Buying Oysters on the Internet
In recent years, the internet has increasingly become a fabulous
place to buy oysters. More and more oyster growers and middlemen
are seeking the direct connection with the consuming public online.
This is great news, not just for oyster lovers but for seafood
lovers in general.
The time it takes for freshly harvested
oysters to reach the coolers of seafood distributors in a major
city averages at about two days. It usually takes another day
or two before the oysters are dispatched to their network of
retail seafood stores and restaurant clients. There the oysters
may reside a few more days before they are actually purchased
by a consumer. Many of the better seafood restaurants and seafood
markets realize that every day lost in transit and storage will
reduce the value and quality of any fresh shellfish shipment.
Hence they try to get as close to direct with the original shellfish
harvester as possible, often paying enormous air freight fees
to beat the risky "shelf life game". For the consumer,
the internet is a fantastic new opportunity to beat all the odds
and buy directly from a growing number of shellfish growers online
which are also willing to ship smaller quantities to the general
I firmly believe that the internet is the
greatest gift to the seafood industry and consumers alike since
Sergius Orata's grand oyster business in ancient Roman times.
I've bought oysters online many times and have yet to be disappointed.
At last I can try oysters from different areas around the country.
Depending on where any oyster is grown, the same oyster species
will frequently acquire a unique flavor, perhaps also a different
meat color or meat consistency. The oyster prices charged are usually
very fair. However, if the online shellfish vendor is located
far away, the shipping cost can certainly hurt a bit. Buying
oysters online is usually also not the impulsive type of buying
decision that it is for many folks at the seafood market. The
purchase is planned and it takes a few days to actually take
posession. First you will need to visit the website of the grower
or vendor, take a look at what's available and choose the shellfish
you desire. Then you place your order and pay (in advance) with
your credit/debit card. Some vendors will give you a choice as
to when you wish to receive the shellfish order and schedule
the shipment accordingly.
You will end up with a rather unremarkable
looking cardboard box at your front door. However, the box is
actually quite remarkable. It is very sturdy (sometimes made
of wax coated cardboard) and is usually lined on the inside with an insulating styrofoam container. The shellfish is bedded inside this styrofoam
compartment, frequently with an ice pack or two. A special tag
is also included which indicates (among other data) when and
where the shellfish was harvested. I love receiving those boxes because I know that gloriously fresh seafood lurks inside. Incidentally,
those boxes are not cheap. Depending on the quantity ordered
they can easily cost a grower anywhere from two to three bucks
a piece - even more on bigger insulated box sizes. They also
take up plenty of valuable storage space at the grower's facility.
Please note that selling and buying shellfish
online is as new to most growers as it is to most of the general
public. Most growers cannot drop their shucking knives the minute
the online order arrives, go package a small quantity of shellfish
and run right down to UPS or FedEx with it. Many growers set
a day or two in the week aside to fill online orders. Nonetheless
it's well worth the extra wait in those cases as the freshness
simply can't be beat.
Pointer: One way to offset shipping costs a bit is to partner
with a friend on an order and thus share in the sliding scale shipping
price reduction on a larger order. Most online shellfish vendors
don't just sell oysters. They frequently also sell fresh clams
or mussels. My dear wife, for instance, for reasons I accept
but will never fathom, can't stand oysters - and loves clams.
So we order both and save on shipping - and I end up with all
the delicious oysters and get to share in some of her tasty clams
to boot. Works out great (particularly for me I'll concede).
Let's order some Internet Oysters!
On one of my internet oyster orders I decided to grab my camera
and capture the grand event live with some pictures. Join me
in the experience:
I chose a large oyster grower in the State
of Washington on this particular order. Their website is nothing
short of a masterpiece in every way. It's interesting and fun
to visit, even if one chooses not to buy anything online. The shopping
cart computer program proves to be as perfect as the rest of
the website. With ease was I able to breeze though a very nice
selection of oysters and other shellfish. The computer program
permits changes to your order along the way ("Umm. Let's
make that two dozen small oysters instead of one, try some clams
too, and find out find out how much that will cost including
shipping delivered to our door-step. Hmm. Not too bad. Let's
add some fresh mussels and see what that would cost...").
It is also possible to choose from a few
shippers, compare shipping prices, and schedule the delivery
on (or around) a certain date. Very impressive indeed. I completed
my order, chose to check out, then typed in my address and credit
card information - done. It must also be noted that a magnificent
website is not going to make the oysters taste any better. I've
dealt with some growers with real Spartan looking websites, some
not even featuring an order form - just email. Nonetheless, the
service and the oysters proved to be excellent.
Glorious Moment: The Shellfish Box Cometh!
My friendly UPS guy delivered
the shellfish box to my door promptly on the day I had specified
at the grower's website. It was prominently marked with "up-arrows".
This was a welcome sight, as it indicates clearly to anyone that
the box likely does not contain potatoes. Life is tough enough
for the oysters in transit - no need to turn them upside down
and sideways to boot.
Inside the Box
I ordered two sizes of Pacific oysters (small and x-small) as
well as some of the tiny Kumamoto oysters. Each were separated
with individual plastic bags which were zip-tied shut. The bags
filled the box out nicely, thus keeping the oysters from rolling
around in the box during transport. Around the shellfish a couple
of sealed ice packs had been placed. Combined with the insulating
Styrofoam liner and lid, the oysters benefited from adequate
cooling during transit.
Proper documentation in the form of thin synthetic printed tags
accompanied these oysters. Tags like this are mandatory (by law)
with any commercially harvested shellfish that is shipped in
the United States, Canada, and Europe. They serve to demonstrate
that the respective shellfish was harvested legally by the grower
and meets or exceeds state and federal public health regulations.
Peek Inside one of the Bags
Regrettably, the small Pacific oysters (which are actually not
that small) had just been pitched into their bag by someone -
much like potatoes. Most of the poor things were upside down
or sideways. The prominent "up arrows" on the box suddenly
struck me as a cruel joke played on my friendly UPS driver. I
believe that a unorganized oyster mess in a plastic or mesh bag
is perfectly acceptable when buying directly from a grower or
seafood market, as the oysters are then heading to one's home
refrigerator in a matter of hours. I don't believe that this
applies to oysters destined to be on the road for several days.
I suspect that the oysters were quickly bagged and then stuffed
into the box at the grower's facility. Perhaps it would have
been wiser (although a tad more time consuming) to put the empty
bag in the box first and then putting the oysters in the bag-
always more or less with the cupped shell portion downward. After
all, some oysters bought online can end up costing oyster lovers
up to a buck a piece or more after the shipping cost is factored
of the Oyster
Sure enough, I spotted a gaper right on top of the mess - deader
than a doornail. As mentioned elsewhere in these "buying
oysters" reports, it is not that unusual to end up with
a dead one in a dozen soon after purchase - sometimes even if
the oysters were harvested just hours earlier. That's not a big
deal, particularly if the grower or seafood vendor practices
the "baker's dozen" system and springs for an extra
oyster (or two) with each dozen. However, there is no need to
precipitate oyster death and/or loss of water in the shells of
the survivors with sloppy packing when these marine critters
are going to be in transit for days. I found another dead one
in the same pile. Luckily, this grower did practice the "baker's
dozen" system, at least on this order, and there was no
loss to me. Unfortunately, several of the remaining oysters had
lost most of their water. Oysters naturally shed some of the
water inside their shell over time - even if perfectly stacked
belly down in the crisper of your refrigerator. However, they
loose plenty more if stacked upside down and sideways.
All the oysters in this shipment were exceedingly fresh and plump.
Even the two dead ones I mentioned had obviously only died a
few hours ago - still good enough for my cats. Although the Pacific
oysters tasted great, the little Kumamoto oysters ended up stealing
the show with truly exceptional taste. Overall I was very pleased
with this particular internet oyster order. For the next three
days straight I slurped fabulously fresh oysters off the half
* Looking over the
Seafood Display (and Who's behind it)
* LiFo (Last in, First
* How many Oysters
* Buying Oysters
on the Internet
|Health advisory: There is a risk associated with consuming raw oysters
or any raw animal protein. If you have chronic illness of the
liver, stomach, or blood or have immune disorders, you are at
greatest risk of illness from raw oysters and should eat oysters
fully cooked. If you are unsure of your risk, you should consult
Advisements on any errors discovered
are most welcome: Contact