Craig Morris , October 22, 2019

It's Time for Seafood to take its Seat at the Table!

Earlier this month, the Wall Street Journal hosted its annual Global Food Forum in New York City. The one-day event hosts CEOs and senior leaders from across the food industry and discussions center around the current state of affairs for food here and around the world.

On the agenda this year were topics ranging from the labeling debate for plant-based beverages, how technology will influence labor on farms and in restaurants, how “Fast Food 3.0” is working to bring affordable, accessible and delicious food to the masses, the impending global water shortage, and how trade disputes are affecting food production and security.

The full-day event featured a litany of VIPs from the head of McDonald’s to Frank Yiannis, Deputy Commissioner for Food Policy and Response with the Food and Drug Administration and Under Secretary for Trade Ted McKinney of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. A full day of robust discussions about the future of our food system and not a single presenter came from seafood or even mentioned it. There were countless discussions about plant-based and cellular meat, about fast food, even about climate change, and yet seafood had no part in the discussion. There was virtually not one word spoken about seafood at all.

Are we not food? Do we not actively participate in the system? Is Wild Alaska Pollock not served as a staple in a certain fast food restaurant with emblematic golden arches? Have we not been affected by trade disputes and tariffs? Are we not concerned about climate change? Do we not have a perspective on the issues du jour? In my irked haze, I started to wonder if seafood isn’t part of the discussion because we haven’t wanted to be or because we haven’t asked. In terrestrial protein terms, is it the chicken or the egg that came first?

Regardless of what came first, we need to lean in and be at the table. It is not, contrary to popular belief, the age of alternative proteins; it’s our time. The world’s oceans will play an increasingly important part in future protein needs. It seems the media and others skipped right over our delicious, and nutritious, sustainable protein in favor of the sexy allure of new startups that have yet to scale and prove their worth. It’s time that we claim the attention that is so rightfully ours and actively engage in discussions about the food system of which we are an active part.

Next week, the Association of Genuine Alaska Pollock Producers will host the first-ever Wild Alaska Pollock Annual Meeting which I think is the first step in us coming together and discussing our future. There are a variety of topics on the table, but it is my hope that this is the beginning and not the end. We need to put ourselves out there more—we need to start talking about seafood, and Wild Alaska Pollock in particular, with pride and gusto, every chance we get.

You can bet that I’ll be looking for a panel that we can be a part of at next year’s Global Food Forum. But it’s more than that: it’s engaging with the food media, it’s showcasing our innovations, it’s advertising and marketing and communications. It’s showing up and being counted. Yes, American’s under-index in seafood consumption. But they sure eat a heck of a lot more seafood than they do cellular meat. It’s time the conversation reflected that.

Let’s get the gift of gab, together. And for those of you who will be in attendance at next week’s meeting, I can’t wait to see you and start the discussion. 

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