All indications point toward a very tight salmon market in 2014, according to industry experts. Globally, supply may grow two or three percentage points, but will be far outstripped by burgeoning demand. Prices will continue to increase, especially for Q1 and Q2, but consumers are less concerned about increased costs than about volatility. They prefer stability—i.e., the knowledge that prices six months or a year from now will be similar to today’s prices. In addition, both demand and production typically increase during the holiday season, which ratchets prices upward.
Scottish and Norwegian salmon prices will climb in January and through the first two quarters of the year. Volume through the holidays should remain solid. Salmon from these icy waters arrive at our dock in huge shipping containers, direct from the farms, ensuring maximum freshness. Sizes are excellent averaging, 6 to 8 kg. Seattle Fish Company expert cutters prepare the fish to your exact specifications, or buy them whole and make use of the entire carcass. All the European farms we buy from are certified by GAP, ensuring third-party audit and compliance with rigorous standards for best farming practice. Pen densities are low, farms are fallowed, and feed ratios approach 1:1, to highlight a few of our farms’ sustainability efforts.
Skuna Bay, our premium craft-raised salmon partner from Vancouver Island, is poised to provide individually farmer-inspected, hand-packed Atlantic salmon to our discriminating chefs in the Rocky Mountain Region. To be deemed worthy, Skuna Bay salmon are required to meet rigorous standards. I was personally on the Skuna Bay line at the Walcan processing plant in Campbell River and found a fish worthy of going into the Skuna box. But when removing the remaining viscera and the blood line with Skuna’s exclusive cleaning spoon, I slightly nicked the meat and the craft farmer rejected the fish—testament to the exacting care taken with your Skuna salmon. Call today to add Skuna to your winter menu.
Good news from our suppliers: Trout supply will be adequate for the holiday season. Even though feed prices, transportation costs, and lack of water this summer drove prices up, trout remains a great winter menu value. Whether it’s whole trout or specially cut fillets, we provide all your trout needs.
U.S. farm-raised catfish is facing some hard times in the coming months. Higher costs have forced farms out of business, and subsequent lower production volume has increased prices. Regardless, farm-raised catfish is a value, and committed volumes should fill all retail and wholesale catfish needs. Clean, sustainably raised U.S. catfish gives you affordable menu choices. Try our shank fillets, whole head off skinned, or catfish nuggets.
Alaska halibut season is over, wild salmon has wound down, and Northwest and Canadian ground fishing is at the mercy of winter storms. We are getting sufficient amounts of rock cod, shallow-water Dover sole, petrale sole, and arrowtooth flounder. Pacific true cod and sablefish harvests have been sketchy lately. Focusing further south in the Pacific waters, anticipation for the upcoming Dungeness crab season is somewhat tempered by the announcement from Oregon Fish and Wildlife officials delaying the season opening from December 1 until at least December 15. The agency cited inadequate meat fill for crab, unable to meet the pre-season minimum requirements. Last year the season did not open until December 31, eliminating all holiday ads and promotions.
West Coast fishing for California halibut, yellowtail, grouper, and snapper has been dismal, with boats concentrating on lobster and shrimping. Mexican bay scallop fishing has also been limited, with lighter catch and smaller sizes the norm. As reported, the Mexican shrimp season has been less than stellar, and prices remain firm. Globally, shrimp prices may have reached the tipping point as some retailers and food service chains have removed shrimp offerings from their fall and winter menu choices. In fact, prices, facing historical highs, have actually dipped slightly. Buyers are not impressed, forcing one major U.S. restaurant chain procurer to exclaim, “The shrimp market is a mess,” succinctly and aptly describing the current situation. Don’t look for improvement in the next six to nine months.
Cod, a mainstay domestic fish consumed in the Northeast, is facing a severe shortage due to fishing restrictions and limited allowable days at sea. Every restaurant in Boston has some form of cod on the menu, and most of the volume to fill their needs comes from Iceland and other regions. New Englanders are looking for other types of ground fish, such as dogfish, which is considered a trash fish and has very limited market appeal in the U.S.
As with shrimp, we may soon find out just how much are buyers willing to pay for scallops. Quotas for the opening scallop bell in March will be down again, on the heels of a 30 percent cut in 2013. There is some pushback now, with chefs looking for smaller sizes or other alternatives. The live lobster market, on the other hand, is favorable and good bargains will continue, at least for the short term. Prices will move slightly, but not enough to stifle sales.
Quality shellfish is synonymous with Seattle Fish Company, but oysters are king. Oysters are emerging on menus everywhere, so join the fun if you currently don’t serve oysters. You have many choices, but, in reality, there are only five oyster species and you are likely to find only three at most restaurants: Atlantic or Virginica, Pacific oyster, and Kumamoto. The other two, Olympia and European Flats or Belon, are less common. The featured Atlantic oyster this week is the Naked Cowboy, not to be confused with the guy wandering around Times Square in his skivvies or less. Grown in Long Island Sound, Naked Cowboys grow slowly, taking up to three years to mature, providing a blast of brine you love from Atlantic oysters. These rich, firm, full-meat oysters tend to be strongly mineral, with a touch of iodine. Try some today.
Our Pacific oyster selection looks strong, especially with Washington and Oregon beds showing resurgence. British Columbia, conversely, may see less variety, facing the same lack-of-seed issues as the U.S. farmers two years ago. Also, oysters grow more slowly in B.C. than further south. Manila clam supply from this region, short all summer, has returned to adequate production levels. Hardshell clams from Dennis, Massachusetts, are always consistent, so choose exact count littlenecks, top necks, cherry stones or pasta necks, served raw or steamed.
What fish tastes great and fights like the devil? That would be our new offering from the Yucatan, devil’s tail redfish. Early reports from customers who tried this sustainably raised fish have been excellent. They average about 3 lb., and we can send them to you dressed and scaled or cut into a scaled skin on fillets. Devil’s tails are harvested 20 miles offshore in deep-sea open ocean pens, far from any in-shore ecosystems. Ask your sales rep for details. Gulf tuna and swordfish are cycling back in this week, with good supply and short trip quality. Tuna prices have stayed relatively stable as numbers increase. Mahimahi prices continue to stay soft, with excellent production. ’Tis the season to add mahi to your menu or special list.
Sea Watch now rates Gulf Wild American red snapper and grouper as good alternatives. Fishery improvement efforts and adherence to catch share requirements by alliance fishermen have allowed the Gulf reef fishery to rebound. We support these efforts.
Crabbing in the Gulf, specifically Pontchartrain, is poor, mirroring crab markets around the world. As previously reported, the pasteurized crab market is on the increase. Supply in the Asian producing regions is short for a variety of reasons, increasing prices. A monster typhoon devastated the Philippines recently, disrupting waterways and currents and negatively impacting the fishing industry. However, with more than 5,200 people dead, over 23,000 injured, and millions displaced, there are far bigger concerns than how our crab supply is affected. Our thoughts and prayers go out to all affected by this tragedy.
Honolulu auction numbers have remained strong with a good variety of tunas, but lagging on by-catch of marlin, monchong, and bottom fish. Hawaiian Kampachi numbers look good for the winter, and fish are getting bigger. Steady supply and pricing have given customers confidence that Kampachi will be consistently available. Harvested twice a week, Hawaiian Kampachi is very fresh, an excellent choice for your holiday menus. Sushi or seared, Kampachi wins.
We often speak of our efforts to do the right thing, helping ensure the bounty of the ocean for future generations. What you don’t hear much of is how we keep those choices safe for you to consume. Food safety is job 1 at Seattle Fish Company. The Global Food Safety Initiative, setting the standard for food safety and food quality, recognizes our Level 3 certification from the Safe Quality Food (SFQ) program, the highest level attainable. Our commitment to resources and training employees to understand their positions helps accomplish our food safety goals.
Happy Thanksgiving to all!