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New Cat Food Line Comes Out of Whole Foods’ Initiative

Posted: June 13, 2014, 4:30 p.m. EDT


By Clay Jackson

Right there, on Whole Foods website, under the "Mission and Values” tab, it reads, "Seafood Sustainability.”

With that in mind, the Austin, Texas-based natural and organic grocery chain collaborated with American Tuna, a Whole Foods vendor since 2005, about creating a new pet food line from red meat tuna portions.

American Tuna’s namesake American Tuna brand, a line of sustainably fished tuna for human consumption, is a fixture in Whole Foods Markets nationwide; the companies’ business relationship goes back to 2005 when American Tuna first appeared on shelves at two San Diego-area Whole Foods Markets.

"Whole Foods wanted zero-food waste,” said Natalie Webster, a member of one of six fishing families that founded the San Diego-based sustainable tuna fishing company, "so we came up with Deck Hand [cat food] and Whole Foods thought it was a great idea.”

 Cat Food

Deck Hand is a new seafood-sustainable cat food that is available exclusively at Whole Foods. American Tuna

White meat tuna is canned for human consumption while red meat is typically used for bait for crab and eel fishing and for fertilizers, fish meals, protein supplements, fish oil supplements and other products.

"We collaborated with them [Whole Foods] to use the red meat portion of our albacore and skipjack tunas left over from the processing of the Pole & Line brand,” Webster said, "and we came up with Deck Hand.”

"Whole Foods thought it was a great idea,” she added.

In addition, any leftover tuna parts, not used for cat or human-grade food, become fish and bone meal for animal feed and no food waste is generated, as per Whole Foods’ wishes.

Whole Foods began carrying Deck Hand Premium Cat Food and a new human line called Pole & Line in its stores starting in May.

The price point for the Whole Foods exclusive Deck Hand and Pole & Line products are really good, according to Webster.

One reason for that is that both brands are processed and canned in Thailand, where labor costs aren’t as high as in the U.S.

Deck Hand comes in single 3- and 5-ounce cans and in a 3-ounce can three-pack running $1.99. Singly, 3-ounce cans are 69 cents and the 5-ounce cans are 89 cents.

What sets American Tuna apart from many other commercial fishing operations is that all of the tuna used in its products are caught using the sustainable pole-and-line method, where tuna are caught one at a time with no by-catch.

This method allows lots of tuna to swim on and to continue growing and reproducing and to, perhaps, be caught another day.

The pole-and-line method eliminates by-catch – those unfortunates that get swept up with tuna by commercial fishing fleets employing longline, purse seine or possible illegal driftnet fishing.

"Our partnership with Whole Foods Market is helping fishing families keep a century-old tradition of sustainable, small-scale pole and line fishing alive, both in the Maldives and in the Pacific Northwest,” Webster said. 

"These products bring true innovation to the tuna category with an end result of higher quality for consumers at a great low price,” said Dwight Richmond, global grocery purchasing coordinator for Whole Foods Market.

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