09/16/2014 12:36 pm ET Updated Nov 16, 2014

Steps Toward an Ecological Seafood Menu

Sustainability in seafood -- is it really so hard to attain? And what can the average seafood lover do about it? We frequently hear from distributors and from chefs that they admire and some even are kind to say they're proud of what we do at CleanFish...but...The "but", is usually all focused on one thing: price.

Chefs have real food costs. Distributors have less expensive products that they are also committed to sell. So, while everyone knows what he or she should do, not all feel they have the business-case freedom to do it. The obstacle here is a throwback to a dated conversation that accepts that sustainability and environmentally responsible actions by any business are nice to-do's, "but" not in the category of a real, profitable business must-do.

CleanFish was so very proud as a company to have our fish listed on the menu of The French Laundry in Napa. Yet, we are no less proud to be on the wall posters at Little Chihuahua's Taqueria on Divisadero Street, or on the hip back-lit menus at LYFE Kitchen fast-casual eateries now growing throughout the nation. These real-world business kitchens determined that it was in their interest to make the move to more ecologically responsible fresh elements in their menu recipes. These kitchens, and more like them each month, are maintaining price points acceptable to their targeted consumer market audience, and still to offer access to food they are proud of. These commercial kitchens are making better choices that are rewarded with extraordinarily flavorful fish that have their customers coming back for more.

What was the formula that these sharp chefs and restaurant owners figured out? What allowed them to step up to premium responsible fish, such as Laughing Bird Shrimp, or local wild day-boat catch, or Loch Duart Scottish salmon? With all the pressures on any restaurant regarding food costs and profits, how did they dare make this move? How could they justify the costs? Ready for it? Here is the magic formula revealed:

  • Source well
  • Portion well
  • Price well
  • Tell people the story of the fish--tell your story of why you chose to offer this specific fish deliciousness from your kitchen.

That's it. That's what it takes. In a subsequent blog, I'm going to go into this more deeply, but this is the core of what sustainability takes in real market terms. These are the steps that we need to impact positive change. That's how close you can be to playing your positive part in this food revolution.

• Offer it openly as a restaurant, as a chef, as a kitchen.
• Ask for it directly as a customer.

You make change when you vote with your fork.

Simple. Revolutionary. Change. It's on.