6 Tips to Sourcing Sustainable Seafood for Your Next Event

Sustainable_seafood_salmonAs spring swings into summer, food events featuring seafood menus pop up around the country. Whether it’s a New England clambake, Southern-style fish fry or crawfish boil, Maine lobster fest or Pacific Northwest salmon tasting, seafood is a beautiful meal to share outdoors. However, despite big strides by local food movements to make ethically raised meat and produce readily available, sourcing sustainable seafood remains a much more complicated endeavor.

At the turn of the 20th century, seafood (particularly shellfish) was plentiful, affordable and readily available on both coasts. Louisiana’s Gulf Coast powered the Southern economy with its large shrimping and crawfish operations. Since then deregulation, changes in national tastes, industrial pollution and environmental disasters have wreaked havoc on what was the most important source of food and livelihood for coastal communities–and of course, biodiversity in our oceans and lakes.

Seafood is now expensive, hard to trace, and often farm-raised. A lack of packing facilities forces many large fishing operations to send their product to Asia for processing, just to be shipped back to the U.S. in canned or frozen form.

Our national obsession with tuna and salmon sushi rolls have put tremendous pressure on those two species (that should only be eaten from particular waters and in specific seasons), while other perfectly delicious and plentiful fish goes unrecognized and discarded. And because our oceans are bio-diverse ecosystems, the extinction of one species destroys all the life up and down that species’ food chain.

At current rates of over-fishing, scientists predict that most of the world’s seafood supply will collapse by 2048.

We must vote with our forks to bring attention and dollars back to fishermen and communities working against this sweeping tide of sea life degradation. Taking time to properly source seafood for your event will not only improve the taste and quality of your food, it will mediate your environmental impact and attract like-minded attendees.

6 Tips to Sourcing Sustainable Seafood

1. Source seafood caught and processed in the U.S. where species management and safety regulations are stricter and enforced.
2. Look for seafood caught locally and seasonally. All species have abundant times, locations, and seasons when they should not be harvested. Use Seafood Watch or another online resource to figure out what is available where and when.
3. Purchase from fishermen, docks, and distributors that employ reputable practices. Ask locally minded chefs in your community where to find good sources of fish. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask; they will often be thrilled to bring their suppliers more business.
4. Choose wild-caught seafood over farm-raised. New distribution projects, like Sea 2 Table, bring sustainable, fresh and local seafood directly to the consumer.
5. If possible, choose lesser-known seafood species for your event. Not only will you offer something new and exciting to your attendees, you will help expand your community’s taste for your local waterway’s bio-diversity.
6. Make attendees aware of your sourcing choices. Encourage guests to consider the environmental impact of their eating practices at home. And remember, seafood shells (oyster, clams, mussels) are compostable.

5 Resources for Sustainable Seafood Research:

  1. Seafood Watch
  2. Dock to Dish (Northeast)
  3. Seasonal Cornucopia (Pacific Northwest Seasonality)
  4. Sea to Table
  5. Paul Greenberg: American Catch: The Fight for Our Local Seafood

Ready to find your fish? Discover seafood events across the country.

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Brooklyn Grange: Rooftop Farm Boosts Business via Events

Brooklyn Grange 1In 2010, a group of renegade urban dreamers gathered on a New York City roof. With bikes and cranes, passion and sweat—they built a farm. Then another. Then launched events. Today, Brooklyn Grange is the leading rooftop farming and intensive green roofing business in the US.

They operate the world’s largest rooftop soil farms, located on two roofs in Brooklyn (Navy Yard) and Queens (Long Island City) and grow 50,000 pounds of organically cultivated produce yearly. They distribute fresh vegetables and herbs to local restaurants. Globally, they provide urban farming and green roof consulting and installation services. They partner with local nonprofits to promote healthy communities. Egg-laying hens, a commercial apiary, and a nonprofit educational arm, City Growers, all contribute to Brooklyn Grange’s mission.

Farm events started in 2011 as dinner parties. Now their public events, in partnership with Brown Paper Tickets, vary widely—yoga classes, flower workshops, dinners, weddings, corporate retreats and film screenings.

We asked Brooklyn Grange’s Anastasia Cole Plakias, VP and co-founder, and Michele Kaufman, events director, how a diverse events program grew their business and strengthened community ties.

Brown Paper Tickets Q: Why do you exist? What is your vision?

Brooklyn Grange: When the team first met in the fall of 2009, we shared the goal of creating a fiscally sustainable, scalable, replicable model for urban agriculture that could thrive without relying on ever-diminishing ground-level space, or be crowded out by development. We were drawn to the environmental benefits of soil-based rooftop farming: from storm water management to reduction of urban heat island effect and diverting food scraps from the waste stream through composting, our farm supports the ecosystem of New York City by activating existing infrastructure as green space. Rooftop farming merges the benefits of green roofs with those of urban agriculture.

We’ve [recently] focused on growing our business and optimizing operations. We’re excited to return to our core mission of sharing the knowledge we’ve gleaned over the last four seasons by launching a new workshop series. From composting and seed saving to bouquet arranging and making natural dyes from plants, we’ve cast a wide net, and enlisted experts across urban agriculture, wellness and sustainability fields to help.
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