The Case for Bivalve Aquaculture: Trends

There are several trends that indicate why now is the time for a movement towards regenerative seafood. I believe farmed bivalves address them all  positively and can be what connects the dots to create a vibrant, local food system. The goal of Hustleshuck is to make these connections and create a unified movement around regenerative seafood with the intention of improving the state of our marine environment, human health, and, the relationship between the two.

1.          Connection between food choices and environmental consequences People are becoming more concerned about the environmental impacts of their food choices. Although a disconnect still exists, especially with animal protein, people are taking more care to know the origins and production methods of their food. Importantly, people are also increasingly willing to pay for this quality and peace of mind. Relative to other forms of protein, bivalves require no inputs in the form of feed, water, and antibiotics. Farmed bivalves are also ecosystem benefactors, which impart valuable services to fragile coastal environments. They are a rare example of a reliable protein source that imparts no damage on the environment.

2.         Decentralization of meat on the American plate Promoted by food icons like Michael Pollan and Mark Bittman is the idea that we are eating too much animal protein. They advocate eating less of higher quality meat. Bivalves fit nicely into this model because they are small and efficient sources of protein with tremendous health benefits for humans.

3.          Value of local food As evidenced by the proliferation of farmer’s markets nation wide, people are beginning to appreciate the value of locally produced food. The connection between grower and consumer is an increasingly important part of the food industry. This is especially so in seafood as revelations about the provenance of much of the seafood distributed in the United States become public. From mangrove destruction to slave labor, eating imported seafood becomes difficult to justify when you look deeper into where it's from, how it is produced, processed and distributed, and the associated environmental and social implications. Bivalves offer a domestic alternative and are an attractive candidate for a modern seafood system. More than any other product, oysters are tied to a place, which gives them their characteristic flavor and character. Oysters are marketed with this sense of place in order to create a story and sense of distinction around the products. Connecting people with the stories, processes, and people that behind their food is natural with bivalves, creating a positive feedback loop of supply and demand.

4.         Lack of transparency in seafood The seafood industry is defined by misunderstand and confusion brought about by an appalling lack of transparency. It is very difficult to get an idea of the global food chains that bring the majority of our seafood from the water to the plate. There are countless books, articles, and news features that highlight the issues with modern seafood. Suffice it to say that domestic farmed bivalves cut through it all. U.S. regulations ensure that they are entirely traceable from harvest to consumption, and due to their highly perishable nature, it is imperative that they get from the water to the consumer as soon as possible. These tight regulations and short supply chains mean that there is less opportunity for misbehavior and deception.

5.         Decline of wild fish stocks The current state of our marine environment is a sad reality that many of use are not aware of. Global fish stocks in particular have taken massive hits thanks to the insatiable human appetite for seafood. Bivalves are a promising alternative that can deliver a similar seafood experience, without the promise of environmental destruction. Regenerative seafood is a vital alternative that needs to be better understood, promoted, and recognized.

6.         Misunderstanding of aquaculture Farmed seafood has a dismal reputation as dirty, destructive, and industrial. While this is warranted in some cases, the negative image does not apply to all kinds of aquaculture. Raising oysters and producing salmon are entirely different processes and it is imperative that create distinctions are made. Bivalves do not have the same kind of industry organization, strength, and support as finfish aquaculture. There is a need for a reliable public source of information so consumers can make informed decisions about food.