at honeygrow, we're committed to providing the finest quality, freshest ingredients possible not only because it tastes better, but to support the makers, growers + farmers throughout the nation. This mission doesn't just apply to our fruits, vegetables, sauces + dressing, but to our proteins as well. We've recently introduced a new seafood purveyor to the honeygrow local list — Sea to Table®. The Sea to Table® team works with American fishermen across the country to capture + distribute wild caught, domestic shrimp, salmon + other seafood to their clients (rather than the farm-raised seafood which is often frozen + shipped from overseas). We recently met with the Sea to Table® team to learn more about their mission + ethos, and further identify the significance of supporting the small-scale American fishing community…
hg: tell us a bit about your mission + what inspired the founding of Sea to Table®…
sea to table®: what inspired the founding of Sea to Table® was our love of the sea + the need to protect the resources of the ocean for future generations, the resilience of local fishermen, and the ever-growing demand of consumers who want to engage directly with their food supply.
Ten years ago, we started out by meeting a couple of fishermen + learning about the seafood system from their perspective + the inherent challenges domestic fishermen face, primarily when it comes to access to market. Furthermore, we learned that while America’s need for seafood has steadily increased over the past several decades, nearly 90% of the seafood we eat isn’t from domestic sources, even though American fisheries are some of the most well managed and sustainable fisheries in the world.
We decided to change these realities + set out to meet fantastic docks from forgotten corners of America. From the Florida Keys to the straits of Alaska and everywhere in between, with the simple but direct mission of helping all Americans eat better fish by sourcing local domestic seafood from docks supporting sustainably-harvested fish. This ensures every fish can be traced back to the ocean and the boat that harvested it. We are proud to say these guiding principles have increased our dock partnerships to over 50. We continue to get support from innovative companies like honeygrow, and we believe we can bring noticeable shifts towards a new seafood standard of sustainability.
hg: how is Sea to Table® changing the standard for the seafood supply chain in North America?
s2t: most consumers don’t realize that they can be 6+ degrees of separation from the point of catch to their plate. Because so many middlemen are involved in the current supply chain, fish can be mislabeled, mishandled, and misrepresented as a domestic product when, in fact, it was processed in another country. Sea to Table® eliminates most of the links in this long and convoluted chain, shortening it to its simplest form:
"From the dock, to the chef, to the plate of the consumer."
hg: why is it so important to support small-scale fishers, especially as it seems like large-scale enterprises dominate the industry today?
s2t: supporting small-scale fishermen means supporting transparent, law-abiding, local businesses that want to see our oceans + the food we harvest from them extend for generations. This is something that cannot be said about big business in the seafood industry. A small-scale fisherman inherently must take care of the area they fish within because their livelihoods, their children’s college tuitions, and their retirement savings are directly tied to the resources they harvest. This direct connection to the sea is what Sea to Table® believes is the best way to ensure our ocean resources will be protected for not only our needs, but for generations to come.
hg: honeygrow values creating lasting relationships + amazing experiences through the lens of nourishing foods. How does Sea to Table® create + sustain connections with fishermen?
s2t: Sea to Table® has built unique partnerships with our fishermen based on the concept of reciprocity. For instance, if during our daily conversations our dock partners let us know the “bite was on,” we instantly change our operations to help them move more fish. We can get more value to them instead of waiting like others to get the price down to the point where fishermen must sell it for rates below market value. This direct value ensures we get the best seafood products across our fresh + frozen platforms. We believe that creating mutually beneficial relationships is the best way to sustain local economies and allows our docks to do what they love to do best: fish!
hg: what are some of the benefits of holding close relationships with fishermen on every U.S. coast?
s2t: the best way to verify sustainability and to ensure that customers get the fish they requested is to have a close relationship with the fishermen and docks. There have been several notable instances of fish fraud, which occurs when distributors represent a common species of fish as a higher value species in order to generate more profits. We are not only able to monitor in real time what is being landed, we are also able to create markets for underutilized species to incentivize catch that is usually thrown back into the sea by fishermen. This holistic view of our supply chain starts with communication and transparency and is built over time through direct relationships with fishermen.
hg: are there any particularly amazing stories from these relationships that you wish to share?
s2t: absolutely. One story that jumps out is about our dock in Beaufort, NC. To get their product to market, the dock had to send it on a truck to NYC for distribution. The fish was then trucked back down to North Carolina by a regional distributor to be sold locally. Due to these logistics and lower margin, they closed in the winter. Through our partnership over the last 8 years, we helped build their business and increase their revenue, which allowed them to employ their workers year-round and expand operations. It's amazing what buying local can do.
hg: how is Sea to Table® working with other socially-responsible organizations to regulate unsustainable + illegal fishing?
s2t: recently we have worked with the Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance, the Gulf of Maine Research Institute, and Future of Fish to help create a sustainable market for Atlantic Spiny Dogfish or “Cape Shark,” which is technically a shark that is widespread in the waters off Cape Cod, MA. While traditional groundfish caught in the region, such as cod, are decreasing due to demand, poor management, and climate change, the dogfish population is abundant + healthy. Boosting the market for dogfish + reducing the population would have the additional impact of relieving fishing pressure on other species and giving suffering populations, such as Atlantic Cod, the chance to recover.
hg: we’re proud to announce that guests can now find Sea to Table®’s shrimp at honeygrow! What are some factors that help elevate these ingredients above other seafood options?
s2t: the number one benefit is taste! For this partnership, we will be catching the product + delivering to honeygrow in an ongoing capacity instead of sending seafood that's been sitting in a freezer for months.
"Having seafood that is sourced this directly is truly unheard of at the scale of honeygrow, and our dock partners are very proud they can do this."
Because of the domestic nature of our sourcing we are also going to be able to limit the carbon footprint to honeygrow, which is a wonderful benefit.
hg: honeygrow values transparency just like Sea to Table® does. Where can honeygrow customers expect their shrimp to originate from?
s2t: our standard is to know where in the ocean honeygrow’s shrimp was caught, what fishery management plan it was caught with, and by which vessel. We are proud to say that all the shrimp will be caught by hardworking shrimpers landing at U.S. docks along the Gulf of Mexico. As the shrimp migrate through the gulf over the course of the year, honeygrow customers can expect the shrimp to come from Florida, Alabama + Texas.
taste the Sea to Table® difference for yourself — all honeygrow locations now offer Sea to Table® shrimp!