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Oct 5, 2007 02:54 PM

Why does Whole Foods' Seafood Dept Suck?

Everything else at WFs is great, including their meats...but for some reason their seafood department is really disappointing. Other than their occasional whole fish display, i find their fish to be fairly old and smelly. I have had a lot of bad experiences with their seafood from various different so cal stores. Is it just me or do they suck when it comes to seafood??

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  1. Not just you - I'm in Manhattan and their seafood always just looks quite sad to me - quit buying it ages ago.

    1. In general, seafood degrades very fast. Also, sourcing various seafood items in large quantities of at least acceptable quality for a chain like WF is difficult as most of it comes from the wild - not farms or ranches (but we all know aquaculture is on the rise). No one can "line up their ducks" with wild sources like one can on a farm or ranch in anticipation for demand. My guess would be that most of WF's stock is fresh- or flash-frozen. Moreover, if they've created a reputation of having subpar seafood in an otherwise good to great market environment, this is really going to stand out in shoppers' minds and a self-perpetuating syndrome will set itself in motion. Lousy seafood? I ain't going to even think twice for now on to buy it from here. The seafood sits, and who knows what they do with it. Because this department sees their product as a sideshow, they aren't going to invest in better product - it would be a waste as they know they aren't going to sell much anyway - it's just window dressing. Turnover is key in seafood. If it ain't selling, it's going to sit. And if it's going to sit, it's going to get old. And if it looks (and smells) old, then it ain't going to sell.

      1. The one that I go to (Pasadena, CA) is fine. I buy lots of seafood(mostly shrimp, trout, salmon, and scallops)and have never had a problem. Now their old competitor, Wild Oats, that was another story...

        1 Reply
        1. re: calabasas_trafalgar

          I'm not surprised. Like all of their other departments in all of their stores, the quality of each department can vary wildly. My guess is they started out with a good reputation which perpetuates good turnover. This general phenomenon occurs at most grocery chains that are at least decent. I think alot if it also depends on local customer profiles and the surrounding competition as well.

        2. I buy seafood from WFs in the Boston area at least once weekly and I have only had a problem once. Of course, I was able to return the piece of fish for a full refund that one time.

          1 Reply
          1. re: veggielover

            WF is very good about that - the "return" factor is built into their prices. Of all the grocery chains I've ever come into contact with, WF has the profit margin that can best absorb their returns policy.

          2. I got sucked in again yesterday and bought some halibut from Costco in Laguna Niguel in California. It said it was packed that day. I opened it and it had a faint fishy odor. Now this was about 3/4 of a pound for $10.99. Their meat is awesome, but this piece of fish was just OK, and barely that. I vowed I won't buy fish from them again, and would buy it from Santa Monica Seafood in Costa Mesa, which has always been pricey but has always had a sweetness to its fillets that knocks your socks off, no matter how you cook it. Today I had some wahoo from them, SMSeafood, and it was incredibly good. That said, maybe Costco can't get it together to buy, ship and sell fish; or maybe they use their meat people who don't understand it; but count this chowhound out forever from buying fresh fish at their store. A shame because their beef and lamb is, as I said, awesome.

            3 Replies
            1. re: EclecticEater

              I agree - most land protein does quite well with time. Seafood? Nope - again - in general, big chains in general have a sourcing issue with such highly perishable products.

              1. re: EclecticEater

                Their seafood is usually good in Ontario, and they did a fine job distributing wild sockeye this summer, from Alaska and B.C. We didn't get halibut. Mussels have been good, but I have to get 5lb.
                In most chains when I look at a tray of fish, I smell it carefully. If there is any hint of a smell getting through the packaging, I move on. And it has to look fresh too, and be used same day.

                1. re: jayt90

                  Haven't been to one since stopped selling softshell crabs in Md. due to a few nuts' complaints. Weanies.