August 5, 2023
March 21, 2023
December 19, 2022
December 19, 2022
March 31, 2022
Sustainable Seafood Tour Spotlight: Jennifer Bushman
This chef and aquaculture champion wants to change the way we think about farmed seafood
Some people are bitten by the wine bug. Jennifer Bushman was “hooked” by sustainable seafood. While traveling on a cookbook tour 15 years ago, her agent called with an irresistible proposal to help bring to market a new brand of sustainably farmed salmon. She accepted the offer and her career took a new, exciting and wholly unexpected turn. Today, as a chef, speaker, strategist and consultant for the sustainable aquaculture community, she aims to change the way people think about farmed seafood.
“We farm everything else at scale in our food system,” she told St. Supéry CEO Emma Swain during an episode of the winery’s “St. Supéry Sips” podcast series. “We farm our lettuce greens, we farm our grapes for wine. But for some reason, people will go into a restaurant, look at the fish and seafood, and ask, ‘Is it wild or farmed?’”
Just as there are responsible ways to raise chicken, she noted, there are sustainable methods for farming fish and seafood. “We’re already eating more farmed fish in the United States than we eat wild,” she said, “but there’s a responsible, ethical way to source that. And it really deserves a seat at the Future of Food table.”
Bushman’s focus is on “blue foods,” which encompass all of the different edible organisms that come from the world’s oceans and fresh waterways. This essential food system is severely depleted, either fished to capacity or to over-capacity. Sustainable aquaculture can help restore balance and preserve wild stocks for island nations and other places that rely on them for survival.
“That choice you make on the plate is a great starting point,” Bushman said, “meaning that you’re taking your dollars and putting them toward the things you care about.” Just as one might choose to purchase wine from producers who take care of the land and the environment, seafood lovers can support water farmers who embrace sustainable practices.
Another way to contribute, she added, is by swapping overfished, traditionally wild species like bluefin tuna for more sustainable alternatives. As an example, Bushman pointed to Blue Ocean Mariculture off the coast of Hawaii, which offers a sustainably farmed kanpachi that tastes phenomenal in dishes like ceviche and poke.
For those seeking out sustainable seafood, Bushman recommended using the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch search tool to check the ratings by species and country of origin. She also pointed to branded farms that sell their products through stores such as Whole Foods, including striped bass purveyor Pacifico Aquiculture, and third-generation salmon farmer Kvarøy Arctic. Sustainable seafood lovers can also follow the Fed by Blue campaign, launched by Bushman with other industry veterans to increase the availability and transparency of responsibly sourced blue food.
Supporting sustainable blue food isn’t only about fish and shellfish. Seaweed also plays an important role as part of multi-trophic systems. Under this practice, multiple organisms are farmed together to improve efficiency, reduce waste and provide ecosystem benefits. Lower-level species like seaweed derive nutrients from the waste products of higher species, so no additional inputs are needed.
“We might be farming a finfish, but alongside of it, we’re also farming bivalves like the oysters and mussels, and seaweed,” Bushman explained. Including seaweed in such systems can be enormously beneficial, she added, because it lowers the water’s nitrogen and acidification levels, absorbs carbon, and assists in regenerating fish populations.
As with grapes, there are many different varieties of seaweed, each with its own flavor and combination of nutrients. Bushman has seen chefs use seaweed in stunningly creative ways, from topping grilled mussels with sea lettuce sauce to adorning cheesecake with caramelized sea grapes.
Beyond the kitchen and dining room, sustainable aquaculture supporters can do their part by urging politicians to grant licenses to responsible farmers. “One of the big issues that we’re having right now in the United States is that coastal landowners don’t want to see these farms in their backyards,” she explained. “In Washington state, 927 licenses to farm oysters and mussels were denied by a judge because of a false narrative from these coastal landowners. So I think we all have to get involved.”
Bushman also believes it’s time to allow more aquaculture in federal waters. “It’s going to be important to create the food that we need in the United States because we have a seafood deficit right now,” she said. “We import more than 70 percent of our fish and seafood, so we need to farm more in U.S. waters. But we need to do it right.”
Check out this great “Blue Food” recipe from Jennifer Bushman here
April 1, 2022