Many people make a distinction between farmed vs wild oysters when choosing a seafood recipe. Often the line is blurred between the two, with the result that some seafood lovers fall into the trap of trying one without knowing the difference. The truth is that there really aren’t any major differences between farmed and wild oysters. That said, eating farmed oysters means maintaining natural oceanic ecosystems, ensuring that wild oyster populations stay protected, and that the natural balance of ecosystems is maintained.
Wild oysters are those that are allowed to move around in the open water. They are larger than the clams you find in grocery stores, with heads up to 6 oysters per shell. They grow quickly and, depending on where they are raised, can reproduce in a few weeks. They do not, however, have the same taste or texture as fresh water clams. This can often make a simple seafood dish seem complicated or messy, even though the elements are typically the same.
The key difference between clams and oysters is that clams are packed with protein, while oysters are low in protein. This makes them high in both minerals and vitamins. In addition, they contain a variety of nutrients such as calcium, magnesium, niacin, phosphorus, iron, copper, riboflavin and vitamin C. Wild oysters are also high in vitamin A, vitamin D and vitamin B1. As you might imagine, this provides a very rich source of nutrition, particularly for those who care about diet, but who don’t typically pay much attention to nutritional content in their foods.
Raw clams have very high levels of cholesterol and fatty acids. The problem with eating them is that they usually end up steamed or baked, rather than being eaten raw. Steamed or broiled clams are very healthy, but it is important to remember that frying or baking causes a lowering in nutritional value. Raw oysters contain all of the essential fatty acids and they are also very nutritious; eating them is the healthiest way to eat a mussel.
Wild Versus Farmed: Eating a mussel has one clear winner: the clam. Wild clams are delicious, very nutritious and have very little, if any, aftertaste. On the other hand, farmed clams have to go through a more extensive process before becoming edible. The mussel is harvested from the ocean floor where it can swim freely without getting trapped in narrow crevices. At this point, it is subjected to high levels of acid, which robs it of much of its nutrients, and then it is washed and stored for later consumption.
Size Matters: There’s something to be said for eating your oysters right from the water. They are so small, so quickly consumed. But some oysters, known as bivalves, are so large, that they have to be prepared a little differently. Often, bivalves like these come from the sea floor off the shores of exotic nations, where the water is extremely warm and salted. This makes them ideal for being kept in saltwater aquariums. Other common shellfish, like clams and crabs, are often kept in freshwater tanks, where high levels of salinity and warmth inhibit their growth.
Zinc Deficiency: There’s another reason why you might want to think twice about eating clams grown in farms. Because the mussels are fed through commercial pellets contain high levels of zinc, farmers can sell those pellets to consumers at a high price. However, it is possible to get enough zinc from wild mussels and clams to meet your daily needs by consuming oysters that have been grown in their shells, which contain high levels of zinc.
So there you have it – three reasons why you should choose a home-prepared diet over one of raw or cultured shellfish. Wild oysters and clams are highly nutritious, full of essential vitamins and minerals, and are safer than those sold in stores. If you want to enjoy delicious seafood without paying the high prices, then you should consider a home-cooked diet. It really is that simple!