SeaFood Business

JUN 2014

SeaFood Business is the global trusted authority for seafood buyers and sellers. We are the seafood industry's leading trade magazine with more than 30 years of experience. Our coverage is based on the "business" of buying and selling seafood.

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Visit us online at www.seafoodbusiness.com June 2014 SeaFood Business 23 Top Stor y says. "Tat makes a smaller oyster that's easier to slurp, which is preferred for live consumption." But while Barrette says West Coast farmers "have not yet met demand and are years from it," they're not exactly happy about it. Un- like on the East Coast, where oyster farm starts are con- stant, West Coast growers are fnding it nearly impossi- ble to create new ventures or expand existing businesses. Be it at the local or federal level, permitting is expen- sive, unpredictable and ap- proval takes years, she says. "In terms of new farms coming on board, there are very few, and in terms of farms expanding, very few are able to withstand the cost of permitting and the wait to expand," she says. "Everyone's looking to diferent methods to increase production and ef- fciencies rather than increas- ing their footprints." Taylor Shellfsh in Shel- ton, Wash., is one West Coast farm that has been able to endure and diversify. (See our Behind Te Line article on page 32 for an in- depth look at its farm and restaurant operations.) Meanwhile, Louisiana restaurateurs are having no trouble getting oysters for restaurants, which is OK with Haley Bittermann, who sources only Gulf oysters. But as director of operations for the Ralph Brennan Res- taurant Group in New Or- leans, she knows those busi- nesses wish they had more oysters to sell throughout the United States. "It's tough on those guys, so I know we're fortunate to get what we get," Bittermann says. Of the seven restaurants in the group, only Red Fish Grill serves oysters on the half shell. When told prices are surpassing $3 per oyster, she adds, "If I tried to charge $2 to $3 per oyster, locals would protest. We're spoiled down here." AmeriPure Oyster Co. co- owner Pat Fahey wishes he could take part in the current sales bonanza. "Our supply is down con- siderably from previous years, and so our prices are at histor- ic highs," says Fahey, whose company is in Franklin, La. "Meanwhile, we're still get- ting product, and we've not lost customers, despite having to raise prices 50 percent." He insists the immediate future isn't bleak for Louisi- ana oystermen, but says it's not particularly bright, ei- ther. Not only are there fewer boats out harvesting oysters, those on the water are bring- ing in less, and natural oyster reefs aren't spawning as plen- tifully as in the past. Greg Voisin, VP of mar- keting at Motivatit Seafoods in Houma, La., admits the market is extremely challeng- ing given supply tightness, yet he's optimistic the tide will turn soon for Gulf oysters. "We're happy that East and West coast farms are doing well right now, that's good," he says. "But while man has a lot of control over farms, nature knows how to do it better. And when Loui- siana bounces back with its wild reefs, you'll have a giant amount of oysters that hits the market eventually." Tat'll happen with what he calls "a super spawn," when nature bounces back from the remnants of the Deepwater Horizon oil well disaster. A chef-driven trend Voisin believes chefs' in- creasing use of oysters — be they served fresh, fried, baked, barbecued or grilled — and diners' growing desire to experiment is helping drive oyster consumption. Modern chefs understand the impor- tance of a sense of place with food, typically called terroir. Regarding oysters, however, the word has a modern ma- rine twist: merroir. Voisin believes that when a tourist visits Louisiana or Maine or Oregon, they want oysters from those areas. "If they come from Eng- land, they want to know the oysters they're being served came from where they are," he says. Both Tristano and Rheault believe greater con- sumer confdence in oysters is helping spur sales. Rheault says the industry has reduced "Customers want variety and they're willing to pay for it. That started this whole phenomenon where growers are trying to grow a better oyster for the slurping experience." — Margaret Barrette, executive director, Pacifc Coast Shellfsh Growers Association 22_24 Top story june sfb.indd 23 5/16/14 11:10 AM

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