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Towards a steadier supply of meatier mussels

Blue mussels are considered a gourmet food in much of Europe but their availability is not regular. A new method of rearing mussels and making them meatier addressed this challenge.
Towards a steadier supply of meatier mussels
Blue mussels are certainly a tasty staple in Belgian, Dutch, French, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish cuisines. They are also important for ecosystems in estuaries as they filter out many toxins. Blue mussel culture, however, suffers from unpredictability in seed supply and substandard quality of meat during and after the spawning season. Traditionally, mussel seeds are dredged from wild seed beds and scraped from rocks or other surfaces. All this depends on environmental conditions, making supply unreliable from year to year.

The EU-funded project 'Technology development for a reliable supply of high quality seed in blue mussel farming' (Blue Seed) has worked on ways to improve blue mussel culture. Project partners studied ways to produce seeds under controlled conditions in hatcheries, also producing what is known as triploid mussels that can secure high meat content all year round.

The project team improved current hatchery and nursery technologies for commercial production, optimising methods such as hold-and-cold and heat-and-treat. It pinpointed the right algae for growth as well as optimal egg density, food requirements, supplements and shape/size of rearing vessels.

Instead of traditional diploid mussels, Blue Seed succeeded in rearing triploid mussels that were meatier and just as popular with consumers. Project results concluded that hatchery seeds are particularly useful when other sources become less available. The project's research will allow scientists to produce a steady source of mussels and satisfy market demand in a sustainable way.

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