Off-bottom Cultured Oysters Premiere at Crescent City Farmers Market
Though common to the east and west coasts, this product sold direct to consumers is a Louisiana first.
July 13 (New Orleans, Louisiana) — Caminada Bay Premium Oysters will debut a unique, off-bottom oyster product on July 18 at the Crescent City Farmers Market, Saturday Downtown Market, 700 Magazine Street at Girod Street from 8 am to 12 pm. These specialty oysters will be offered for a limited time during the week following, July 21, 22, 23 and 25, at Crescent City Markets throughout New Orleans (visit http://www.crescentcityfarmersmarket.org for locations and time).
“Louisiana is well known for our bottom-grown oysters, however we culture oysters differently, which uses a totally different process,” said Marcos Guerrero, owner of Caminada Bay Premium Oysters. “Our off bottom cultured oysters are set on floating cages at a level that is more beneficial to the oyster quality. Abundant nutrients and more dissolved oxygen give our oysters a better environment and an opportunity to grow faster and fatter year round.”
The oysters tumble with the tides in a suspended cage, which results in a thinner shell with a deeper ‘cup’ for a meatier, tastier oyster. Floating the oysters off the bottom keeps the baby oysters, called spat, from smothering under sediment, and keeps them away from predators like the oyster drill.
“We harvest once the order is received, and oysters are processed within an hour from the farm to the coolers,” said Guerrero. “We guarantee a fresh, world class, gourmet oyster with an herbal sweet & salty flavor—from the high salinity of Caminada Bay. The deeper cup to the shell holds the oyster’s saline juices, making them highly ‘slurpable’.”
This alternative growing system has been studied at length at the Grand Isle Oyster Hatchery, under the direction of John Supan, Ph.D., oyster specialist with Louisiana Sea Grant College Program at LSU. Sea Grant has been instrumental in working with oyster farmers like the Guerrero’s to make this quality product available for public consumption.
“For off-bottom culture, the long-line or cage culture method in particular has been very successful,” said Dr. Supan. “These systems are used commercially in other parts of the world; people are making money with them as they’re recovering more of the oysters they put in the water. This production is geared mainly to half-shell sale, and these oysters have good summertime meat yields.”
Caminada Bay Premium Oysters is a family business, run by Marcos, wife Lali, and sons Aldo and Boris. They currently harvest 200 cages with an average of 700 oysters per cage. For the upcoming crop this year the Guerreros plan to seed 450 cages for an average of 900 oysters per cage. Their ultimate goal is to grow a million oysters per year. The oysters are market size (three inches) after a ten to twelve-month growth period.
Rusty Gaudé, the Sea Grant agent who has worked directly with the Guerrero family and Crescent City Farmers Market to make this debut possible, believes the time is right for the cultured oyster to become a part of the Louisiana oyster tradition.
“This is a product in high demand elsewhere in the U.S., and we are excited to introduce it in New Orleans where oysters on the half shell are in high demand,” said Gaudé. “As part of this promotion, we are offering a box of 25 shellstock oysters to chefs for free during the July 18 market. It’s important that restaurants learn about this new resource to meet customer demand, and we want them to have a taste test so they have confidence in the quality.”
The boxes will be offered to the public at $24.99; after the introductory offer, the Guerreros will post oyster availability via http://www.SouthshoreDirectSeafood.com. Off-bottom oysters have a higher price tag because they are available at a time when traditional oyster production is low in the summer.
“People will always search for a fresher food which does not interfere or impact the environment, and our oysters deliver just that,” said Guerrero. “With oysters being a good source of protein and vitamins, low in calories and cholesterol, we are certain there is a market for oyster lovers who are health conscious, concerned about sustainability and looking for a high end, delicious product.”
About Louisiana Direct Seafood
The mission of LouisianaDirectSeafood.com, and locally SouthShoreDirectSeafood.com, is to help coastal fishermen connect directly with consumers and build community support for a fresh, local, product ‘straight from the boat’. Louisiana Direct and SouthShore Direct Seafood websites are administered by LSU AgCenter and Louisiana Sea Grant, with funding from the Gulf States Marine Fisheries Council.