Hi, I'm Alan Bryne. I'm a mussel farmer and I farm with my brother Lawrie on the West Coast of Scotland. We are producers of high-quality rope grown mussels, our farm is based near Fort William, Inverness-shire.
Optimum growing conditions
Our mussels are grown in the pure, plankton rich waters of the North Atlantic, free from contamination, which offers optimum growing conditions.
Our mussel farm was established in 1999, and we both enjoy looking after the farm and working on new innovations. The best thing about my job is when we harvest a good crop of great quality mussels for our customers to enjoy.
Hard part of the job
The hardest part of my job is having to deal with the ever-changing challenges that the wonderful mother nature throws at us! However, we are planning on doubling our production over the next few years, whilst keeping the excellent quality mussel we currently produce.
Our future innovations are looking into optimising mussel growth and quality by using different farming locations for different growth stages of our mussels. Traditionally we would grow them from spat to harvest at the same location.
Our mussel farm operates a strict monitoring program, taking regular samples for testing in an accredited laboratory, ensuring our mussels are always safe to eat.
Fascinating facts about Scotland’s favourite shellfish . . .
Sales of mussels are on the increase, at home and abroad. You can see from our site how popular mussel recipes are and Scottish shellfish is celebrated the world over. Last year (2017) saw the first ever National Mussel Day. Using the hashtag #musselup, the campaign focused on raising the profile of mussels across social media. National Mussel Day was so successful that it’s here to stay. Sunday Oct 7 is National Mussel Day 2018. To celebrate, here are some fascinating facts about one of our most popular shellfish.
Did you know?
A much-loved mollusc
- In Scotland (and across the North Atlantic) the most common mussel is the Blue Mussel (Mytilus Edulis).
- Mussels can live for up to 50 years. We don’t tend to eat them at the end of their lives though! The average age of our mussels ready for consumption is 2.5 to 3 years.
- Male and female mussels are different colours – the male is a creamy white and the female is an orangey colour.
- When it comes to diet, mussels only eat plankton. To extract the plankton, in one day they can filter 65 litres of water.
- Mussels produce liquids which set in seawater to form tough fibres called byssal threads or beards. These threads are five times stronger than a human tendon and can cling to a Teflon surface.
- Mussels can defend themselves from predators such as the dog whelk, and other snails by tying them down with its byssal threads.
- Mussels close their shells when the tide drops so that they don’t dry up when they’re out of the water.
- Other than snails, mussels’ main predators are starfish and seabirds.
- Like the oyster, mussels can also produce pearls. But these are limited to freshwater mussels and are much rarer.
- Although it may look less than pristine, if the mussel shell is covered with barnacles this is usually a good sign that the mussel is wild, fresh and healthy.
- Mussels have been used as a food source for more than 20,000 years. And many prehistoric settlements in Scotland have been identified by large mounds of mussel shells close by.
- The first mussel farm dates back to the 8thcentury and was located in France.
- Mussels have the most impressive nutritional profile of all the shellfish. Consumption of mussels can help reduce inflammatory conditions such as arthritis. And the minerals they contain help build immunity.
- Mussels are considered a brain food due to the high levels of vitamin B12 that they contain.
- Mussels are chock full of protein, iron and folic acid. In fact, ounce for ounce, they contain more protein than beef stock.
- They’re healthy in so many ways. 100g of mussels only contains 58 calories!
- Mussels have so much water within their shells that you don’t need to add water when you steam them.
- Mussels need to be alive when you cook them. Don’t cook them if the shells are already open and don’t eat them if the shells remain closed after cooking.
- Moules and frites (mussels and chips) is actually the national dish of Belgium, although more often associated with France.
Working up an appetite?
Happy National Mussel Day everyone!
Summer is over
I am writing on a brisk Shetland autumn day, which anyone might mistake for a full-blown winter’s gale in more southerly climates. As often as not up here, the weather snaps from summer to winter in one fell swoop and the summer seems very much behind us now. Despite southern parts of Britain getting a final flourish of heat, we seem to be lined up for several weeks of gales and cool temperatures of 7 degrees or below. So, I’m calling it - summer is over.
It is however the cold temperatures and cold sea water that make our shellfish unique. So, getting into this part of the season has its benefits and it is one of the best times of the year for the mussels themselves. They have just had a long summer of warm days, plenty of plankton to eat to build up their meats and followed by the current cooler conditions for harvesting mean they should be getting to market in top condition right now.
Despite the cooler conditions, we have had a few visitors to the sites lately with the first being the board of Food Standards Scotland making the trip north to find out more about how we farm. We discussed their sampling programme and how that works to classify our areas and ensure plankton blooms over the summer cannot cause the shellfish to become unsafe to eat. We also talked about the extra work and testing we do on every harvest, to make sure all the shellfish we harvest are safely farmed and sustainable. It was a really useful day and was great they made the effort to come up and see us.
Fresh mussels for the Chefs
The following week we had a delegation from Seafood Scotland, who had invited a group of Chefs up from the UK Mainland to also get the chance to see what we do. We were able to show them the farms and also the factory where Scottish Shellfish boxes up the mussels for the wholesale markets. They were keen to get their hands on some shells and take them up to the local award-winning restaurant Frankie’s and try their own recipes with product still dripping with seawater. They too seemed to enjoy the visit and hopefully went back fully inspired to use our shellfish in their daily menus.
Moving through autumn we expect to mainly be harvesting, getting the sites battened down for the rest of the winter and planning for next year’s spring spat input. You can follow Shetland Mussels on twitter for more regular updates of farm happenings @ShetlandMussels
Sustainability. It’s a word that is bandied around a lot these days. And at Scottish Shellfish it’s at the very heart of what we do. But do you know what it actually means?
A fragile balance
Today, we’re very aware of environmental issues. We’re bombarded with shocking pictures of wildlife (birds, seals and fish in particular) festooned or swathed in plastic waste that we’ve simply discarded, which threatens their wellbeing and potentially their very existence. But does our awareness translate into action?
When it comes to the environment, it’s clear our global practices need to change. You can read the science bit here but the basic definition of sustainability – one which we can all understand – is the creation, build and use of items and organisations which won’t damage our environment or our society, in a bid to protect our future and our children’s future.
But more than simply understanding the definition of sustainability, it’s important that we take the time to consider the consequences of our current global behaviour if it continues unchecked. The scale of the problem we face can be daunting, but we can all do our bit to arrest, if not reverse the damage done.
Scotland at the forefront
When it comes to seafood and Scottish seafood in particular, sustainability is key. Thanks to our cold, clear waters, as a nation our seafood and our shellfish are amongst the most celebrated. Here’s some stats which might surprise you…
- Scotland is one of the largest seafood producers in Europe
- Scottish seafood (via the Scottish Development International) was the official partner of the World Gourmet Summit in Singapore in 2016
- We’ve got one of the most modern fishing fleets in Europe
- Over two thirds of the world’s langoustines are sourced from Scottish waters.
And we’re no slackers either when it comes to the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) accreditations.
What is the MSC?
Scotland holds more Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) accreditations than most EU countries. Established in London in 1997, the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) exists to ensure that global fisheries commit to sustain stocks in the wild instead of aquaculture farmed fish. MSC-certified fish is now available in a total of 97 countries, and 10% of all wild seafood is now being caught to the MSC standard.
Sustainability at Scottish Shellfish
It’s easy to understand why, as UK's premier producer of finest quality shellfish, Scottish Shellfish take sustainability so seriously. Our rope grown mussels are a great example of sustainability in practice. We suspend ropes from floats in the sea. Once the ropes are in place, our intervention stops. The young mussels settle naturally on our ropes and then grow simply by feeding on sea plankton. They don’t require any other feed source. Because they grow by suspension, there’s no dredging which means they’re grit free when harvested.
When it comes to oysters, cultivation is similar, although instead of using ropes, we grow them in special mesh bags held on trestles in the inter-tidal zone. With an extremely low carbon footprint, our mussels and our oysters are arguably one of the most environmentally friendly food products around.
Do your bit
You don’t just have to take our word for it. Our oyster and mussel farms are independently certified by the Friend of the Sea. When you buy your seafood from us you’re doing your bit for the environment.
Now you’re here, take some time to browse our site, read our blog, and check out our recipes, safe in the knowledge that you’re making responsible choices which will help all of us secure the future of our seas.
Legend has it that you should only eat oysters when there’s an ‘r’ in the month. Indeed, some say this applies to all shellfish. But we don’t want you to miss out on the produce from our pristine lochs and coastlines during the summer months. That plate of fruit de mer and a chilled glass of white are just right for a leisurely al fresco summer lunch. We’ve got good news for you…
What’s the truth behind the legend?
Although for a time all shellfish were regarded with wariness, this legend was originally only about oysters. Oysters used to be shipped in by rail in wooden barrels filled with ice. In the heat of the summer the ice melted, and long before they got to their destination the oysters were spoiled. By gradual association, all shellfish became tarred with the same brush.
Eat our shellfish with impunity
The good news is that, in these days of modern refrigeration and chilled storage, you can happily dismiss this adage as pure folklore. And we should know. At Scottish Shellfish we’re the UK’s premier producer of finest quality shellfish. Our farmers take real care and pride in the shellfish they cultivate, and our mussel farms are independently certified by the Marine Stewardship Council. You’ll find our produce in supermarkets and restaurants across the country.
Not only can you eat our mussels, crab, oysters and langoustines with impunity, by purchasing our products you’re doing your bit for the environment. The carbon footprint of our mussels is 19 times less than that of beef! Did you know that eating mussels is ‘better for the planet than being vegan’? Find out more here.
From sea to plate
Gone are the days of thinking a whole chicken, a rump steak or a salmon fillet start life pre-packaged in a supermarket. These days people are much more concerned about environmental responsibility and sustainability, and they want to know the provenance of the produce they buy. We’re entirely confident about the quality of our shellfish. And we’re entirely transparent about our whole process of cultivation and farming. We find that children in particular are fascinated by the journey from sea to plate. We’ve got the entire journey laid out for you in graphics. Check it out here.
Put another shrimp on the barby
Now summer is well and truly here, barbeque season is upon us. And we’ve got lots of great recipes for a quick, delicious healthy meal whether you choose oyster or crab, langoustines or mussels.
If you’re going to fire up that barbecue, what about grilled oysters with butter? Or you can make up your own skewers with different shellfish interspersed with fresh vegetables. We’ve got a great recipe for langoustines with a roast garlic and lemon butter. Or sticking with the oyster theme try smoky grilled oysters.
What’s your tipple?
Why not enhance your al fresco shellfish dining with a carefully selected tipple? Wine (both white and rose) is probably the drink most of us associate with fish and shellfish. But you might be surprised to know that champagne, gin and even stout can work well, depending on your recipe. Gin and tonic mussels anyone? Be adventurous.
Here in the UK, we can’t always count on the weather, so you might not be able to use your barbeque as much as you’d like, even if it is summer. But there are heaps of other recipes you can try if the weather drives you indoors. For a special occasion, what about lobster risotto or monkfish with mussels, leeks and courgettes? And if the rain’s beating down outside, there’s nothing better than a bowl of hearty mussel soup …
Rain or shine, you can breathe a sigh of relief and eat shellfish freely, all year round.