles: health of target stock, wider ecosystem marine impacts (including bycatch and interactions with endangered, threatened or protected species) and management of the fishery.

The Aquaculture Stewardship Council sets standards for eight varieties of farmed fresh and salt water seafood; producers must show they actively minimize their impact on the surrounding natural environment, carefully manage fish health and resources and operate in a socially responsible manner. ASC’s standards evolve to reflect current best practices and are designed to encourage innovation.

Best Aquaculture Practices certification covers farms, hatcheries, feed mills and seafood processing and repacking plants. BAP audits ensure seafood is produced in a way that is considerate of the health of the animal and consumer, is socially responsible toward the people and communities farming and processing the seafood and respects and protects the surrounding environment.

Aquaculture on the rise: producing more natural fish

Farm-raised seafood, or aquaculture, has evolved in recent years and is an ever-more-important portion of the total supply. Today, more than half the world’s seafood supply is farmed, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.

Besides easing the pressure on wild-caught supplies, farm-raised product has several key advantages for restaurants: the supply is more consistent, and pricing tends to be stable. In addition, aquaculture facilities can be located virtually anywhere, minimizing the need for both shipping long distances and for refrigeration, which reduces the product’s carbon footprint.

Choosing sustainably sourced seafood is just one element of a foodservice establishment’s overall sustainability efforts. And when it comes to appealing to younger consumers, sustainability is key—about a third of college students say it’s important for dining services to source local/organic/sustainable ingredients, according to Technomic’s 2017 College & University report.

And while sustainable seafood isn’t a new concept, the methods by which it’s achieved are evolving. New aquaculture methods, as well as expanding the species that are produced by it, make it easier than ever for foodservice locations in healthcare facilities, on college campuses and beyond to offer consumers what they’re looking for when it comes to earth-friendly foods.

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