There are two main groups of food oysters – ‘flat’ and ‘cupped.’ This distinction can easily be blurred as oyster shells are largely shaped by the surface on which they grow. Flat oysters generally prefer colder waters while cupped ones dominate in tropical areas. Because cupped oysters are generally the more resilient of the two types, they have become the most widely cultivated, worldwide. Flavours and textures of both vary greatly as – being filter feeders – oysters gain a lot of their taste from their environment. This can often cause confusion, as they are often sold by location, rather than by species.
Marine Culture is one of Australia’s premier producers, sellers, and marketers of high quality Pacific Oysters – a species of cupped oysters. Its flair for innovation and strong company development has also made it stand out as a seafood provider. Since its inception in 1989, the business has continued to grow and evolve its processes, and has become Australia’s largest and leading privately owned operation in oyster farming.
Despite its renown, Marine Culture does not see its product as being superior to other Australian oyster farming producers, , but simply as having the capabilities of providing consistently high quality oysters to meet the ever changing demands of the Australian consumer
“I frequently get asked in interviews ‘are your oysters better than these?’” explains Bob Cox, Director of Marine Culture. “And I point out to people that I like all kinds of oysters, not just Pacific’s. I really haven’t had a bad oyster – they’re wonderful things regardless of source.”
“We don’t differentiate ourselves from the industry,” he continues. “We see ourselves as a beneficiary of the industry’s endeavours, and the industry being a beneficiary of our endeavours. There’s no doubt that Marine Culture will have the most consistent oyster around, because we can source from a whole variety of farms.”
These farms comprise a total of 190 ha of aquaculture leases owned by the company, all of which are directly nourished by the action of the pristine Great Southern Ocean, and are sited well away from major population centres to avoid any form of urban pollution or contamination. Marine Culture’s production is also enhanced further with quality oysters from other reliable, independently owned and operated leases. To give a figure, the company’s total 2014/15 sales are expected to exceed 1.1m dozen, 10% of which is supported by purchases from independent producers.
The farming operations themselves are spread across three states and six areas, in order to better present the seasonal ‘cream of the crop’ at all times of the year. The introduction of spawnless oysters has further cemented Marine Culture’s ability to supply oysters in any season. Generally, normal Pacific oysters spawn in the peak consumption demand time of summer. The development of the spawnless oyster, however, has resulted in high quality oysters being available all year round.
“We still don’t claim to have the best oyster any one day,” Bob says. “Everybody has their day in the sun, and everyone produces a wonderful oyster. We don’t strive for the unobtainable on a daily basis – we do deliver it occasionally, but we don’t strive for it. Instead, our biggest virtue is our reliability – we can provide what you want when you want it better than anybody else.”
As a result of the company’s ability to supply quality seafood year-round, international customers – particularly those in the northern hemisphere – are able to receive strong counter offers from Marine Culture against more seasonal oysters.
“An oyster can be likened to an orange,” says Bob. “You can keep an orange, you can do an awful lot of things to it, and you can take six months to get it off the tree and onto the consumer’s plate. That’s because it’s still fresh – it’s still got a good outer case on it.”
“By comparison, let’s say you harvest an oyster on Monday,” he continues. “It gets sent out on road transport to Melbourne or Sydney or Brisbane or even Cairns. But when it arrives in Cairns, it’s still alive – we’ve had product that’s gone to Cairns and for whatever reason has come back. We put it back out in the water and it is fine – it has enjoyed its little holiday but it’s still quite alive. You know our oysters are as fresh as the day they were pulled out of the water, because they can turn around and go right back into the water.”
In addition to guaranteed freshness, all production by Marine Culture is backed by world famous shellfish quality assurance programs run by the Governments of Tasmania, South Australia and New South Wales – and all are regularly audited at the Federal level.
Looking forward, Bob says Marine Culture will continue to abide by those programs, whilst always looking for new, innovative growing systems to enhance quality and minimise safety issues.
Marine Culture seeks to further its growth and expansion in a significant way, without compromising its quality along the way.
“For the past decade, we have been in an absorption phase,” explains Bob. “We’ll be continuing that for about another five years. The company is also on the cusp of having its first million dozen oyster sales in a year off its own farms, which is something we’re working hard to get under our belt.”
“After that, we can turn management’s attention to Port Stephens, which promises to be the jewel of the crown in Marine Culture’s farming,” he concludes. “The Port is an incredibly productive oyster area – it doesn’t get much deeper than two metres at any one point. There’s very good water, and the area is surrounded by national park, and very little urban creep. That’s what we’re going to work on over developing the next few years, but to do so we need to have fairly deep pockets first, and that’s why we’re working so hard for that figure.”
For more information, please visit their website at: Marine Culture
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