South Carolina Gets the Go-Ahead for Summer Oysters

 

A victory for the oyster industry and oyster lovers everywhere occurred last Thursday: state regulators approved the sale of oysters in the summer months, as reported by the Post and Courier.

It has become a well-known mantra in South Carolina that one should only eat oysters in the months that contain the letter ‘R’, which excludes the summer; exactly when a cold, salty oyster on a bed of ice with a glass of sparkling wine, a cold beer or a iced tea would taste so delectable. 

The fear of bacteria that can grow more quickly in warm weather has kept regulators (and consumers, for that matter) from pursuing the approval of summer oysters in South Carolina. Fortunately, this belief is shifting as commercial practices change to allow for our favorite shellfish to be available year round in the palmetto state.

 

img_0006

 

While it is true that bacteria that can cause serious foodborne illnesses are more common in warm weather, a lot of the fears comes from a time when handling and farming practices were very different. The most significant danger starts when an oyster leaves the water and spends some time out in the warm air. However, refrigeration has changed all that, as oysters don’t spend time out in the weather but are rather moved immediately into the cold refrigerator.

Seafood companies are also held to a higher level of accountability than they once were, when monitoring fishing and growing practices was more challenging due to lax laws and fewer processes to ensure that safety is held to the highest standard. Now, you don’t need to worry whether or not your health is being considered when eating that oyster on a hot summer’s day; current systems and practices are there to ensure your experience is safe and enjoyable.

This comes as great news to a growing South Carolina industry. In the article just released by Post and Courier on January 5th, 2017, Charleston chefs are watching customers continue to demand oysters in large numbers all throughout the summer, and say these customers are disappointed when no local options are available.

Our own experience at St. Jude Farms reflects this. Summer oyster sales don’t let up, and to keep up with the demand we have had to bring in oysters from North Carolina, where the laws are different.
The fact that we can safely bring in oysters raised in the wild ocean of North Carolina, where the weather is comparable to the hot weather in South Carolina, just shows that it is about time we have a shift in regulations to allow this industry to grow and thrive. It’s an event worth celebrating that DHEC has come around to this point of view.

As more and more companies like St. Jude Farms that grow and distribute oysters are popping up along the South Carolina coast, largely around the Beaufort area, we see an opportunity for economic growth in an area that can also be developed without harm to the environment. This means job creation and expansion without sacrificing the wildlife and pristine nature that has made South Carolina so well-loved by locals and so appealing to tourists who come to enjoy the clean, fertile atlantic, the trees, the sea birds, the balmy air, the fish surfacing by the docks before disappearing into the deep, and, of course, the clean, fresh and healthy seafood like the kind St. Jude Farms prides itself on.

Bob Doran, St. Jude Farms’ Founder, says, “I’ve lobbied for this for four years. This is going to create jobs and put South Carolina on the map as an oyster provider. It will not deplete the wild stock and its overall good for the environement.”

South Carolina has also been enjoying a boom in its culinary industry. New restaurants are opening to great success, and old favorites are busier than ever. These restaurants, and everyone that they employ, can also benefit from this proposed shift in laws around summer oyster sales. It allows them to provide a local flavor all year round to the hungry people who come hunting for it rather than outsourcing for approximately 40% of the year.

At St. Jude Farms, we celebrate the opportunity to provide oysters to our customers all year round. This summer, we will be thrilled to deliver two of our favorites directly from the water to your plates: our Charleston Salts and Salty Gals. Each oyster provides the salty, distinctively briny flavor of the rich Atlantic tides we have all come to love from our South Carolina seas, but with an incredibly clean, fresh taste that is perfect for our hot and humid summers. Look for these amazing oysters in a restaurant or distributor near you as the weather starts to get warm.

We are deep in winter now, but we are dreaming of a beautiful, bright summer with ocean breezes, cold drinks, lunch on the patio and days on the beach under the brilliant sun. These dreams get us through even the chilliest, dimmest days, and now these dreams are even more delicious, because we can dream of one of our favorite things to complete the picture: fantastic, fresh oysters right out of the South Carolina waters. It’s a picture so sweet, we can hardly wait.