Avoiding the Three Day Stink

Over the years on Spend Matters, I've had the opportunity to quote one on of my favorite figures in American history, Benjamin Franklin. For those who have never studied Franklin, I find him to be such a refreshing figure. Who else could be described as witty, inventive, enterprising, superficial, hard-working, and lazy all in one sentence but Franklin? One of Franklin's real gifts was his ability, as he put it, to focus on appearances as much as anything else. But we all know that there was often something deep working under the surface (at least when he was not quaffing Bordeaux and tending to his lady friends while living in London and France).

That's enough history for the day. The reason for my little historical digression is to quote one off Franklin's most astute phrases: "Guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days." This collection of words has particular relevance when applied to a recent article in Purchasing about Legal Sea Food's supply chain. Considering that about the only thing I look forward to at Logan Airport is the Legal Sea Foods in one of the terminals, the article caught my attention.

According to Purchasing, "Legal Sea Foods taps suppliers from all over the world for its seafood supply. Vietnam, for example, is the main source for shrimp, while fish comes from different regions of the world, depending on the time of year and availability." But what is most interesting is their approach to ensuring food safety and quality through a just-in-time supply chain that emphasizes product testing and frequent replenishment. Apparently, "all seafood bought goes to Legal Sea Foods' quality assurance facility in Boston, where seafood undergoes testing before it is portioned and shipped to restaurants. Once cleared, the company uses ground transportation to deliver the seafood to its eateries in the Boston area, New York and New Jersey. To supply its Florida locations, the company flies seafood on a daily basis, including product originally from the Sunshine State."

However un-green it might sounds to fly fish thousands of miles up the coast only to fly it back down again, "it is the only way we know to make sure it is the freshest fish possible," according a Legal Sea Foods source quoted in the article. And you might also be surprised to learn that Legal's individual cooks don't have much leeway in sizing their portions given that "the restaurants get a pre-portioned fish that is individually cryovac-ed" before they receive it. Fascinating stuff, even though I question whether or not it's worth all of these efforts to avoid the three-day stink. Personally, I'd rather eat from a local seafood dive when given the opportunity than a chain -- even a good chain like Legal -- that wastes so much energy because they don't trust the noses of the chefs that actually prepare the food.

Jason Busch

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