Chef Andrew Gruel’s Top Five Tips for Sourcing Sustainable Seafood
With significant issues like seafood fraud, illegal fishing and overfishing becoming more common, it’s never been more important for operators to familiarize themselves with the supply chain. Choosing to do business with reputable and reliable seafood suppliers not only helps operators avoid anything that could compromise their business, but it also demonstrates their commitment to sourcing sustainable seafood.
Sustainability is a huge driving factor in the restaurant industry. In fact, the National Restaurant Association predicts that sustainable seafood will be among the top five menu trends to impact sales in the year ahead. Therefore, it’s no surprise that both chefs and consumers are paying closer attention to the story behind their seafood—where it’s from, how it’s sourced and how it affects the ecosystem.
According to chef and Slapfish CEO Andrew Gruel, sustainability is defined by the condition of seafood stocks—plentiful vs. diminishing, healthy vs. contaminated—as well as the effect the fishery has on the ecosystem, economy and local community. While many well-managed fisheries and farms still have some flaws, he believes these operations are continuously working to improve their management practices and help the local community.
Chef Andrew Gruel has made it his mission to educate people on eating the right types of seafood, emphasizing that sustainable tastes better. He founded the modern seafood shack concept—aimed at changing the way people think about and choose their seafood—in 2011 with a food truck in California’s Orange County. Today, the Slapfish concept has evolved from food truck to one of the hottest fast-casual restaurants in the industry, with dozens of new locations opening stateside and abroad.
Check out Chef Andrew Gruel’s top five tips for sourcing sustainable seafood:
- Buy Untreated Seafood
If fish has been treated with antibiotics or CO2, question the fish and source. Well-run operations do not need to treat their fish with chemicals or medicine. Always ask if the fish has been treated and do your research online. Look for labels on the packaging as well.
- Buy from Reputable Resources
Put extra focus on the transparency of their chain of custody. Buy from a market or purveyor that puts pride into the transparency of all their food. Make sure the seafood sales rep tells a story about well-managed seafood and understands the balance between farmed and wild seafood stocks. When it comes to seafood, it’s worth the extra dollar per pound.
- Buy Smaller Fish
Species that require a steak knife are usually big fish that are slow to reproduce, therefore vulnerable to overfishing. Since many of these fish travel hundreds of miles a day, they swim in and out of regulated waters, and are therefore hard to monitor. Smaller fish reproduce quickly and are not at high risk of being overfished.
- Say Yes to Farmed Seafood
Like any industry, there are good players and bad players. Unfortunately, farmed seafood has gotten a bad reputation over the years for mistakes made way before the industry was highly regulated. The role of aquaculture in safeguarding a dependable supply of healthy fish for human consumption cannot be overstated. With many wild stocks of fish in peril, fish farming can take pressure off these species while still providing healthy protein for a growing population. If you are concerned about questionable farming practices, only buy seafood that has no contaminants and is clean fed, ideally on a plant-based diet.
- Invest in People
When a fishing community or farming/aquaculture operation invests back into its people, everyone benefits, including the fish. Buy from operations that pay their workers a good wage, provide strong benefits and invest back into the community. This can be applied to both wild-capture fisheries and aquaculture operations.