Greenpeace’s Sustainable Seafood Scorecard: Target Better Than Whole Foods

Forgive me if you already know this. I didn’t until the hardest working man in the local seafood business, Jon Alexis at TJ’s, sent it to me. The result of Greenpeace’s study of the sustainability of the seafood operations in large supermarket chains was released in late April. Here are the top ten:
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

The full report and rankings of the study are below the jump. If you’re a chart reader, here’s one for you.

Washington, DC, United States — In the fourth edition of Greenpeace’s seafood sustainability scorecard –Carting Away the Oceans — released today, half of the leading supermarket chains in the U.S. received ‘passing’ scores in the sustainability of their seafood operations for the first time. Companies that moved into the passing range are: A&P; Delhaize, and Trader Joe’s.

The supermarket chain Target moved up from fourth place to receive top ranking displacing Wegmans to second place while Whole Foods maintained third place from its June 2009 ranking. Trader Joe’s which had been the worst ranking of the national supermarket chains surveyed at #17 has since moved to a tenth place ranking with its announcement in March that it is taking specific steps to develop a sustainable seafood operation. While both marketing to cost-conscious consumers, Safeway climbed from 5th place to 4th as Costco dropped from 10th place to 14th.

Of the 20 largest supermarket chains in the United States, several remain that 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.”

The rankings follow:

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)

To help ensure the long-term sustainability of fisheries and marine ecosystems, Greenpeace advocates the creation of a worldwide network of marine reserves and fisheries management based on a precautionary, ecosystem-based approach. Today, 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;
  1. cause negative impacts on other, non-target species;
  • are unregulated, unreported, illegal or managed poorly, and
  • cause negative impacts on local, fishing dependent communities.

Full report and details.

16 comments on “Greenpeace’s Sustainable Seafood Scorecard: Target Better Than Whole Foods

  1. Informative report. It does leave out, however, that the fish from Tom Thumb never tastes fresh because it goes to a central warehouse before making it the stores. Target doesn’t even have fresh fish at its Dallas stores. Central Market, down at the end of the list, carries extraordinarily fresh fish. I’m not sure how to justify eating inferior quality food because it comes from a store higher on the list. It also doesn’t break out Central Market from HEB.

  2. Grocery brands listed under the Safeway umbrella should include Tom Thumb.

    I am curious: Is a store that sells a higher proportion of farm-raised fish automatically judged by Greenpeace to be “more sustainable” than one that sells more wild-caught fish?

  3. So basically, the higher your store is on this list, the more likely your store is to NOT have wild caught fish. Interesting for sure.

  4. There are fish like Halibut, Sablefish, Wild Alaskan Salmon etc. that are on the best ECO fish list. But yes there are a bunch more farmed for fresh water fish on their “good” list.

  5. Whole Foods ranks pretty highly and I was under the impression they sold a good bit of wild product. I think it has to do with the fisheries that the seafood comes from and the practices they use. The report says that Target sells no farmed salmon at all (most farmed salmon detrimental to the environment).

  6. @ Kirk and Kyle,

    Not necessarily true about wild vs. farmed.

    See this link:
    http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/cr/SeafoodWatch/web/sfw_regional.aspx

    Farmed and imported species often require massive amounts of resource to grow when compared to their more populous counterparts in specific regions in the wild (see Salmon for about 5 or 6 different scenarios from best to worst).

    At current consumption/fishing rates, it’s likely that some of your favorite species will be in short supply for your children’s dinner plates, which is sad…

  7. @laurie
    “It does leave out, however, that the fish from Tom Thumb never tastes fresh because it goes to a central warehouse before making it the stores”

    as i understand it, so does fish for whole foods. there are 9 regional distribution centers that feed the stores around the country. i believe the seafood that is sold at the dallas-area stores lands in austin before coming to dallas.

    “I’m not sure how to justify eating inferior quality food because it comes from a store higher on the list.”

    absolutely not. I’m need to be careful not to turn this into a sales pitch: independently owned fishmarkets like TJ’s and our competition offer fresh, great tasting product that we believe is significantly more sustainable than the big supermarkets.

    look, no one ever goes to a butcher and asks “is this steak fresh?” seafood is just different. given their volume, its really hard for a supermarket to do seafood right in terms of sustainability and quality.

  8. Jon Alexis truly is one of the hardest working men in the seafood business. And, I hear he stays pretty busy in freight elevators too.

  9. I have read this report numerous times, and none of them say exactly WHAT 15 of 20 fish are on the list at CostCo. I even contacted Greenpeace to see if they could tell me (they never got back to me, clearly it is easier to spew this information out than to address it individually).

    If anyone knows what fish are on the CostCo list, or better yet, have a link to this I would appreciate it.

    What Greenpeace’s evaluation criteria is what I am concerned about. For instance, not all farmed salmon are created equal, however ALL the lists (Monterey Bay Aquarium, Blue Ocean Institute etc. etc.) lump farmed salmon into a avoid or poor rating.

    Several of you mention the clearing house air freight distribution methods of Whole Foods and Tom Thumb. So putting fresh fish (not frozen, ground freight most likely) on a plane three times to get to it’s final destination represents sustainable, far from it!

    Thanking you in advance

  10. “Several of you mention the clearing house air freight distribution methods of Whole Foods and Tom Thumb. So putting fresh fish (not frozen, ground freight most likely) on a plane three times to get to it’s final destination represents sustainable, far from it!”

    unfortunately if we want to eat seafood in Dallas Texas, we can’t “eat local”…unless you like White Rock 3-Eyed Bass.

    so you have to mitigate the environmental impact.

    smaller independent operations have smaller carbon footprints. I bet that whole foods uses more energy to air condition the ceiling rafters in one store than the independent fish markets in Dallas use combined.

    while we all should respect whole foods for doing great work mitigating their environmental impact as best they can, the fact of the matter is they have a giant footprint like the rest of the giant corporate supermarkets.

  11. Andrew:

    If you look at page 28 of the April 2010 report Nancy linked to, you’ll find the following:

    “Greenpeace surveys found that Costco continues to sell fifteen of the twenty-two red list seafoods: Alaskan pollock, Atlantic cod, Atlantic salmon, Atlantic sea scallops, Chilean sea bass, grouper, monkfish, ocean quahog, orange roughy, red snapper, redfish, South Atlantic albacore tuna, swordfish, tropical shrimp, and yellowfin tuna.”

    All of the fish found in other grocery stores are similarly identified, so maybe Greenpeace felt the question had already been asked and answered.

  12. @zero, I understand what the report is about. There is a disconnect, however, between some stores’ ranking and their ability to serve fresh, palatable food.
    @Jon, I have bought fish at TJs. Your family has done a fabulous job. I don’t live nearby, though, and shop mostly at Central Market, and sometimes Rex’s. I appreciate your commitment to quality and hope your business continues sto succeed. We all win when stores like yours raise the bar for everyone else.

  13. I would not have expected this report to wind up this way.

    I always loved Target because of the wider aisles but now I have a new reason to check them off as a goodie.

    -Renee’
    @FunCityGal