A new Portland company called Fishpeople is making packaged meals with sustainable local seafood and other ingredients that can be traced back to their mostly local sources.
Company CEO Duncan Berry said he got the idea for the business while sitting on the committee that developed the Cascade Head marine reserve.
"I think the seafood industry needs help," he said. "I think we could help with a brand that rewards good behavior."
Berry said the company did its own research to find the most sustainable Oregon seafood and came up with a list of six: Youngs Bay fall chinook, Netarts Bay oysters, line-caught albacore tuna, Dungeness crab, pink shrimp and razor clams. He said he's also interested in developing products with anchovies and herring, which are an eco-friendly choice because they're low in the marine food chain.
The company's research pointed to market opportunities in selling seafood that's easy to cook. Its first line of products includes four prepared seafood meals that can be cooked in their pouches: Salmon in Chardonnay dill cream sauce, coconut yellow curry tuna, Thai coconut lemongrass tuna, and smoked salmon and smoked oyster chowder.
The company pledged to use as many local ingredients as possible along with local seafood.
You can type the batch code on the package into the company's website and find the source of all the ingredients that went into the package.
Berry said using all local ingredients turned out to be a major challenge. Getting the right amount of a local ingredient can be difficult because, for example, the company isn't buying 20,000 pounds of dill but more like 20 pounds.
"We literally purchased fresh ingredients from farms and did our own individual quick frozen storage to hold us all the way to next harvest because there are no mid-level processors," he said. "It's a cool idea, but it is really a pain."
Many of the ingredients are from the Pacific Northwest, and the seafood has very detailed descriptions such as:
"Our pole caught, adolescent tuna were traveling down the pacific coast when they were picked up by Tyler Long and his boat F/V Harvester."
"Our Fall Chinook are harvested in Youngs Bay, part of the estuary of the Columbia River near Astoria, Oregon. Captain Martin Rice of the Fishing Vessel Punkin' hauled these beautiful fish in with his nets. We chose these fish because it is a terminal fishery - meaning all the salmon we use are returning hatchery bred fish. The use of these fish virtually eliminates the issue of by-catch as wild salmon do not enter the bay, but rather return upstream to their spawning grounds on the Columbia River."
Some ingredients that aren't so local have reactions from the company:
"Yikes! We were unable to find red and yellow bell peppers grown in the PNW. We are working very hard to resolve this for our next batch."
Other descriptions are more vague, such as this one for the potatoes and celery in the chowder meal:
"Grown, processed and distributed in the USA"
"We are not saying we're perfect," Berry said. "We're not even saying we've got it all figured out, but we are working on it. We should be able to do this with everything in our lives. It's a lot of work, but isn't this what we should expect?"
Sustainable Business Oregon reported the company is aiming to become a certified B-Corp,which has social and environmental goals as well as profitability goals. You can get Fishpeople products at New Seasons, Whole Foods, Market of Choice and PCC Natural Markets.
Do you know of other companies that have similar traceability options for consumers?