Learn how Mussels are grown, harvested and delivered fresh to your door.
Spat or baby mussels are sourced from the beaches at Kaitaia, Golden Bay or the Marlborough Sounds. They’re captured on specially designed rope. After 3 to 6 months the spat or baby mussels have grown to an average of 40mm. At this stage the ropes are literally covered in baby mussels. At this stage the ropes are lifted and the spat is removed.
Specialised boats that have collected the spat will then reseed the spat into designated mussel farms. The idea is to get the optimum number of mussels onto a metre of rope, that will allow the mussel plenty of space to grow. A cotton stocking will hold the mussels in place and will give some protection to the mussel in the early phase of growth. The cotton stocking will eventually rot away.
A mussel farm can vary in size from 0ne to twenty hectares. Each line that you can see in a farm will typically be 110 metres long and will often hold an average of fifty floats. Each of those floats can support a tonne of mussels. Regular checks are made to monitor the condition of the mussel and to optimize the right time for harvesting. Mussels can take between 15 to 18 months to grow to a shell size of 90 to 100mm.
There are both male and female mussels, the male is the soft cream colour and the female is the apricot colour.
Mussels are filter feeders and will typically filter up to 360 litres of water each day. Therefore the quality of the water is very important. The single biggest factor that can affect the water quality is the land run-off as a result of rainfall. A number of rain gauges are positioned throughout the mussel farm areas which are monitored by the New Zealand Food Safety Authority – a regulatory body that is independent of the Mussel Industry. The data collected determines which farms are open or closed for harvesting. The New Zealand mussel industry is known to operate one of the strictest quality assurance programmes in the world.
When the mussel farm is declared open, a harvesting boat will select a designated line and hauls on board the rope that is fully laden with mussels. The mussels are removed from the rope and are then de-clumped and washed. The mussels will go through a quick initial grading and are then collected into large bags for transporting. A single harvester will typically collect between 50 and 70 tonnes of mussels each day.
Close to 98,000 tonnes of Greenshell mussels are harvested in New Zealand on a yearly basis, with the majority being exported, earning New Zealand more than 170 million dollars in revenue per year. This makes the industry New Zealands single largest seafood exporter. Its an industry that employs over 2000 people in a variety of mussel business ventures, such as the Hairy Mussel Company.
An advantage with Greenshell mussels is that they can be harvested all year round. Depending on the weather and the location of the mussel farm, the harvesters can work late into the night, to ensure the mussels are at their freshest, when they arrive at the customer’s destination.
The Hairy Mussel difference
When the mussels arrive at the Hairy Mussel packhouse, they are immediately put into a chiller. This is a controlled process that reduces the stress on the mussel before packing. When packing commences, the mussels are graded and checked for quality. Any cracked or broken mussels are removed, usually a result of harvesting and initial transportation. This ensures minimal waste from a customers viewpoint.
The Hairy Mussel Company also operates a comprehensive Food Safety Plan, which is strictly adhered to and monitored by the New Zealand Food Safety Authority. A key feature of the industry is the ability for a customer to trace their mussels from packing, harvesting, the farm the mussels were sourced from and even right back to where the baby mussels were first collected.
The Hairy Mussel Company packs its mussels into cartons for refrigerated transport or into polybins for courier or bulk cartage. Freshness is a key attribute, so ongoing tests and monitoring ensure the mussels reach their destination in tip top condition.