May 27, 2010

Best & Worst U. S. Supermarkets for Seafood Sustainability

The fourth update to Carting Away the Oceans—a sustainability scorecard for the US seafood retail industry undertaken by environmental organization Greenpeace—was released late last month. Complete rankings from 1-20 follow at the end of this post.

Says Greenpeace: “Supermarkets feed the growing appetite for seafood in the U.S. and ring up approximately $16 billion each year in seafood sales. Consumers buy half their seafood at supermarkets, yet as our report reveals, few supermarkets meet this consumer demand with any regard for the marine environment.”

The update reveals that Target has moved up from fourth place to receive top ranking, displacing Wegmans to second place in the process. Whole Foods has maintained third place from its June 2009 ranking. Trader Joe's—once ranked a very low #17—has moved to tenth place (TJ announced last March that it is taking specific steps to develop a sustainable seafood operation). Safeway climbed from 5th place to 4th, while Costco dropped four places to a failing rank of #14.

Of the 20 largest supermarket chains in the United States, several have made no visible effort to increase the sustainability of their seafood operations and continue to ignore scientific warnings about the crisis facing global fisheries and the marine environment. These include: H.E.B., Meijer, Costco, SUPERVALU (and associated banners), Publix, and Winn Dixie.

"A significant divide is developing among the major retailers,” said Greenpeace’s Senior Markets Campaigner, Casson Trenor. “It’s now clear that Wegmans, Target and Whole Foods are making substantive progress reflecting their commitment while others such as H.E.B. and Costco remain committed to selling endangered species and destroying marine ecosystems.”

If you shop at any of these low-ranking stores, encourage them to cultivate sustainability. Supermarkets can help the oceans and meet consumer demand for sustainable products by refusing to sell seafood from fisheries that:
  • exploit endangered, vulnerable and/or protected species, or species with poor stock status;
  • cause habitat destruction and/or lead to ecosystem alterations;
  • cause negative impacts on other, non-target species;
  • are unregulated, unreported, illegal or managed poorly, and
  • cause negative impacts on local, fishing dependent communities.
Here’s the ranking of leading stores—the lower the number, the better the job they’re doing with seafood sustainability.
  1. Target
  2. Wegmans
  3. Whole Foods 
  4. Safeway (Dominicks, Genuardi's, Pavilions, Randall's, Von's)
  5. Ahold USA (Stop & Shop, Giant) 
  6. Harris Teeter 
  7. A&P (Food Emporium, Pathmark, Super Fresh, Waldbaum's
  8. Delhaize (Bloom, Food Lion, Hannaford Bros., Sweetbay
  9. Walmart 
  10. Trader Joe’s
  11. Price Chopper
  12. Aldi  
  13. Kroger (Baker's, City Market, Dillon's, Fred Meyer, Fry’s, King Soopers, Ralph's, Smith's, Quality Food Center - QFC)
  14. Costco
  15. Supervalu (Acme, Albertson's, Bristol Farms, Jewel-Osco, Save-A-Lot, Shaw's)
  16. Giant Eagle
  17. Publix
  18. Winn Dixie
  19. Meijer 
  20.  H.E. Butt (H.E.B., Central Market)
Download a free copy of the complete report, Carting Away the Oceans.

The 19-page report contains in-depth looks at each of the 20 stores, although Aldi, Costco, Giant Eagle, Winn-Dixie, Meijer and H. E. Butt did not even bother to respond to Greenpeace queries. Stores like this will not change their tune about sustainability practices until shoppers take their money elsewhere.

Says Greenpeace of the lowest-ranked of the low-ranked stores, H. E. Butt: “Supporting a company like this is simply not a feasible choice for any consumers who care about the welfare of our planet.”

My sentiments exactly.

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