Watching the trends in sustainable seafood

Watching the trends on seafood delights
Whether it’s succulent lobster from Prince Edward Island, scallops from Nova Scotia, mussels from Newfoundland or spot prawns from British Columbia, Canada is home to some of the world’s best shellfish and seafood. Canadian Restaurant & Foodservice News recently asked several of Canada’s top seafood suppliers and experts to weigh in on the latest developments, trends and issues when it comes to bringing the best the oceans have to offer to Canadian consumers. Read on to discover what our roundtable panel had to say.


Cyr Couturier, President, Newfoundland Aquaculture Industry Association
Philman George, Chef/Culinary Manager, Foodservice Division, High Liner Foods
Mark Tytel, National Director of Foodservice Sales and Marketing, Export Packers Company Ltd.

What are some of the most exciting new trends and developments when it comes to shrimp, lobster, crab, mussels and other shellfish?

Philman George: We’ve seen growth in value-added shellfish appetizers over the last five years, even though the appetizer market has been challenged. Consumer demand for sustainable choices has been an ongoing development as well.

Mark Tytel: One of the biggest trends is the emergence of a more environmentally-aware restaurant patron – they care whether the fish and seafood they’re ordering has been produced sustainably. This has been part of the restaurant business in B.C. for awhile now, but is something relatively new in mainstream Ontario

How are the above developments reflective of current consumer behavior and preferences?

Cyr Couturier: Consumers are increasingly wanting to know where their food comes from; that it is safe, wholesome and nutritious; that it’s traceable and locally produced. They also want convenience and value for product, and to know the food is not harmful to the environment.

MT: Consumers care about how the shrimp and seafood they’re eating got on their plate; it’s not about just having a clean ingredient deck, but did the product come from a facility where things like ethical audits are conducted? Are workers getting a fair wage? Consumers today understand that there is a cost associated with that level of scrutiny.

There has been increased media coverage with regard to the quality of certain types of shellfish. What do operators need to consider when selecting the safest, highest-quality product?

CC: Fresh farmed shellfish, like mussels or oysters, will have a date of harvest or best-before date on the packaging. The source will be identified as well, and customers can find out more about the farmers and their methods, and things like credentials on food safety, environmental sustainability, and social welfare, by the certified product labels (organic, BAP, etc.). This is their guarantee.

PG: For farm-raised products, it’s important to source BAP (Best Aquaculture Practices) certified seafood. BAP is a global standard that addresses environmental and social responsibility, animal welfare, food safety and traceability. For wild-caught shellfish, look for the MSC or OceanWise certification. Work with reputable suppliers that conduct routine food safety analysis, plant audits, and traceability from product source to your plate.

MT: An article was published very recently about the safety of shrimp which was inaccurate and misleading. Export Packers is the largest importer of shrimp in Canada. All the shrimp we sell comes from facilities that have passed rigorous, independent third-party audits which monitor and regulate a wide range of things, from water quality and sources of feed to human rights. They work in conjunction with local governments to make sure human rights requirements are met, and benchmark themselves against internationally recognized standards on things like the ethical treatment of employees. Your best bet is always to talk to your supplier and ask if the product they are selling is certified and is traceable all the way back to the source.

Talk a bit about the importance of using local or sustainable sources of shellfish.

CC: Buying locally and regionally produced shellfish or finfish means you are using the freshest, best-quality seafood for your customers to enjoy. It also means you are doing something responsible for the environment, as shellfish are net reducers of climate carbon impacts, and if sourced locally, you are reducing the environmental costs of transport. From a sustainability perspective, a local, fresh, farmed and certified product is the best for chefs.

PG: Using Canadian shellfish will keep your establishment on trend and help grow our Canadian seafood industry at the same time. Do not limit yourself to only wild-caught shellfish. The only way we are going to feed nine billion people in the years to come is to embrace seafood farming. Look to responsibly sourced seafood from BAP, MSC and OceanWise programs.

Is there any difference between the quality of farmed shellfish (such as shrimp) and wild sources? If so, what should operators be looking for?

CC: Both are excellent sources of important minerals, omega-3s and vitamins, but their best attribute is that they are great tasting, healthy and nutritious products. Generally speaking, farmed shellfish, like mussels or oysters, are harvested fresh upon order, unlike some wild shellfish that may be harvested and stored before shipping to customers. Farmed shellfish from Canada will always have a harvest code, date, and location – this is not true of wild shellfish. In addition, it all goes through a registered processing plant for food safety purposes, so there is a guarantee implicit in that. Some wild shellfish will contain sand, grit, rough-looking shells, thicker shells and less meat. Farmed shellfish are available fresh 365 days of the year; wild shellfish are available seasonally as fishing permits allow. This is an important attribute for restaurateurs who wish to have fresh seafood on their menus all year long.

PG: There is not much difference in terms of quality when you compare wild-caught versus BAP-certified shellfish. It really comes down to preference and availability. For example, a small operation may have the luxury of only sourcing local and wild shellfish, and can adjust their menu based on availability.  Larger operations like chains need to have a consistent product and a guaranteed supply. This is where farmed shellfish can play a huge role.

MT: There is a difference in the eating experience between species, more than whether the product is wild or farmed. For example, the black tiger shrimp has more crunch or bite than the Vannamei white shrimp, which has a softer texture and sweeter taste. However, because wild-caught fish and seafood have a free-range diet you could have a different taste experience at different times of the year. It should also be pointed out that the availability of sustainable aquaculture shrimp far outweighs certified sustainable wild-caught shrimp today. Most sustainable shrimp available today is farmed.

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