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April 21, 2010

Whole fish case

RockfishOne of the more interesting things I ran across while reporting on a story about sustainable seafood, which appears in today's Sun, has to do with Whole Foods.

The supermarket does an excellent job of labeling the fish in its case. It uses color-coded stickers to indicate how the fish is rated by the Blue Ocean Institute.

Green means the fish is relatively abundant and caught in a manner that causes little environmental damage. Yellow indicates serious problems with abundance or fishing methods. Red means problems with that fish are even worse.

i was surprised to see quite a few red- and yellow-flagged fish in the case at the Harbor East Whole Foods, including wild cod (red) and wild Vietnamese yellowfin tuna (yellow).

Teddy Williams, manager of the fish department at that store, said Whole Foods wants to make it easy for customers who care about sustainability to sort out what's what in the fish case. But the store still wants to sell to those who don't give a hoot.

"Some people just want a piece of fish," he said.

Whole Foods is a business -- one that is willing to put warning stickers on some of the stuff it's trying to sell. So I give them points for disclosure.

But it is sort of surprising that the retailer, which won't let anything with artificial coloring, genetically modified ingredients or trans fats in the store, gives unsustainable fish a pass.

Compare that to a restaurant like Woodberry Kitchen. Chef Spike Gjerde employs a full-time fish sourcer to find sustainable seafood for his restaurant. Nobody seems to be leaving Woodberry hungry.

At Woodberry Kitchen, chef Gjerde holds a Delaware Bay Rockfish with fish sourcer Vernon Lingenfelter.
Sun photo by Jed Kirschbaum
Posted by Laura Vozzella at 11:59 AM | | Comments (4)


But it is sort of surprising that the retailer, which won't let anything with artificial coloring, genetically modified ingredients or trans fats in the store, gives unsustainable fish a pass.

It's not that WF cares. They market to people who care about such things. There's a difference.

If they cared, instead of meaningless color codes (uness you know the code), put a tag on it of Planet Earth crying or for red, Planet Earth with a skull and cross-bones.

BTW I found a pie crust there that was chock full of partially hydrogenated oil.

Kind of like the Chiquita commercial I heard the other day...Chiquita bananas AND NOW Chiquita ORGANIC bananas! If they cared they'd grow all their bananas organically, instead they're letting people who care pay extra. Maybe eventually the balance will tip and it'll make business sense to grow it all organically but for now, dollars beat environmental conscience.

Then again, I have no idea whether non-organic banana cultivation actually has a worse impact on the environment, so maybe it's a moot point.

Okay, heresy here. I like to buy organic, believing that it is good for us and good for the planet, but all the organic bananas I've bought just did not taste as good as the regular ones. Does anyone have an explanation?

Sustainable? Heresy! Jesus isn't coming back until we eat all the stuff His Dad gave us. Drill for oil, cut down the rain forest and get me a panda steak!

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About this blog
Richard Gorelick was appointed The Baltimore Sun's restaurant critic in September 2010. Before joining the paper staff fulltime, he contributed freelance criticism and features articles about food to area and regional publications. Along the way, he dispatched for short-distance trucking companies, shilled for cultural non-profits, and assisted in cognitive neurology research – never the subject, always the control.

He takes restaurants seriously but not himself, and his favorite restaurant is the one you love, too.

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