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Town & Country debuts humanely harvested cod

Fish are stunned immediately, which reduces damage to meat from stress hormones

Town & Country Markets Inc. is now offering ethically sourced cod, which are stunned immediately upon harvest in order to deliver a higher quality, more nutritious filet. 

The Humane Harvest line-caught Pacific cod is a product of Blue North Fisheries. The cod are caught individually through a moon pool using hook and line prior to being immobilized on a stunning table. The company says this shuts down the fish’s central nervous system and thus ensures that the cod is spared the stress and pain of being fileted alive. 

While a humane measure, the lack of stress hormones released by the fish due to its less traumatic harvest also increases the quality and nutritional value of the meat.

“In humanely slaughtered fish, the reduction of stress means that only some muscles will enter rigor mortis while others do not,” reads a report that Blue North participated in called Humane Harvesting Initiative: The Influence of Humane Harvesting on Fish Quality, Nutritional Value Safety. “This difference in timing results in a higher quality fillet in terms of texture.

“Stress conditions in harvesting and post harvesting processes can induce peroxidase and aldehyde production in the fish fillet during short storage, which can decrease the nutritional quality of the fish fillet,” states the report. “As a result, the nutrient quality will be decreased, as well as both the texture and flavor of the product due to the degradation and loss of fatty acids and protein.” 

The cod is immediately frozen at sea as well, which allows it to retain its freshness longer.

“This seems a natural next step in our commitment to offer sustainable seafood and conscious food choices to our shoppers,” said Susan Allen, shareholder and director of brand development for Town & Country Markets in a release. “We are excited to offer this Humane Harvest cod to our customers, and are honored to be the first retailer to do so.”

“We believe that all sentient beings, including fish, deserve to be treated as humanely as possible,” Michael Burns, co-founder and chairman of Blue North, added in the release. “When we looked at potential partners to introduce this new product to consumers, we immediately thought of Town & Country Markets.”

Blue North also deploys the only vessel on the Bering Sea that uses moon pool technology, which allows the fish to be harvested from inside the vessel instead of out on the weather deck. This provides for a safer experience for the ship’s crew as well.

The Blue North product is available at the independent Town & Country’s six Seattle-area locations. Three of the locations operate under the Town & Country banner and three hang the Central Market shingle.

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