Whole Foods Market says that boutique, farm-raised Point aux Pins oysters produced in Grand Bay, Ala., and processed at Bon Secour Fisheries are now available in the retailer’s stores in the South region.
Austin, Texas-based Whole Foods says the premium oysters produced at Steve and Dema Crockett’s family farm in Bayou La Batre will be sold in 26 stores in Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee.
Whole Foods Market placed an initial order for 4,000 Point aux Pins oysters, which are grown using a special technique designed to give them a more appealing shape and make them a more consistent product. Point aux Pins oysters will be priced at $1.29 each, with a special price of 99 cents each through Christmas.
“Whole Foods Market in Mountain Brook, Ala., gave us an early gift for the holiday season by introducing us to Alabama farm-raised Point aux Pins oysters. Personally, this is the best Gulf oyster I’ve ever eaten and they are rapidly gaining in popularity within the oyster connoisseur community. These oysters are raised in Alabama, right in our backyard, and it’s further giving Gulf oysters an identity—a major plus for this industry,” said Mark Decker, seafood coordinator for Whole Foods Market South region.
The premium oysters produced at the Crockett farm have been getting plenty of attention from the Alabama Gulf Seafood community. Alabama is historically the No. 1 oyster processing state, and the new farming technique is expected to bolster a state seafood industry that has a projected annual sales impact of $390 million.
“My goal was to produce a world-class oyster, and I have not been disappointed,” Steve Crockett said. “I am thrilled that Whole Foods Market will be promoting this product. It’s quality in and quality out.”
Crockett is working with scientists from the Auburn University Department of Fisheries & Allied Aquacultures to produce the Point aux Pins oysters, named after the small peninsula that forms the eastern boundary of pristine Grand Bay. The oysters are popping up on menus at restaurants including Birmingham’s Hot and Hot Fish Club and are available through processor Bon Secour Fisheries in Bon Secour and Johnson Sea Products in Bayou La Batre.
Crockett and the Auburn scientists adopted a natural and sustainable Australian off-bottom technique to produce Point aux Pins oysters. At the farm, juvenile Alabama oysters from Auburn’s Shellfish Lab are placed in cylindrical mesh containers attached to lines that keep them suspended above the bay floor. The method provides protection from the predatory oyster drills that dwell on the bottom.
It has other advantages, too. The Point aux Pins oysters tumble with the tide in their containers, creating a deeper cup. Plus, during low tides, the oysters can be out of the water for short periods, allowing the sun and air to kill seaweed, barnacles and other organisms attached to the shell.
While the farming technique does not yield oysters in the quantities produced by commercial fisheries and is not intended to compete with them, it is seen as a promising way to get a niche product to the premium market. That makes Point aux Pins oysters a valuable addition to the Alabama Gulf Seafood oyster industry, which has seen rising harvests and improving conditions in recent years.