Buying Oysters on the Internet
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 public directly.
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.
Let's order some Internet Oysters!
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!
Inside the Box
Peek Inside one of the Bags
of the Oyster
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 your physician.
Advisements on any errors discovered are most welcome: Contact