The University of Illinois is leading the charge for responsibly sourced seafood in the heartland of the United States of America.   

In July 2015, the University of Illinois became the first establishment for higher education in the US to become an Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) certified logo license holder. The university features seafood on their menus daily and is currently serving ASC certified tilapia. The fish is among the most popular items served in the cafeteria and university officials are hoping to add certified salmon and shrimp to their menus in the near future.

Each day the university serves over 25,000 meals to more than 9,000 students who can choose to eat at any one of the six dining halls and five convenience stores within the residential dining complex. As a full Chain of Custody license holder, the school may use the label at all of their food service locations, including their full-service catering operations, which provide meals for special events at the Illini Union and Illini Hotel.

Serving Seafood from Responsible Sources

The University of Illinois has made sustainability a core value across their operations, and gaining ASC Chain of Custody certification is part of their ongoing process to become environmentally more responsible.

“Every step we take towards making our operations more sustainable is well received by all of our stakeholders. We even won the Governor’s Sustainability award in 2015,” said Kit Smith, Assistant Director of Menu Management and Procurement at the University of Illinois.

“After we finally secured Sysco Central Illinois as our supplier of the ASC seafood products, we were able to add tilapia to our menu at the start of the 2016 spring semester.”

“Since we serve many students, we knew that we could make a direct impact by choosing to purchase more sustainable seafood.”

When asked about the benefits of updating the menu, Kit mentioned that the tilapia is a nice compliment to their existing offerings and the change also created cost savings for the university. The ASC certified product is less expensive than what they used previously and the kitchens have moved away from using pre-seasoned or “value added” filets and now simply prepare their own fish from the scratch.

According to Kit, “It is a win-win situation. The tilapia is more sustainable and we are saving money!”

“The program has showed our commitment to sustainability and our vendors take notice. It causes a ripple effect throughout the supply chain and sends the message that sustainability should be a required function in our modern food system.”

Moreover, the university is committed to working with a range of partners to protect the threatened global fish supply. In 2006, they collaborated with the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program to established a landmark purchasing policy to replace unsustainable wild and farmed fish with responsibly produced seafood.

Together with its ASC license, the University of Illinois also holds an MSC Chain of Custody certification. A CoC agreement ensures that seafood originates from an ASC or MSC certified seafood producer and provides full traceability throughout the supply chain.

Increasing interest in certification

Interest in sustainability is increasing across the United States, and more and more large retailers and restaurant are making commitments to source certified seafood.

The ASC label sends a strong message to consumers and important stakeholders that certified entities care about the environment and are committed to ensuring the wellbeing of farmers. As the desire for responsibly sourced products grows, demand for the ASC programme has skyrocketed. Due to the clear benefits of the programme, the ASC has grown over 98 percent in the last year.  

Any establishments wishing to apply for ASC certification can find out more at our website.

To find out more about the University of Illinois’ sustainable sourcing policy visit:  

Published on
Monday, 30 May 2016
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