If there were such a thing as the perfect seafood, few species would come close to mussels. Though relatively modest in their appearance with sleek, shiny purple-black shells, there is much to admire about what lies within.
With tender flesh that’s full of flavour, high in protein and low in fat, mussels are the ideal dish for the health-conscious consumer. And the benefits don’t end there; these bivalves (molluscs with two hinged shells) are packed with omega-3s and can deliver up to three times the daily recommended value of vitamin B12 in one 3-oz serving, which makes them a perfect brain food.
While their nutritional properties are relatively recent discoveries, mussels have been part of the human diet for tens of thousands of years. This is because they are one of the easiest seafoods to cook and extremely versatile.
As most of the mussels consumed today are farm-raised; using ropes hung in the ocean where they pose negligible threat to marine environments, these animals also score highly in the sustainability stakes. For example, the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch sustainability programme states that that farmed mussels are “one of the most sustainable seafoods you can buy”, while the Marine Conservation Society’s Good Fish Guide gives them a “Best Choice” sustainability rating.
Alongside fellow molluscs like oysters and clams, mussels actually improve the areas that they are grown in. Through their consumption of microalgae, they filter the water – making it a cleaner environment for other marine animals to exist. Their natural diet also means that unlike many other cultured species, they don’t require additional nutritional supplements.
Pittman Seafoods sources its mussels from Chile, via its local subsidiary Omega CFoods, which also conducts thorough product testing to ensure full customer satisfaction.
With a mussel-farming sector that dates back to the 1940s, Chile is the world’s leading mussel producer and exporter, with volumes of approximately 90,000 tonnes and 70,000 tonnes respectively. The South American country’s mussel culture is based on the production of three main species: the chorito or Chilean mussel (Mytilus chilensis), the cholga mussel (Aulacomya ater), and the giant or choro mussel (Choromytilus chorus). While most Chilean mussels are exported, all the cholga and giant mussels are consumed domestically. Historically, Europe accounts for around 70% of Chile’s mussel exports.
Recognising the growing consumer demand for responsibly sourced or produced seafood, a number of key Chilean mussel fisheries and farm sites have achieved Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) and Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) certification.
A GO-TO CHOICE
With year-round availability matched by excellent affordability, more and more people are looking to make the most of mussels. Whether it’s steamed in a white wine and garlic sauce, adding meaty depth to a soup, pasta or paella, or part of an imaginative salad, sustainable and nutrient-rich mussels continue to be the perfect core component of countless delicious seafood dishes.