From Pier-to-Plate with BerkShore Seafood!
At River Valley Co-op, we work with suppliers who share our mission of responsibly sourced food. This purpose led us to partner with seafood wholesaler BerkShore, a western Massachusetts-based company built exclusively to serve local communities with no-storage, same-day delivery. Their transparent selection process prioritizes quality over quantity so shoppers can feel confident knowing everything with the BerkShore name is as fresh as it gets, every time.
BerkShore curates a selection of the freshest seafood from a group of vendors and fishermen at the iconic Boston Fish Pier. Taking the road less traveled, they do business only with small-catch fishermen while bypassing the largest suppliers. By building close relationships with only trusted vendors, they’re able to bring the catch of the day to restaurants and markets across Western Massachusetts at current prices—providing communities with safer and tastier fish, caught wild from our own local waters. BerkShore has an extensive list of premium local and domestic finfish and shellfish, as well as a very carefully curated list of imports.
A BerkShore driver poses with a remarkable 10-pound lobster (image: Facebook)
The staff at BerkShore journey across the state five times per week to select their seafood for delivery the same day. This minimizes the number of miles traveled and eliminates the need for freezer storage, reducing their carbon footprint in the region. In contrast, most companies are unable to offer such a client-focused system at their level of expertise. Every day, BerkShore must make real-time, on-the-dock decisions and can make substitutions on your behalf if a product does not meet their quality or freshness expectations.
One of BerkShore's popular Fish Stand Fridays at River Valley Co-op (image: Facebook)
BerkShore starts fresh every morning and is committed to filling the truck with the best quality fish every day. Here you can find information about their most common services:
Delivering the freshest finfish and shellfish to your markets, BerkShore’s unique approach to quality-first sourcing (vs. value or price-fist sourcing) creates instant trust. Since they don’t store or take inventory of any products, BerkShore is not burdened with moving suboptimal seafood.
Oyster Bar Catering
Pier-to-plate oyster and clam farming can make any occasion better. BerkShore staff can handle everything, from shucking to providing their signature sauces to serve.
Seafood Buying and Consulting
BerkShore also provides a successful seafood program regardless of the size of your organization or ideal menu using their extensive understanding of the economics and seasonality of seafood. They place a special focus on seasonal availability, which introduces underutilized varieties of fish and shellfish to our palates. Keeping local populations in check without favoring any particular set of species is crucial for the survival of our coastal and freshwater ecosystems. They are also familiar with the buying patterns and habits of the region.
The Boston Fish Pier is among the oldest and most famous fish markets in the U.S. (image: Instagram)
At River Valley Co-op, shoppers can discover new tastes and feel good knowing their seafood purchases go to supporting sustainable fishing families in New England. It’s hard to believe, but in the early 2000s Western Massachusetts was severely underserved with fresh and locally procured seafood. Wes Malzone founded BerkShore in 2012 on this understanding. In a state with abundant coastlines and a well-established fishing industry, he knew this trend was unacceptable and needed to be reversed. He responded by providing the region with sustainable fish and shellfish, caught from the wild in small batches and delivered within hours. His efforts exploded into a local phenomenon, and a steady supply of fresh coastal fare from our own waters is now more accessible than ever. We spoke to Wes to find out how he embarked on this mission to provide better seafood to markets and restaurants across Western Massachusetts, as well as to learn his thoughts on the future of fishing and seafood.
Ryan next to his truck in 2019 (image: Instagram)
What led you to establish BerkShore and what was it like getting started?
Corporate life was not doing it for me. Growing up in the coastal town of Scituate, MA, I knew I wanted to work in the food industry and started looking for a business idea. Eventually, a lobsterman friend and I reconnected. He asked where I was living and who was bringing the type and quality of fish we were used to eating out to Western Massachusetts. After knocking on many restaurant doors to ask chefs and market managers if they would buy from a new company that provided better fish, BerkShore was born.
Amazingly fresh pan-seared scallops sourced through BerkShore (image: Instagram)
Where do you source your seafood from and how is it curated?
We have spent the last eight years curating partnerships as well as the fish itself. We have built very strong relationships with a few trusted companies on the fish pier who truly understand what we do and how we do it. Good is not good enough for us, and our partners know it. By communicating multiple times a day with our partners on the Boston Fish Pier, we put together a list of fish & shellfish for our clients that we know will meet our quality and sustainability standards. Working closely with our vendor/partners doing the buying and sorting has allowed us to create a multi-level quality control structure. This involves our vendors picking out only the best of what they have, as well as BerkShore employees ensuring that only the best seafood and shellfish make it into our trucks.
A behind-the-scenes look at BerkShore’s curation process (image: Instagram)
Why is same-day delivery so important when it comes to seafood?
There is no substitute for truly fresh fish and we think our customers know this. Same-day delivery back to Western Mass allows our seafood to retain those subtle flavors, that perfect texture and the moisture content we love. These qualities are always the first things to go when you cut fish or harvest shellfish and warehouse them for future delivery. We think our same-day approach is what makes the difference and why so many people have come to trust the BerkShore brand.
What are your concerns with the global fishing and seafood industries?
We believe that the best thing you can do is focus your purchases towards local seafood and work outwards geographically from there. I believe the U.S. is putting a lot of effort into ensuring that future generations have the opportunity to harvest wild seafood. This means actively managing the amount of fish harvested at any one time from our oceans. My main concern is with other countries that do not have nearly the amount of regulations that we do. Many have overfished their waters and are now exploiting the countries that lack the resources to protect their wild fish stocks. Another worry for me is the prevalence of plastics, micro or otherwise, in the world's oceans.
The sun rises over the pier as BerkShore crews get to work (image: Facebook)
What are some sustainable practices you incorporate into your daily business?
From day one, we have urged our clients to support Massachusetts fisheries first and embrace our local seafood and shellfish species. We feel like it is our mission to reintroduce our customer base and everybody else we can to the bounty of seafood available from our regional waters. The more money we spend buying locally and regionally caught fish, the more money and security our local fisherman and women have to keep fishing. Also, when buying locally or regionally caught fish and shellfish, you are dramatically cutting down pollution related to transportation, as well as the time it takes to get the fish out of the water and on to your plate. We have worked very closely with Amanda Davis, who runs the local nonprofit Our Wicked Fish (www.ourwickedfish.com), to help us spread the word and educate our clients and the public on the benefit of supporting our local fisheries. We encourage whoever is reading this to check out what Amanda is doing!
For the freshest taste from the sea, always stick with pier-to-plate! (images: Instagram)
BerkShore’s curators are experts in selecting exceptionally tasty, seasonal varieties of fish and shellfish that continue to surprise and exceed our expectations at the co-op. For more information, you can visit BerkShore’s website or follow them on Facebook and Instagram. To learn more about our other vendors, check out our blog here.