Clear Springs Foods, based in Buhl, ID, USA, is the largest vertically-integrated trout producer in the world. The company has operated since 1966 along the sides of a canyon on the Snake River, an area of abundant, prodigious freshwater springs. It produces domestically about 26 million pounds of trout a year, operates 8 farms, has a 15-year partnership with a producer in Chile that supplies frozen trout for the food service industry, and owns 2 processing facilities. All of Clear Springs’ trout is currently sold in the USA through their own distribution system, and delivered by their own fleet of trucks. Their processing plants are BRC-certified for food safety management; their fish feed is manufactured in-house.
Despite a history of maintaining high standards, long-term involvement in environmental stewardship, and a coveted listing on the Seafood Watch “Super Green” roster, Clear Springs has just successfully completed their first audit for Global Aquaculture Alliance Best Aquaculture Practices (GAA BAP) certification of their 8 US farms. It covers standards for social responsibility, environmental stewardship and sustainability. “We did quite well,” notes Vice-President of Research Dr. Randy MacMillan. “No corrections needed.”
Although the firm issued its own comprehensive sustainability report last year, and their customers were impressed, the customers still wanted an official certification in place for their own markets. “So we moved forward,” says Riffle. “We wanted to support our customers… and we were already doing the vast majority of whatever a certification program addresses. We want there to be good operators in the industry,” he adds, “and we don’t want the bad players. Maybe through the certification process they can become better players.”
Clear Springs already operates under the watchful eyes of agencies like the US Environmental Protection Agency and the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality, and has been active in advising groups such as Seafood Watch, who influence standards-setting processes. “We helped to educate them about trout farming. They were impressed with how proactive Clear Springs has been in operating sustainably,” says MacMillan. He sees the growing interest in certification internationally as a positive trend. “In the US and Canada, we have very good governance, so we are usually already pretty much there. But we don’t produce the bulk of seafood in the world.” He views the certification process and yearly audits as a way of educating businesses and encouraging conformity.
“It’s also good for business,” adds Kurt Meyers, Vice President of Marketing. “We want to be part of the story going to the consumer about all the things we’re doing right. In food service, they might make a menu mention about us….When we sell to the distributors, they like to market what we are doing via their newsletters, etc. These go to retailers and food service operators and we can be recognized through them.”
“We are supportive of certification as it relates to supporting our customers,” adds Don Riffle, “…and we see the need for it in a lot of parts of the world. We hope it’s going to get rid of the bad players and actually raise the standard of aquaculture throughout the world; we think that will be good for the seafood industry.” —K.T. Pirquet