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A promotional push is needed for mussels to take a more prominent seat at our dining tables, with increased noise around their health and sustainability credentials looking likely to increase demand.
Shellfish has the potential to become one of the largest future mainstream food trends in the UK due to its health, ethical and sustainable benefits.
Oysters, mussels and clams are recognised as environmentally friendly and sustainable compared to other types of farming. They're also versatile and convenient to use.
There's great potential in the Scottish industry promoting these sustainable, tasty and quick to prepare foods. As well as introducing customers, who currently tend to shy away from shellfish, to the joy of including it in their diets.
Mussels on the rise
Europe supplies over a third of the world’s mussels. Major contributors are Spain, producing 200,000 tonnes, France with 80,000, and Italy accounting for 65,000 tonnes a year.
According to the Scottish Shellfish Farm Production Survey, the shellfish sector was worth £11.7 million in 2016, £10.1 million of which came from mussels.
The mussel sector in Scotland has seen a signification growth of 60% in the past 10 years, reaching its highest level of 7,732 tonnes in 2016. This was an over 6% year-over-year growth, of which 74% of mussel production came from the Shetland Islands.
The magic of mussels
Mussels are a healthy food. They are low in calories, rich in omega-3 fatty acids, high in protein, contain essential nutrients, and have significantly less mercury levels than those found in larger fish.
Mussels are sustainable. They don’t require feeding, as they filter nutrients from the water around them. Also they have a very low impact on global pollution. Farmed fish and shrimps, by contrast, require smaller fish to feed on in order to grow. This means more wild caught fish are used to feed farmed fish. Fish that often come from developing countries like Peru.
Mussels have animal welfare benefits. Compared to fish, they don't require space or enrichment in order to grow, and their farmed habitat isn't too different from their wild habitat.
It’s these benefits, together with their versatility as an ingredient for quick to prepare products, that make mussels a real opportunity for the sector.
Spreading the word on molluscs
Despite their growth in popularity mussels still lag behind other proteins, despite efforts to make them more convenient and available. There are opportunities for added value in making mussel products more appealing, accessible, and ultimately better understood by the consumer.
Mussels and shellfish can be prepared in diverse formats and flavours. Offering a range of mussel products in an easy-to-make format, such as vacuum packed pre-prepared, appeal to consumers that are health conscious but time poor.
Mussels are the ultimate healthy fast-food. But there is a lack of knowledge about how to prepare them, and what their health and sustainability credentials are - particularly among a younger audience.
The wider shellfish market in Scotland also offers huge potential for further development for a sustainable future, both for export, but also for servicing the relatively untapped UK market.
How to muscle in on mussels
If you want to understand more about mussel and shellfish production in Scotland we can help.
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