Dogfish in the Dining Hall?
Not long ago, Cape Cod fisherman Doug Feeney was barely making ends meet. Although he had a substantial haul every day, he was catching dogfish: delicious, but not familiar to American consumers. All of it was shipped overseas. Doug’s neighbors were not able to enjoy his fish, and he didn’t even know exactly where it went. Meanwhile, 91% of the seafood that Americans eat is imported. This seemed backwards.
Doug started working to increase demand for dogfish at home. A few chefs were serving it, but ordering in pounds. “I need orders you can measure in metric tons,” he told Boston Magazine. Who are some of the biggest local food purchasers in New England? Institutions like colleges, hospitals, schools, and correctional facilities that buy large volumes on a consistent basis. Doug and other fishermen in the Chatham Harvester’s Cooperative worked to get a new “dogfish and chips” product into New England dining halls by partnering with their distributor, Red’s Best. Sales were improving but were still way too small to make the business work.
Despite the odd name, dogfish is delicious, nutritious, and sustainably harvested in New England.
Doug wasn’t sure it was worth taking a day away from fishing, but he agreed to share his story at the 2017 FINE Summit, a gathering of 500 farm to institution leaders. The very next week, he got a call from a USDA representative who was inspired by what she heard there. Nine months later, half a million dollars were awarded to support Doug and his co-op of fishermen to improve their product, rebrand it as“shark bites,” and dramatically expand sales to institutions. What’s more, they crafted a fair-price contract that guaranteed a better livelihood for these New Englanders.
This success for Doug and the New England fishing fleet would not have happened without FINE’s relationships, and the values they encourage in institutions to keep it local.
- Brett Tolley, Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance
[A note from Executive Director Peter Allison]
I am inspired by fisherman Doug Feeney's story which highlights the success of connection. As a network organization, FINE works behind the scenes to make connections that empower and lift up other organizations and businesses. We connect New England fishermen and farmers with institutional buyers. We connect with food hubs, distributors and processors. We connect our community with research, tools, and events.
You are at the center of these connections. I hope you will consider a gift to FINE. Thank you for your help in mobilizing the power of New England institutions to create a more resilient and just food system.
Peter Allison, FINE Executive Director