In my opinion, we should accelerate the production of sustainable and locally sourced seafood that meets the green label standards set by The Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program. Protein such shrimp, traditionally, sourced from Asian farms can now be produced “organically and non-GMO” using indoor farms right here in America.
Food safety has jump to the front of many individual’s minds recently with the E Coli outbreak at Chipotle and the AP story highlighting Asian shrimp farmer’s utilization of slave labor to peel shrimp. In fact, the AP article claims many of the shrimp peeled by slave labor has found its way into the global supermarkets and restaurant chains creating a public relations challenge for companies such as Wal-Mart, Whole Foods and Red Lobster.
On December 14, 2015, the AP issued a major news story indicating poor migrant workers and children were being sold to shrimp peeling factories in Thailand. There is no way to describe this inhumane treatment as anything but human trafficking to serve that countries $7 billion seafood industry. This is completely unacceptable. In fact, there have been calls for a boycott of any establishment that serves shrimp that may be traced back to facilities that use slave labor. The difficulty is in tracing the shrimp’s 8,000- mile journey to our dinner plates. Consumer Reports, for example, questions many of the labeling and safety practices of the shrimp industry in their article titled How Safe is Your Shrimp?
Unfortunately, the United States is extremely dependent on Asia to satisfy its appetite for seafood and shrimp in particular. In fact, close to 90% of shrimp imports comes from Asian countries such as China, Thailand, Vietnam and India. We are so dependent on imports that when supplies were drastically reduced from 2009 to 2012 due to a shrimp disease outbreak in Southeast Asia operating expenses rose dramatically at seafood restaurants as the price of shrimp skyrocketed.
To increase the visibility of it’s supply chain and to create another source of revenue, Darden, which owns restaurant chains, as an example, has teamed up with two Malaysian companies. The plan is to build a $650 million lobster aquaculture facility in that region. Ultimately, Darden’s lobster farms will produce 40 million pounds of lobster , employ thousands of workers and generate $1.0 billion in new revenue each year.
However, it may be in Darden’s, Ignite and other restaurant group’s interest as well as food retailers such as Whole Foods, Costco and Wal-Mart and to invest in US-based aquaculture facilities. A small investment would provide these companies a way to diversify their seafood supply chain strategy and improve their public relations position.
Vertical Indoor Seafood Farms from companies that can be located closer to where they ultimately will be consumed is the wave of the future. Also, called Land-Based Recirculating Farms (LBRF) these highly technology advanced solutions are sustainable and utilizes the earth’s precious resources more efficiently. LBRFs can produce high-value gourmet seafood for healthy living that is: 1) Flavorful; 2) Locally sourced & branded; 3) Green Label from Monterrey Bay; 4) a fast & reliable source of supply; and 5) can be Organic and Non-GMO. Aquaculture provides many of today’s farmers the ability to diversify their crop production. These seafood growing facilities can be housed entirely inside buildings located in urban centers.
Made in America used to connote merchandise such as clothing and automobiles. It’s time to make sure “American Made” now also applies to our food supply for safety, health, and civil rights issues.