Aquaculture provides sustainable menu items

Published on
May 18, 2009

 The aquaculture industry needs to look to new products and opportunities and do a better job of publicizing success stories, said buyers on a panel at the National Restaurant Association's Restaurant Hotel-Motel Show in Chicago on Monday.

"There is such great progress within the aquaculture industry. There is the great stuff that Kona Blue [which raises sushi-grade kampachi] is doing, and there are developments with tuna farming," Mary Plitt, director of marketing for seafood dostributor The Plitt Co. in Chicago, told SeafoodSource prior to Monday's discussion.

Plitt participated in the panel Navigating the Waters of Aquaculture for the Restaurant Industry with Steve LaHaie, president of Shaw's Crab House in Chicago; Michelle Jost with the John G. Shedd Aquarium in Chicago; and others.

LaHaie suggested that restaurateurs look to aquaculture to provide sustainable menu items, and work with their local aquarium, if possible. Along with the Shedd Aquarium, Shaw's uses the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch program to help guides its sustainable seafood purchases.

"A lot of people do want to know that the seafood they are eating is raised in an environmentally sound way," said LaHaie.

Unfortunately, a lot of the media attention on farmed fish has not been positive, said LaHaie and Plitt, and has focused on problems with Chilean salmon.

Instead, the industry should focus on the "cutting-edge development" and innovation of the aquaculture industry, says Plitt.

"We need aquaculture, and it is going to continue to grow. From a marketing standpoint, it is up to the restaurants to bring about buzz of these products," said Plitt.

For example, restaurants must continually find new and exciting ways to present species such as farmed tilapia and catfish to keep their chefs and customers interested in the product, she said.

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