When the cherished oyster firm launches its new venture in Massachusetts, it will have one of the last remaining canneries in the United States.
In northern Spain, today is as pleasant as it gets. I’m in the Galician municipality of Cambados, well-known for its wine, monuments, and—most importantly—delicious fish. In particular, I’m watching Juan, a local shellfisherman, navigate to his favorite location in a little boat I’m aboard just off the shore. His grin from ear to ear and his vintage pink Thrasher sweatshirt exude total confidence. He comes to a halt, carefully lowers his rake into the clear, serene waters, and retrieves a cockle.
He opens the other, excited, and removes the shell of one to show a silky white belly sparkling in its brine. “Eat,” he says, passing it to me. I comply, savoring the delicious meat. It was the greatest bivalve I’ve ever had; there was no question about it. It’s also the first time I’ve ever been sure of the origin of the shellfish I’m eating.
I flew to northern Spain with Island Creek Oysters, a business that calls itself a “vertically integrated farm dedicated to making an impact on our food systems and having a damn good time along the way” and is based in Duxbury, Massachusetts. It has a successful direct-to-consumer company, one of the few shellfish hatcheries in the Northeast, and a chain of restaurants with sites in Portland, Maine, and Duxbury, Massachusetts.
It will soon run its cannery in New Bedford, Massachusetts, creating a high-end range of shellfish cans. When it does, it’ll rank among the nation’s rare canneries. In 2009, the last cannery in the United States that produced canned sardines closed.
Island Creek Is intoInto fish-tinned products.
The business filed for and was awarded a grant in 2022 from the State of Massachusetts as part of the Food Security Infrastructure Grant Program. The money is intended to alleviate “urgent food insecurity for residents across the Commonwealth as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic,” according to a statement from Island Creek. But there are others here than feeding people. For Island, it’s about so much more than just disrupting distribution for neighborhood fishermen looking to get into the very competitive tin fish mitt; it’s also about assisting everyone in keeping better track of the source of their seafood.
It takes a lot of work to follow the path of your fish from hook to plate. Additionally, customers are frequently required to have blind faith that the food they consume is exactly what the menu claims. The study “Fishy Business: Seafood Fraud and Mislabeling in New York State Supreme Courts,” published in 2018 by the office of the New York State Attorney General, revealed that 26.92% of seafood sales with a readable barcode were mislabeled.Although mislabelling affected almost every category, the survey found that customers who think they have purchased grouper, lemon sole, or red snapper are “more likely to receive an entirely different” fish..
The Seascape report, published by The Guardian in 2021, reviewed 44 studies that examined over 9,000 seafood samples from eateries, fishmongers, and supermarkets in various nations. According to the report, 36% of the goods had incorrect labels, “exposing seafood fraud on a vast global”scale.”
We Tried More Than Twenty Fish Cans. Here Are Our Favorites Chris Sherman, the president of Island Creek, is resolved to stand out in this situation.
Sherman dec” is, “We would have to do it ourselves if we wanted a U.S. fish or harvested, U.S. processed, craft conserve.”” “A significant aspect of it is that, to the greatest extent feasible, we strive for vertical integration in all we do. Therefore, having control over the canning and production allows us to ensure that the product we get meets our quality and ethical sourcing standards.
During our journey to Spain, Sherman and his colleagues, Robert Chandler, the director of operations, and MeggiO’Nealal, the director of procurement, they made this objective very evident. The three have spent years locating the suppliers of a few popular conserves brands to make sure they can be traced back to a single source. And when they did, they compensated them. They collaborated with them to introduce the Conservas Mariscadora, a six-tin range of products that included mussels in pickled sauce, clams, cockles, scallops in Vieira sauce, and razor clams with olive oil, garlic, and chile.”
“We love these single-origin tins from Mariscadora because they allow you to stock your pantry or hit the road with super premium seafood with minimal carbon footprint,” Sherman said at the time of the introduction. Additionally, they offer a nutrient-dense, shelf-stable, and sustainable source of protein that makes a valuable food source that benefits these populations.
All the Information You Need to Know About Seafood Cans
These same businesses are now teaching students how to can in return. Not to outdo but to prosper alongside.
With the enthusiasm of a child seeing a Nintendo for the first time at Christmas, Chandler said, “We learn so much about the care for the product from it. “Instead of looking at the sterilizing procedures in a spotless cannery, These individuals understand the product. They can determine when the fish is right and how to handle them.” “Bringing the good science in-house is the end game,” he continued.
Sherman noted that’s a two-way street since his business buys “a “significant volume ” of goods from regional suppliers in Portugal and Spain. All of that, though, is a necessary component of developing this more tightly knit, traceable, closed-loop, and, in some respects, sustainable system. “
“While there are many ways to think about sustainability, including sustaining communities of fishermen, who are often exploited in the process, we have to be careful about claims we make around sustainability,” Sherman said. “By the same token, it’s hard to imagine a better and more responsible seafood product than taking a farmed shellfish and putting it into a can at a cannery right down the street.”
He said, “It ticks every box and has a small carbon footprint.”” “The farmed shellfish are improving the environment in their original habitat, the harvesters are generating revenue, and the factory employees are paid well and operate under sound regulations. It’s been rather challenging to find a problem with it.
In many ways, bivalves are a more environmentally friendly choice for customers who enjoy seafood. In its national guidelines, Seafood Watch features mussels, clams, oysters, and cockles in the” “best choice” category. Is anything flawless? Not at all. However, it could be a superior option for the three billion people who rely on seafood as a significant source of animal protein worldwide.
Naturally, the fact that the worldwide canned fish industry is projected to reach $50.47 billion by 2030 does not negatively impact Sherman or Hiteam’s financial performance. “We’re simply insisting on getting the absolute best stuff that these canneries are producing, “Sherman continued. And his cannery will soon follow them.
- Island Creek Oysters, based in Massachusetts, is launching a new cannery in New Bedford, aiming to produce high-end shellfish cans and becoming one of the last remaining canneries in the United States.
- The company received a grant in 2022 from the State of Massachusetts as part of the Food Security Infrastructure Grant Program, emphasizing not only addressing food insecurity but also improving seafood source traceability amid concerns about mislabeling in the industry.
- Island Creek’s commitment to vertical integration ensures control over canning and production, allowing them to maintain high quality and ethical sourcing standards, addressing issues raised by studies on seafood fraud and mislabeling.
- The company’s focus on sustainability extends to supporting regional suppliers, developing a tightly knit, traceable, closed-loop system, and promoting farmed shellfish as an environmentally friendly choice, aligning with Seafood Watch’s “best choice” category for mussels, clams, oysters, and cockles.