Code Red Seafood?
September 17, 2010 § 8 Comments
So far on this blog I haven’t gotten into analyses of the local, sustainable food movement. But I’m really curious to get your opinions on this new Whole Foods seafood sustainability program that some of you may have seen, in which they’re color-coding all of the wild-caught seafood they’re selling.
This three-minute video explains more about the program:
In sum, the system gives you green (“best choice”), yellow (“good alternative”), and red (“avoid”) to alert you about which species are overfished. Whole Foods plans to end sales of red-rated species by Earth Day in 2013. Red or “avoid” ratings mean the species is currently suffering from overfishing, or that current fishing methods harm other marine life or habitats.
Although I’m obviously all for eating local, sustainable food, I’m curious to see how people will react.
On the one hand: If you want to eat sustainable seafood, unless you have the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s pocket guide or mobile app for ocean-friendly seafood with you at all times (which, let’s be honest, most people probably don’t), it is difficult to know whether the sushi you just ordered or the swordfish you bought at the grocery is depleting that fish population. So Whole Foods’ program arms consumers with knowledge and transparency at the point of purchase so that they can make informed decisions. And presumably, consumers can carry this knowledge with them to other fish-eating points in their lives.
On the other hand: As I’ve done more reading and researching on the local, sustainable food movement, I’ve been surprised at how much of the media around it comes off as preachy or even guilt-trippy. In my experience, people don’t sustain a change in behavior when they feel lectured or guilted into it. So will people be annoyed at seeing a red alert on that tuna steak they really wanted to bring home, sear and eat on top of a salad? Will they want to consider the sustainability of oceanic wildlife when they’re at the grocery store on a weeknight, tired after work? And, is it weird that Whole Foods is marketing food for the next 2 1/2 years by telling you to avoid it?
So, dear readers, I’d love to hear your opinions:
- What are your reactions to Whole Foods’ program?
- If you do, or were to, buy fish at Whole Foods, would you appreciate having the green-yellow-red alerts to help you make an informed selection?
- Or would you be annoyed at having to ponder oceanic sustainability while grocery shopping?
Please comment below!
If you’re interested in learning more about the sustainability of seafood:
Click here for a good piece from Eatocracy (CNN’s food blog) on what “sustainability” means in the oceanic world.
Click here for a fascinating story from the New York Times Sunday magazine about the powers of tuna (for example: they are warm-blooded creatures that can modulate their body temperatures to survive frigid waters and have an internal GPS that enables them to navigate thousands of miles). I’ve never been a big tuna person anyway, but this article definitely gave me pause about buying it.
Click here to download the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s pocket guide or mobile app for ocean-friendly seafood.