A regional specialty is mass-produced by a small team of French oyster farmers
On the Ile de Ré, off the western coast of France, oysters are a regional specialty because they are well-iodized and not too fleshy, making them ideal for restaurants and consumers. “You have the impression that you’ve eaten the ocean,” says David Flores Prieto, the co-owner of oyster-harvesting company Huîtres Et Ma Ré. “It’s cool.”
Pietro and his team of seven oversee six hectares of oyster parks that contain 36,000 pouches. The space allows them to produce 100 to 110 tons of oysters per year. He says they buy six million oyster seeds annually, but “at the end, it’s about 25 percent that makes it to be eaten.”
It takes between three to four years for an oyster to be edible, according to Prieto. Throughout that time, the oysters will be moved in their pouches to different parts of the farm by Prieto and his team. For example, they may spend eight to ten months in the growing parks, feeding off of plankton.
Prieto and the rest of the team know where exactly to put every size of oyster in the park because of the tides, waves, and the amount of food available. As the oysters grow, they get reallocated into different pouches based on their size, both by Prieto’s team and a machine that helps them weigh and bag the oysters.
Throughout the course of harvesting, an oyster will be handled between 10 and 15 times for flipping, grading, and sizing.
Huîtres Et Ma Ré sells their oysters to distributors, large retailers, fishmongers, and local restaurants on the island, like the popular fine-dining restaurant Atalante. Watch the video to learn more about the Ile de Ré oyster harvest.