Do You Really Know What You’re Serving?
Recent Consumer Reports, New York Times, Boston Globe and other investigations have documented the prevalence of fraud in today’s seafood industry. Just this year, the Boston Globe used DNA testing to show that 48% of restaurants were mislabeling seafood items on their menus (items advertised were not what were actually offered). These studies focused on species mislabeling, but there are other, likely more common forms of fraud. Was that “dayboat cod” really caught on a small boat that left and returned on the same day? Is that date the dealer gave you really when it was landed? Are those scallops really dry? How dry is dry?
Seafood is mislabeled for one reason: it can be. In the time-sensitive, often cutthroat seafood business, chefs are often at the mercy of their suppliers, who are at the mercy of their suppliers, etc. etc. The likelihood of fraud is directly proportional to the length of the supply chain.
In most cases, there’s only one person between the crew who harvested Maine Dayboat Scallops and the chef who buys them. That person is me. I’ve worked in fisheries management for over 10 years, in the restaurant industry for 15 years, and managed Maine’s scallop fishery for 4 years. Improving the profitability and sustainability of Maine’s scallop fishery has become my primary passion. Maine scallop fishermen are harvesting a superior product. It needs no deception.
My restaurant experience means I know the value of a story. In today’s marketplace, consumers want to know what they’re eating, where it came from, and who brought it to them. While working at Fore Street, I saw that wine distributors could increase sales by educating the servers about their product. A soft fruity pinot noir is popular, but a soft fruity pinot noir crafted by an eccentric Italian bachelor who spent his life savings on a few acres and developed a new growing technique yielding more flavorful grapes won’t last the evening. My scallops come with a story. Each container comes with the date, location, and time of harvest, and is signed by the Captain. I can leave it at that, or I can give you more. Want to see photos of your scallops being harvested? Check my Daily Catch Blog each night. Want to know the names of the crew, or more about the fishing process? Would you like to know why some scallops are orange, and why the percentage of orange scallops changes throughout the year? Just ask me. Would you like me to give a brief lecture during staff meal so your servers will understand why Maine scallops are a great product? I’d love to. The more you know about this product, the more your customers will appreciate it, the more I’ll sell and the more money we (you, me, and the fishermen) will make.