The Life of a Farm-Raised Oyster
Oysters start out as larvae, so small that they are invisible to the naked eye. In about a year, they can grow to 1 – 1-1/2 inches. They usually reach market size within 18 months to 2 years time. Sometime during July and August for a period of two to three weeks, oysters spawn. The water around them can acquire a milky quality. All of their energies during this time are utilized for reproduction. After August, oysters begin 'fattening-up' for the colder months. Oysters need to take in a lot of food in the late summer and fall in order to survive the winter months.
On an oyster farm, baby oysters need to be handled often, tumbled against one another. The net bags that contain them are shaken regularly. This causes the baby oysters to rub against each other’s shells. The fragile outside edges of the shells is new shell growth. This delicate fringe breaks off during this tumbling process and causes each oyster to grow thicker rather than longer, eventually forming an oyster with a deeper “cup.” Unattended oysters tend to grow longer and flatter, looking more like an elongated potato chip. Around the end of November, the water temperature drops below 50 degrees, so the oysters stop growing for the most part, and put their energies toward surviving the frigid winter months. Early to mid-May, water temperatures warm. Once the water reaches 50 degrees, the growing season begins again.
Oysters are natural filters with the ability to pump as much as 50-60 gallons of water a day. This helps trap nitrogen from the algae they eat and convert it into usable protein and keep RI coastal ecosystems healthy. In addition, oyster farms and the growing sanctuaries that our farmers are building, offer rich habitat for many kinds of marine life. Ecosystems rich in biodiversity help to ensure healthy coastal environments.
Oysters: A Protein Rich Food
The average oyster contains close to 2 grams of protein. A serving of 12 oysters contains 21.96 grams of protein, with only about 4 grams of fat. Oysters are low in cholesterol and rich in zinc, iron, calcium, and vitamin A.
So treat yourself to some farm-fresh oysters. They’re both delicious and nutritious. How many foods can you can that about?