Trader Joe’s is an easy store to have a love-hate relationship with. It’s full of food, yet it seems impossible to pick up everything you need to cook a real meal there. And all the plastic packaging on the produce is really annoying and wasteful. But wait, you can get a bottle of Bulleit Bourbon for 20 bucks. And those peanut-butter-filled pretzel things are pretty awesome when you have the munchies. And the cheese is a sweet deal. Organic milk too.

But Greenpeace looks to be in the hater camp with the launch of its microsite Traitor Joe’s. The group’s beef? It says that its surveys found the grocer selling “15 of the 22 red list seafoods” like Chilean sea bass and orange roughy. But while the site is heavy on flash animations of fish singing,
Greenpeace doesn’t present much information to substantiate its accusations other than this pdf file, which doesn’t provide much concrete evidence. Ultimately, it looks like Greenpeace is pushing for the grocery chain to implement an official sustainable seafood policy, provide info to help customers make sustainable seafood choices, and stop allegedly stocking the “red list” seafood.

TJ’s press office emailed CHOW its response to Greenpeace’s allegations. Jon Basalone (the EVP of marketing and merchandising for the company), says that “Trader Joe’s does not participate in any surveys. As a result, information gets gleaned from sources outside of Trader Joe’s, and this can lead to inaccurate reporting. … The Greenpeace report details that Trader Joe’s sells a certain number of items on their ‘Red List.’ But several of the items that they call out are NOT for sale in our stores. We do NOT sell Chilean Sea Bass, Monkfish, Ocean Quahog or Redfish in any of our stores.” Basalone says that TJ’s will further efforts to improve sustainability by using the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s “science-based and research-backed” Seafood Watch recommendations to help the store with seafood purchasing decisions.

Ultimately, isn’t it a little unfair to cast all the blame on a grocer for making unsustainable choices? If a store stocks unsustainable seafood, isn’t it because customers are buying and eating it? It’s a responsibility that both consumers and retailers should share.

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